No matter how talented you are, everyone needs training wheels at first. But what do you do when your team’s role is a little more involved than pedaling back and forth? Say hello to employee training.    

Employee training is simply how your employees soak up the information they need to do their jobs more effectively. According to a Glassdoor survey, career growth opportunities are one of the top five considerations candidates take into account before accepting a job offer. By prioritizing employee training and giving folks those opportunities, you make your company a better place to work. And doing that also helps you hire the best talent.

With everything you need to do as a business owner, figuring out how to train your staff might seem like something you’ll never have time to get to. That is, unless you know how to do it in a way that’s easy, impactful, and makes sense for what you do. Keep reading to learn about five of our favorite employee training methods so you can kick off a program that makes your team shine.

Method #1: On-the-job training

Fun fact: You’re probably already familiar with on-the-job (OTJ) training. This method is when a new hire shadows an experienced employee. Let’s say you own a film production agency. If you hire an assistant, one of your seasoned producers could show them the ropes by having them tag along on a shoot. By connecting an experienced employee with someone new, your new hire learns how to do their job by watching a pro go about their actual day-to-day work.

Is on-the-job training right for me?

  • OTJ training is a great option for small businesses because it’s inexpensive and can happen on day one. If your new hire learns better by doing, it can help get them up to speed quickly. 
  • The quality of the training can vary wildly based on who exactly is involved. You can prevent inconsistency by setting up a detailed onboarding program, observing the first training session, and stepping in when needed.
  • Sometimes OTJ training can be a little overwhelming because your candidate is diving in head first. So be sure to schedule regular check-ins to keep tabs on how your staff is progressing.

Method #2: Independent training

With this method, your team is trained through independent study sessions where they read manuals, watch videos, or complete online courses. Usually, there’s a quiz at the end that sums up everything the session covered. Independent training works best if your employee needs to pass some kind of exam or certification. For example, restaurant cooks may need to pass a food handling exam or a real estate agent may need to pass a state broker exam in order to get their license.

Is independent training right for me?

  • For some people, this tactic can be isolating and demotivating. So it’s important to build in ways to keep your new hire excited about joining your team. You may also want to include more interactive opportunities to prevent your employee from getting lost while they go the independent route. For instance, you can have them attend group study sessions so they have more support while studying.
  • If you need to purchase or create training materials, this method can quickly get expensive or time consuming for many business owners.
  • There’s a possibility that your new hire may lose focus if they’re also trying to juggle other responsibilities. Try to make the materials as interesting as possible, give your team time to do the training during their workday, and add in checks to test their knowledge as it applies to your business.

Method #3: Classroom-style training

In this type of training you, or an outside instructor, simply teaches a class to your team about a specific area that will help them grow. Unless you hire a group of employees all at once, this method is best reserved for continuing education training programs.

Let’s say you run a retail shop. You might ask a sales specialist to come in before the holidays and show your team unique techniques that will help up their sales quotas.

Is classroom-style training right for me?

  • To make this method work from a cost and time perspective, try to train as many employees at once. If your team has various schedules, put the training on the calendar right away so they have ample time to plan around it.
  • Provide plenty of snacks and breaks to keep people fresh during the sessions.
  • Just like school, it’s easy for employees to get distracted. Build in ways for them to participate and stay interested, like by incorporating a bit of role playing in the class.

Method #4: Role playing

While role playing is a key component of classroom training, it’s also important enough to be included as its own method. Why’s that? Because it’s the best way to simulate the unpredictability of real life. Therefore, it’s particularly effective when you’re trying to train your team on sales and customer service techniques.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some situations that make good fodder for role playing:

  • How a sales employee should negotiate pricing with a prospective customer.
  • How a restaurant server should take food and drink orders from a guest.
  • How an employee should deal with a customer who is unhappy with the service they’ve received.

Is role playing right for me?

  • Try it out and see how your team reacts. Before a shift, give your team some sample scenarios and have folks act out each side. Be creative and challenge your employees with new and varied scenarios. For instance, throw them a curveball and include situations that don’t happen too often, but will prep them for when they do. Depending on your industry, you may want to include situations around unexpected delays, extra-inquisitive customers, and other forces outside of your team’s control.
  • Make it fun. Role playing works when it engages employees and gets them to think on their feet. Don’t spoil this by role playing too often or by focusing your training only on unpleasant situations, like dealing with an irate customer.

Method #5: Educational apps

This method is a twist on traditional independent and classroom training methods. Your team simply learns new skills via courses and quizzes that are delivered on an app they use with their phones. For younger staff, this can work really well, because they likely always have their phones with them. Plus, they have the freedom to complete the courses on their own schedule (within limits). Some of the better designed apps can gamify these learning experiences, which keeps employees interested and excited to learn.

Here are a few sites you can use (which your team can also access with a computer):

Each of these sites feature hundreds of business courses that your team can use to learn new skills and grow professionally.

Should I use an app to train my team?

  • Try to find an app that already exists and covers the materials you need. Building a custom app is going to be way too expensive for most small businesses.
  • A poorly designed app is just going to be a pain, so spend time comparing options before picking one.
  • Not everyone owns an iPhone, so be sure that the app you pick works for both iOS and Android operating systems. Survey your team before selecting the app to make sure your team can actually access it.

Ongoing education

Do any of these training methods stand out to you? Before diving in, it’s important to approach training in two phases: onboarding and ongoing education.

Onboarding helps new team members learn the initial skills they need to do their job. It also exposes them to the culture and mission of your business. On the other hand, ongoing education teaches existing employees new skills that help them get better at their jobs and advance to leadership roles within your company. That last part is really important. To keep great employees, you need to give them opportunities to grow professionally. And that’s exactly where ongoing education comes into play.

Ready to get going? Pick a method that makes sense for your business, set up your program, and watch as your team uses those training wheels to truly excel.

Ryan Gilmore Ryan Gilmore is a writer at ShopKeep, the #1-rated iPad point of sale system. He spends his time creating content that helps new and growing merchants run their businesses more efficiently and effectively.
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