Five ways to improve training and development in the workplace

November 28, 2021


The workplace as we know it is evolving like never before

As we’re faced with the rise in technology and a new generation of employees who are becoming more vocal in their quest for meaningful work experiences and opportunities for growth, companies are being forced to re-evaluate their approach to employee engagement and talent acquisition.

Workers with skills such as technology literacy, versatility and creative problem solving are in high demand. However, employers around the world are struggling to retain them.

In the past, cushy benefits and pay have been used to attract talent, but as businesses and employees recover from the effects of COVID-19 this approach might seem counterintuitive and perhaps even, one-dimensional.

The GETI 2021 report revealed that the most meaningful way to build resilience amidst the talent crisis is through training and development. Not only is this a vital element in securing employees for the long-term, it is also part of a growing list of demands from candidates across multiple industries.

For training and development to be truly effective, they must be designed with the employee in mind

personalised trainingSource: Shutterstock/Fizkes

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, companies should look into personalised alternatives where training is tailored to each employee’s personal needs and goals within the company.

Personalised training opens up opportunities for employees to learn the things they need to at their level, through a format that is most beneficial to them. Allowing them to absorb and retain information better.

While the idea of implementing a personalised training plan can be daunting, it becomes far more accessible when there is desire to foster a culture that promotes learning at every level within the company.

It’s also important to remember that some of the most impactful learning opportunities can happen outside of formally constructed programs and through daily workplace interactions between peers, managers and employees, and interdepartmental communication.

Below are five steps to improve training and development in the workplace.

Learn more about your employees by communicating with them

In order to provide them with learning opportunities that are most relevant to their needs, managers must first understand the needs and goals of their employees. Asking questions in a relaxed setting is a great way to this as it lets employees express their opinions and communicate openly.

This can be done through informal one-on-one meetings with each team member. Use this time as an opportunity to check in on their progress, the projects they are working on, the challenges they may be facing, what they like and dislike about their roles, and what are the skills they’re interested in developing.

Some employees may be hesitant to speak freely at first, so we suggest starting the conversation with a series of non-work-related questions to get the conversation going and encourage them to open up.

Here are some of the questions you can ask:

  • How are things with you outside of work?
  • What did you get up to this weekend?
  • What do you enjoy doing during your time off?
  • What are some of your personal goals?

During this exchange, remember to also share some information about yourself to level the playing field and give your employees a chance to see you beyond your role as their manager and build a connection.

You can slowly segue into asking them more about their roles within the company, their responsibilities and the areas they’d like to grow in.

Questions like the ones below can help you better understand their levels of engagement as well as career aspirations.

  • What is something you feel you accomplished recently?
  • What motivates you to come in to work each day?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • What are some of the challenges you are facing?
  • What are the resources you need to succeed in your role?
  • Do you feel like you’re advancing and learning new things in your current role?
  • Are there any projects, roles, or responsibilities in the company that interest you?
  • Are there any new things you’re interested in working on that you haven’t had a chance to explore?
  • Out of the skills you already possess, what are the ones you’d like to develop?
  • Are there any new skills you’re interested in cultivating?
  • Is there anything you’d like to talk about with me that I haven’t addressed yet?

During these sessions, listen attentively and aim to understand and reflect on what your employees saying rather than waiting for your chance you speak.

Asking questions such as the ones above can not only help you take actionable measures to give your employees the tools they need to succeed in their roles, it can also help them feel more engaged and establish deeper connections within your team and the organisation.

Use on-the-job training to help your employees develop the skills they’re interested in

According to Margaret Rogers, VP of Pariveda Solutions, classroom-style training builds a solid foundation but can quickly lose its effectiveness if it isn’t applied regularly.

Instead, she recommends that managers create “learning moments” out of daily workplace responsibilities and encounters. Says Rogers, “these moments can be significant or small, but engaging employees in this way is key to helping them step outside their comfort zones, practice, and build confidence.”

For example, imagine that you have an employee who is great at research and data analysis but struggles with nerves when presenting their findings in front of large groups and key stakeholders. This can be used to create a “learning moment”.

You could take the time to revise and go over their slides with them or create mock presentation sessions for them to work on their delivery. This not only allows them to practice and improve their confidence in a safe environment but the next time they have to present to a bigger group, they will be more prepared and at ease.

On-the-job learning experiences such as these allow employees to discover and utilise the tools they need to grow in their jobs on their own terms while having access to guidance from more experienced colleagues.

For managers, it allows them to implement customised training for their employees and effectively address areas of concern instead of taking a general approach that may not be relevant to all team members.

Improve employee learning objectives with Bloom's Taxonomy

Originally developed in 1956, Bloom's Taxonomy is a learning model developed by Benjamin Bloom and a group of collaborators used to categorise educational goals. Today, while it is still widely used in the education field, it has also become an indispensable tool in e-learning and workplace training.

Within the realm of employee development, Bloom's Taxonomy is valuable as it allows trainers and mentors to identify the stages employees must go through to learn new things. Making it easier for course developers to design more effective training programs.

