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According to Gallup, companies that invest in employee development programs are twice as likely to retain their employees. These companies also experience an 11% greater profitability than those that don’t invest in similar programs.

When companies commit to helping employees develop their hard and soft skills, workers have the opportunity to make long-term, positive behavior changes. They also are more likely to feel loyal to the company. 

Even though employee retention is a significant problem for many businesses, executives are often reluctant to invest in training and development without assurance of an ROI. Understandably, they don’t want to watch their newly-trained talent take their cutting-edge skills and walk right out the door. 

In this article, I want to share how leaders can guard against pitfalls, and implement a program that will increase the likelihood that workers will want to stay with your company for the long haul. When done right, an excellent training and development program can also attract new A-players who are keen to join the company and participate in similar training themselves.


6 Ways to Implement a Successful Corporate Training Program 

Maura Thomas leading employee training and development program

For the past 20 years, I’ve trained teams to use the Empowered Productivity™ System, an evidence-based professional development program that teaches participants how they can improve their workflow management, feel less scattered, and experience less stress.

The tactics I share below are based both on my experience training tens of thousands of busy professionals across the globe, as well as on the current research for how to run effective employee training and development programs.


1. Involve leaders at the beginning of the process.


No matter what type of training your company is interested in purchasing, the first step is always the same: Get leaders involved in vetting the training content and the trainer.

Why is this so important? Leaders can best articulate the company’s needs and how they tie into the long-term strategy. They will have high-level knowledge of the company’s weak spots and skills gaps, and can better evaluate and convey what training should address.

The leader is also in the best position to identify the trainer who can best meet the team’s needs, and fulfill the long-term objectives for the training. 

Unfortunately, too many companies neglect this step. I often get calls from office administrators who are tasked with soliciting training proposals, but don’t have access to the information they need to do the job well. 

If you’re an executive who is worried about being on the receiving end of a hard sell, know that experienced and reputable trainers want to ensure a good fit just as much as you do. They’ll turn you down if it’s clear their services aren’t a match for your expectations.

That said, having the right leader involved in vetting your training options makes all the difference in whether you’ll see the long-term results you’re after. In my experience, training is always more successful when corporate decision-makers are invested from the beginning.


2. Solicit buy-in from employees before the training.


You can’t teach anyone anything that they don’t want to learn. When you make training mandatory but don’t bother to generate buy-in, you’re likely to be met with resentment, and even efforts to undermine the training.

For maximum success, employees should:

  • Agree that the topic of the training is an issue that affects the team.
  • Believe that the training will have benefits for them.
  • Want the benefits the training promises.

You don’t have to do this on your own! There are many ways to uncover attitudes and generate buy-in that an experienced trainer can help you with, including team conversations, a pre-training introduction to the material, formal or informal needs assessments, and input on selecting a solution.


3. Invest in a custom solution.


Just because a trainer targets the topic you’ve identified doesn’t mean an “off-the-shelf” solution will provide the results you’re looking for. A custom program can and will be designed to solve particular business problems that are likely to be costing your company money.

A customized program that includes content tailored for your particular audience and its needs may require a bigger investment, but any investment is wasted if you don’t solve the problems the training is intended to address. In addition, if behavior doesn’t change, your training investment is also wasted.  

Don’t be “penny-wise and pound foolish.” A tailored training and development program is likely to provide the biggest return on your professional development investment.

The key is to have clear and specific communication with the trainers you’re considering so you feel confident you’ll receive the results you’re seeking for the investment you’re making. This is another reason that leaders should be involved in the vetting process.


4. Train enough people.

Once you’ve selected a trainer, that doesn’t mean the success of the training is now solely in the trainer’s hands. 

Leaders play a pivotal role in determining whether the messages of the training will take root. As you prepare for training, consider including more participants. This often provides better results than training only one group, department, or division. 

Change is difficult enough as it is — but it’s even harder in a vacuum. A small group working to make changes inside a larger organization can meet resistance when others are unaware of changes or are surprised by new behaviors — or when new behaviors conflict with existing policies. 

You want this employee development and training program to serve as a highly effective employee retention strategy. For this to happen, the implementation of new skills is critical, and this is easier when everyone is working to make changes together. 

Set your team members up for success by training enough people to create a culture of support.


5. Hire a trainer who offers follow-up support.


The most effective way to ensure that the employee development program will lead to increased employee retention is to provide workers with follow-up support from the trainer.

If the program ends when the workshop time is over, implementation suffers. Individuals need support as they work to implement the new skills, and leaders need encouragement to hold their teams accountable for the new behaviors. An experienced trainer should offer support options as part of the engagement.


Special Bonus: An Insurance Policy for Employee Loyalty

a productive team works together in the office

The tactics above are designed to help elevate your workforce to the next level of performance. By making workers happier and more productive, they’ll be more invested in their jobs and more eager to remain with the company. 

But how can you harness even greater benefits from training and development? Provide all workers growth opportunities throughout their employment, not just when they first join your team.


Don’t Front-Load Training

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to offer learning opportunities when employees are first brought on board, and neglect them after they’ve been there awhile. 

A Vistage survey found that 91% of small and mid-sized companies offer a formal onboarding for new employees that focuses on company policies and job performance training. 

But as that employee remains at the company, formal investment in employee training and development declines dramatically. Only 43% of companies surveyed offer employees a leadership development program, and only 43% offer soft skills training. Your team needs to learn new strategies throughout their tenure with you. 

Recall these words of wisdom from Henry Ford: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”


Share Responsibility for Training

Don’t make training the exclusive responsibility of the human resources department. Instead, set up your HR training experts to partner with other departmental leaders. 

This helps ensure that team members are offered growth-oriented training throughout the lifecycle of their employment, not just during onboarding. 

Team leaders will have the pulse of their team members who are struggling. By encouraging these leaders to partner with HR, they will be positioned to offer customized training, at the optimal time, to employees who can benefit most.

And speaking of your human resources department, HR is a vast area of expertise. Rather than recruiting an HR generalist, consider hiring for learning and development expertise when filling your HR roster.


To Retain Employees, Do Training Right

You can bring in the best corporate trainer in the world, but if you haven’t laid the groundwork for success, you won’t get the long-term benefits you’re after. 

Follow the tactics above to increase the chances that the employee training and development program you purchase will deliver the results you want, keep your workforce engaged, and attract great hires into the pipeline.

If you’re learning about purchasing training and could use some help, feel free to reach out to me at maura(at)regainyourtime(dot)com. I’m happy to offer you the benefit of my 20+ years in the corporate training industry, even if you’re looking for training on a topic unrelated to my subject-matter expertise.