HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

Should You Be Making Training Harder for Your Staff?

Employee training is often at risk of being seen by managers, and employees, as a somewhat “fluffy” activity—a time-waster. When that’s the case, it may be a signal that your training isn’t tough enough! While low-key, low-stress training can have benefits and may be more useful than no training at all, some argue that training should be more difficult for staff.
In an article for Harvard Business Review, Jeff Winters discussed how his company overhauled its training for sales staff to make it more demanding and saw great improvements. While Winters’ article focuses on sales training, the suggestions are relevant to any business function.

Including Leaders in Training

Leaders can be extremely effective in ensuring that training is meaningful, taking steps to ensure that training adds to staff members’ expertise and provides a challenge. “Research published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology shows that when employees view their leaders as empowering and capable, they work more proactively,” says Winters. Leaders who push for excellence and challenge their employees may, therefore, benefit from a more engaged staff.

Make the Training More Difficult than the Real World

Making training challenging for employees can be tough to do, depending on the business unit. There is a tendency for training to take a “lowest common denominator” approach because of the varying levels of competencies of employees involved. One way of addressing this variation is to offer up more challenging versions of the types of day-to-day scenarios employees might face. These could be creative concoctions or difficult real-world examples. Employees will do better dealing with the day-to-day routine if they’ve experienced the hard stuff.

Have Highest Performers Participate in the Training

When truly striving for excellence, nobody can ever claim to have reached a point of excellence beyond the need for more practice and training. Again, focusing on the sales world, Winters writes, “Include even the best reps in practice and coaching efforts. While the most skilled salespeople’s calls are undoubtedly good, a true practice culture means no one should be exempt.”
Business training comes with great costs, along with potential benefit. Realizing that benefit requires that training move beyond the basic to challenge employees in meaningful ways to ensure value. Moving beyond the potential for trainees to simply “go through the motions” of sitting through required sessions that offer nothing new can provide better payoffs—for employees and the organization as a whole. Are you challenging your employees through training sessions that go beyond the basics?