The most efficient way to apply Bloom's Taxonomy in a workplace with various departments and unique learning requirements would be to:

  • Identify four employee skill levels
  • Define the objectives based on employee skill levels and knowledge gaps

During this process, the best method for content delivery will be unearthed.

blooms taxonomyFigure 1: Bloom's Taxonomy


Match learning experiences to your employees’ needs

One of the most common mistakes companies make in their training programs is assuming that all their employees have the same learning needs. However, there are many variables that shape their preferences and reception to training. These might include level of experience, length of tenure, work ethic, and career motivations.

Managers also need to remember that the workforce now comprises of five generations - all of which have different values, goals and learning styles. Companies should ensure that these differences are recognised at every stage of the learning process.

It’s also important to consider the role of technology and the level of expertise your employees have when interacting with it. For example, your Gen Z and Millennial team members might have no trouble navigating a sophisticated e-learning platform whereas, your older employees may need a little bit more guidance.

This is why Annice Joseph, Senior HR Director of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Office at SAP believes that an agile approach to training is key to unlocking successful learning.

In conversation with, she says:

In addition to learning being a continuous process, it is also important to be agile when accommodating all learning styles.

To be successful, organisations need to create environments where people can un-learn, learn and re-learn. SAP takes into careful consideration all generations represented in its workforce and caters to their unique needs.

For example, SAP’s newest employees receive a self-driven, interactive onboarding app (very different than a traditional classroom learning setting). In some cases, SAP offers a combination of e-learning and face-to-face instruction to ensure onboarding is respectful and inclusive of all generations.

Provide regular and constructive feedback

Clear and constructive feedback is essential during employee training and development. All managers should have a strategy to ensure that feedback is communicated effectively.

During this time, be constructive with your criticism. Aim to provide suggestions and solutions instead of simply highlighting areas of weakness. Wherever it’s applicable, incorporate data and concrete numbers into your feedback strategy. This helps employees to accurately measure their performance, highlight specific strengths, and identify areas that need improvement.

While providing one-to-one feedback as a superior is a tried-and-true method, many organisations have begun to explore more comprehensive approaches. This often involves collecting feedback from a mixed panel of colleagues and managers to deliver more well-rounded feedback.

For example, the 360-degree feedback model is a method that gathers feedback from a subject’s managers, peers, subordinates and customers. A self-assessment by the subject completes this process.

Primarily used as a development tool, the 360-feedback model is used to provide information about a subject’s work competencies, behavior and working relationships. Its strengths lie in its ability to provide more thorough feedback due to the wide variety of sources used, its reduced likelihood for discrimination and bias, as well as its ability to unearth procedural issues that can impede employee development.

360 degree feedback modelFigure 1: The 360 Feedback Model

The goal at this stage should be to provide your team with the ability to reflect on their actions and encourage individual employee growth. Be patient and take the time to address both their successes and shortcomings without judgment.

You can also ensure that your employees put their newly learned skills by working with them to devise an action plan to track their performance and chart their growth at a pace that is comfortable for them.

Evaluate your capacity

Employee training and development can be a complex and time-consuming project, especially in large teams. Be careful to approach it in gradual steps to avoid overload on yourself as well as your employees.

Before the implementation, think about your capacity to provide the training programs. How involved do you want to be and how much support are you able to give based on your own set of responsibilities? Do you want to handle training internally and have it distributed amongst senior leaders and management, or would you rather outsource your training programs?

Setting realistic expectations for yourself is just as important to the success of your training program so make sure to evaluate your capacity for delivery before coming to a decision.

Using a prioritization framework like the Eisenhower Matrix below can be effective in helping you distinguish and prioritise your tasks according to importance and urgency.

eisenhower matrixFigure 2: The Eisenhower Matrix

The same way employee growth comes with time and continuous learning, the implementation process must also be refined over time for it to truly shine. For leaders who take the time to develop their training and development as well as create a culture of learning and open communication, not only will they see their employees evolve, they will also find greater success in engaging and retaining their them.

Download the Airswift Whitepaper on Talent Retention

Training and development give people a chance to expand and chart their professional growth. The companies that upskill are the ones that will retain their employees and win the talent war – Nic Taylor, Regional Director, ASPAC, Airswift

Employee training and development are cited as core components in various reports on talent retention. The Airswift white paper discusses it in detail along with a series of other practices that companies can implement to improve their talent retention strategy.

Featuring recommendations from various experts within Airswift, our white paper addresses some of the issues that have been on the minds of business leaders such as:

  • What are the circumstances behind employee resignations in 2021?
  • What are the main criteria and expectations for employee retention?
  • What are the challenges faced when retaining talent?
  • What is the new set of employee expectations?
  • What are the best practices to retain talent for 2021 and beyond?

Get your free copy by clicking the button below to access these insights today!

Download the talent retention whitepaper

This post was written by: Leanna Seah, Content Marketing Coordinator