How to Improve Employee Training and Development


There are three things in life that are always in limited supply: time, energy and money. Whenever an organization runs a training program it is using up those three limited resources: time to train, time away from productive work, the energy required to design and participate in training, and the associated monetary costs allocated to the training. These factors must all be considered when implementing any training programs.

An article published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) by Keith Ferrazzi, author of the book Who’s Got Your Back?, sheds light on how employee training can be improved. His broad research included training leaders in large organizations and from many different industries. He also consulted with academic leaders in several universities.

Ferrazzi’s research identifies 7 key challenges organizations must understand and address in order to improve their employee training and development.

Click here to read the HBR article, entitled the 7 Ways to Improve Employee Development.

Here is a summary of the themes identified by Ferrazzi. Remember there is a best-before date in training — everything moves so fast in today’s business world that most training has a short shelf life. So, when you think of training, think milk.

Two of the most critical factors in effective training have little to do with the content of the training and everything to do with an organization’s culture and climate. How much do employees trust an organization, and how passionate are managers about developing employees? These factors are critical.

The remaining training improvements focus on specific elements:

  • individual accountability
  • understanding the complex world of different learning styles,
  • and how to develop your virtual teams.

Dr. Edward Hess has asserted that organizations will either “learn or die”. If organizations reflect on Keith Ferrazzi’s ideas about to improve employee development, I believe they might just remain in rude health.

Discussion Questions:

  1. After reading the HBR Article reflect on the following:
  2. What is your opinion on the validity of Keith Ferrazzi’s ideas on how to improve employee development? Do you agree or disagree with the ideas? Support your position with evidence and your own ideas.
  3. From Ferrazzi’s 7 training improvement ideas pick the two that you feel are the most important and defend your position as to why.

Catching Up With the Times


HRM Online recently posted an article on the power of using video as a Human Resources communications tool. As a training tool, video has been around for a long time. Videos done well, however, have not.

Click here to read the article.

At first read, the notion that companies should be using video in order to communicate organizational messages seems a bit obvious. Upon reflection, however, using video as a platform for workforce training through effective messaging is not something that just ‘happens.’

Many of us have sat through video sessions on a variety of training requirements. While the information provided through the medium of video training may be useful, there is a significant lost opportunity if the production value of the video is shabby. There is limited transfer of effective training when the medium of the video itself is poorly constructed, filmed, edited and produced. In addition, a second opportunity may be lost in the disconnect between poor video content and organizational leadership goals and messages.

Nobody wants to sit through a twenty-minute fuzzy video clip of the organization’s talking head reading from a script as a training tool. The days of shoddy production and poor messaging are over.

Our workplaces are filled with sophisticated video consumers who have come to expect a certain level of video literacy from the source providing the medium and the message. When the organization fails to live up to this expectation, more than the content of the product is lost.

In order to meet these expectations, the Human Resources professional has an opportunity to support the development of video literacy in organizational leaders. Vern Oakley’s book, ​Leadership in Focus, provides direction on how to capture effective messaging and captivate the workplace audience in order to meet organizational goals.

Click here to read a summary of Leadership in Focus.

It is time for a change through the medium of video training, and time for a leadership close-up!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe a video training session that you found to be effective.
  2. How can video training tools provide organizational messages?
  3. If you had to produce a video training tool for your current workplace, how would you proceed?

Know Your Stuff? Share Your Stuff!

It seems to be a fairly simple concept – effective training should be provided by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).  They bring knowledge, expertise and, most importantly, credibility to the topic at hand.  They also bring ‘real world’ experience that should help to bridge the knowledge gap for learners that can, sometimes, be pretty vast between the discussion of theory and the application of that theory.

SME acrostic - Subject Matter Expert
Source: Constantin Stanciu/Shutterstock

Using an obvious example, if a trainer was hired to teach trainees how to play hockey, they would have to show people how to skate, pass the puck, and handle the stick.  An effective trainer would not be someone who could just ‘talk’ about these skills or describe how to play the game. They would actually need to be a skilled hockey player themselves and be able to share what it feels like to learn and perform at a high level of expertise.

This concept seems to be taking hold in formal training processes, including post-secondary learning organizations.  It is not enough for a professor to provide theory, they must be able to bring some subject matter expertise into classroom learning in order for students to make the link between theory and ‘real world’ application.

A recent article in The Globe & Mail, highlights the effective use of subject matter experts in traditional business school environments.

Click Here to Read the Article

This article brings forth the wonderful opportunity that business executives can bring to formal learning settings.  It also presents the changing perspective that not all knowledge should be vested in one person at the front of the classroom in a formal learning organization.  It is clear that the more we can bring in the expertise of others into the creation of effective training models, the richer the shared learning becomes for everyone.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Thinking about your own learning experiences, how did you learn to drive a vehicle?
    • What theoretical concepts did you have to learn?
    • What were the practical steps that you had to learn in order to actually drive the vehicle?
    • Who taught you how to drive a vehicle and what expertise did they bring to that learning process for you?
  2. Have you been inspired by any SMEs during the course of your program studies? Who were they and why were they inspirational?
  3. Why does ‘real world’ application matter for effective training and learning?

From Bad to Good Training

Ok let’s talk about it, we have all experienced it, and we all loath it – The horrible training session!

Whether it was a lecture at school, an in-house training session, or an expensive professional development session, some of them are terrible. The kind where the clock actually stops ticking and you resort to counting the dots on the ceiling tiles.  I once counted 3864, so I am speaking from experience!

What can be done about this problem of terrible training? John Wellwood in his article, How to deliver a training course in 14 easy steps, addresses this problem. The 14 lessons, recommended by Wellwood, are as follows:

Lesson 1) Send out pre-work or communicate the aims or objectives for the day

Lesson 2) Ensure students receive a warm and friendly welcome

Lesson 3) Lay the room out to be comfortable and effective

Lesson 4) Introductions are essential

Lesson 5) Keep your insecurities to yourself

Lesson 6) Project your voice

Lesson 7) Build up to the complex stuff

Lesson 8) Ensure your examples add clarity, rather than muddying the waters

Lesson 9) Reading from a slide is not presenting

Lesson 10) Your hand-outs must add value

Lesson 11) Be dynamic and engaging

Lesson 12) If something goes wrong, own it

Lesson 13) Take your lead from the delegates

Lesson 14) Summarize!

Click here to read the complete article

This is an excellent checklist to start your training delivery on the right track and keep it there.  Whether you are a student doing an in-class presentation or an experienced trainer, keep John Wellwood’s training checklist in mind, so your participants are not counting the ceiling tiles!   

Discussion Questions:

  1. Think about the last training session you attended.  Did the presenter follow Wellwood’s 14 lessons?  Which ones did they miss and how did that affect the presentation?
  2. Think about the last time you presented to a group, did you follow Wellwood’s 14 lessons?
  3. How would you incorporate Wellwood’s 14 lessons, into your next presentation?