This article is an excerpt from Insight’s leadership playbook. When you offer specialized training, you are maximizing your return on investment in employees. Offering training encourages team members to increase their mastery and seek opportunities for advancement.
Pay for certifications, encourage attendance to workshops and lunch-and-learns, etc. Host your own training on topics where you are an expert. Invest in the professional development of your people to increase their job satisfaction.
Why We Offer Specialized Training
You have likely heard the management tale of a two managers discussing training for their employees. A manager proposes to another that they should invest in more specialized training for their people. His peer asks “Yeah, but what if we train them, and they just leave?” He responds “What if we don’t train them, and they stay?”
Whether or not the tale can be attributed to actual events, the lesson is clear. If you fail to invest in adequate training for your people, they will not live up to your expectations and will underperform. If you train your people, they may leave one day, but in the mean time you will derive significant value for their increased expertise. Would you rather have a great employee for two years, or a mediocre one for ten years?
Even if people leave after you give them specialized training, it can be a net positive for your company. Others will notice your investment in people, resulting in a more positive company reputation in the eyes of job seekers.
This is not something you have to be shy about, either. When you offer opportunities for continued education or specialized training to employees, you can promote it as part of your company’s job site, team information viewed by prospective clients (who want to work with experts and will be impressed with your investment), or in submissions to business awards. While the primary goal of offering training is to create a more engaged, masterful workforce, these promotional benefits are highly valuable from a marketing perspective and can make the difference when job candidates and potential clients are choosing who to work with.
How We Offer Specialized Training
The methods through which you offer training depends on the nature of your team’s work. There are many ways to approach training, so begin by asking your team member what topics or skills they’re interested in and then choose the appropriate medium for delivering training they care about. Below are a few methods to deliver training to team members.
Lunch and learn sessions
Hosting an internal training session is a simple way to begin increasing training opportunities for your people. If you’re concerned about low attendance, hosting during a lunch hour and offering company-catered sandwiches or pizza can increase turnout. The food cost to the company is minimal, versus allocating a dedicated hour that eats into team members’ typical productive work time. Providing the food will also encourage people to attend your meeting instead of incurring their own now-unnecessary costs for lunch.
Company all-hands meetings
If there is company-specific training you feel should be mandatory, an all-hands meeting may be an appropriate place to cover the topic. Without a prior announcement or followup actions, this training may not be as effective as other methods. However, for short, digestible topics or demonstrations of new skills, a company-wide meeting may be appropriate.
Some people prefer one-on-one training, as it gives them the opportunity to ask more questions and watch you demonstrate skills or expertise in practical real-world scenarios. Additionally, they may feel more confident trying a new skill with someone they trust and respect, especially when the risk of failure at important tasks can be mitigated by your oversight and support.
Company lending library
Offer business books, industry magazines, audiobooks, and other shareable media relevant to your team’s work. Establish a lending library in a communal area where people can borrow or contribute material they have an interest in. Take note of which books are borrowed most often: it may be an indicator of topics that are most interesting to people or high-quality material relevant to their jobs. If a book proves to be extremely popular, consider purchasing a copy for all team members and/or starting a weekly or monthly reading group.
Area talks and conferences
Most major cities have year-round workshops, talks, and conferences for all sorts of industries. Chances are, Eventbrite or Meetup will list free or inexpensive events that are nearby and relevant to the nature of your work.
Industry conferences are great places for employees to network with peers at other companies. Beyond the high-quality keynotes and workshops offered at the conference, your team members may make connections to peers that are willing to trade industry-specific knowledge and share ideas for approaches to your work. While some employers balk at this notion due to concerns about intellectual property, you can mitigate the concern by setting clear boundaries for your people before they attend a conference. Specify what is okay to share about processes and tools they use, and what is considered a company trade secret. Remind them that they should always ask before sharing information if they’re unsure about whether it is appropriate to share.
Industry-specific skill certifications
Most industries also have governing bodies or trade groups that will certify or license people in certain skills. In information technology, Microsoft, CISCO, Google, and Amazon Web Services offer numerous training programs and certifications that can help your team members develop or improve skills that are highly relevant to their jobs.
After receiving specialized training, your team members should feel more masterful and be more competent in practicing the skills they have learned. Over time, you may find an increase in team members’ quality of work, more valuable contributions made outside of their original job descriptions, individual contributions that improve tools or processes at a team or company level, and a great sense of confidence from team members when they speak on subjects for which they received training.
You can start simply by offering a one-hour talk on a topic within your area of expertise. Chances are, if the topic is important to you, it will draw the interest of people on your team. They may be interested for a number of reasons: a desire to increase their mastery or broaden their skills, a desire to show they are excellent employees, a shared interest in the topic at hand, a desire to spend more time learning from you about the skills you find important along your career path, or even simply an offer of free food.
The talk structure is up to you and depends upon the subject. However, you the following is a rough outline that can be used as inspiration for most talks:
- Introduction (your credentials on this topic: why are you the best person to give this talk?)
- Why this topic is important
- How the topic relates to the work your team or company performs
- Any other key takeaways you hope people receive by the end of the talk
- The mechanics or concepts you wish to cover about the topic
- Applicable examples that demonstrate the mechanics or concepts of the topic in action, preferably in a realistic or real-world scenario.
- Conclusion, reinforcing the value of the skills you have covered
- Time for questions
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