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Employee Engagement

Employee Training Programs: How To Develop Your Talent

Rebecca Noori
Last Updated December 21, 2023

"Knowledge is power" when it comes to career advancement. Employees who commit to regular training can boost their individual skill sets, throw open doors to future opportunities, and enrich their respective teams with new competencies. The problem? Corporate training can suffer from a reputation for being stuffy and boring, making it challenging to engage your employees in ongoing learning.

This article explores how organizations can train employees in a way that motivates them, develops their growth mindsets, and leads to the long-term success of each individual and the overall organization. Best of all, we offer an employee training program template to get you started.

What Is An Employee Training Program? 

An employee training program provides rich learning opportunities and experiences to enhance employees' skills, knowledge, and capabilities. It is designed to improve employees' job-specific competencies, strengthen their personal and leadership skills, and foster a culture of continuous development. Employee training programs are highly customizable and flexible to the specific needs of each employee.

However, training is just one component of a comprehensive employee development plan. To form a holistic, overarching strategy, it should sit alongside other growth opportunities like coaching, networking, employee performance management, and career planning.

What Does An Employee Training Program Include? 

Effective training programs typically include the following key components:

Individual Training Goals 

Companies create individual goals for each employee in the organization, from individual contributors to senior leadership. Managers can work with their direct reports to craft SMART training goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, each considering the employee's current skill set and career aspirations.

For example, a junior software engineer's SMART training goal could be to qualify in Python by the end of the year, measured by completing a certified course.


Common Types Of Employee Training 

A modern employee training program could include a mix of training formats, such as:

Training Courses

Formal instructor-led training is helpful for teaching entire topics, especially those that introduce new concepts to learners. Employee training can occur in real-time environments such as an onsite or virtual classroom. Alternatively, remote learners may engage in self-paced courses that can complete independently.


Learners can engage in microlearning training sessions, where they consume bite-sized chunks of material, such as a quick training tip via Slack or email. This type of training is best suited as a top-up or refresher for previous courses rather than learning an entire topic from scratch.

Job Shadowing

This type of on-the-job training involves pairing an employee with a more experienced staff member, allowing them to learn by observing and assisting their colleague. Job shadowing can be a valuable tool for developing soft skills or technical training while learning about company culture.

Professional Memberships

Professional memberships, such as those offered by SHRM, provide access to industry resources, events, and networking opportunities. Employees can use these memberships to stay current in their field, gain access to industry reports, etc.

Peer Learning

Peer learning, or social learning, allows employees to learn from each other through workshops, mentoring, round tables, or team projects. This experience builds strong relationships between co-workers while fostering a collaborative learning environment. Peer-to-peer feedback also helps identify knowledge gaps and promote continuous improvement.


Gamification brings out your team members' competitive spirit by using game design elements, such as points and rewards, to motivate everyone to complete their training. This is beneficial for teaching new processes or concepts that require hands-on practice.

Common types of employee training

Training Deadlines And Milestones

Committing to a training goal means breaking it down into manageable parts you can achieve alongside a busy workload. Any training plan should include a realistic deadline for your goal and milestones to keep you on track.

For example, if an accountant's training goal is to complete a tax law course in six months, they could create milestones such as completing one module every two weeks to reach their target.

Why Should Companies Invest In Employee Training And Development? 

Some employees will upskill in their own time and out of their own wallets. It might be tempting for small businesses to let this happen instead of offering in-house training and development. But there are tremendous benefits for companies of all sizes that invest in their employees' growth:

1. Attract And Retain Employees 

Modern-day employees can be fickle; job hoppers will happily move on to greener pastures if their employer isn't committed to their professional growth. LinkedIn highlights that 93% of organizations are concerned about employee retention and have identified "providing learning opportunities" as the top way to hold onto their workers. In a separate study by TalentLMS, 76% of employees agree they're more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous learning.

Younger employees, in particular, are keen to train. 87% of millennials are looking for development opportunities from their new job, while 76% of Gen Z want more opportunities to learn or practice new skills.

2. Address Skills Gaps 

87% of companies already have a skills gap or expect to within the next few years, meaning that organizations have problems their workers aren’t equipped to solve.

Recruitment isn’t always the answer, as a Monster survey reveals that 58% struggle to find job candidates with the right skills, and even if they did, Dell points out that 85% of the jobs anticipated for 2030 don’t yet exist.

Training, not as a one-off but as a continuous measure, is a meaningful way to bridge these skill gaps, both now and in the future.

3. Aid Succession Planning 

In succession planning, forward-thinking organizations plan ahead to ensure smooth transitions between leaders and teams. After earmarking high-performing individuals as potential successors, companies can offer relevant upskilling and reskilling training to prepare for future roles. This approach ensures a strong talent pipeline and retains top employees by proving their employer is invested in their development and recognizes their potential.

4. Achieve Business Goals 

Although we stress the importance of tailoring training programs to the individual, companies must also ensure that employee training and development plans align with overall business objectives. For example, a company looking to grow its global presence could offer language training or cultural intelligence courses to support this goal directly. Similarly, a company aiming to improve sustainability could provide green skills training to help employees identify waste reduction opportunities.

5. Improve Employee Engagement 

Engaged employees are productive, positive, and motivated team members. When companies invest in their staff by offering training opportunities, it communicates that they're interested in nurturing their talent and helping them reach their potential. This improves satisfaction with the company and increases employee engagement overall. Culture Amp's research reveals that employees are 46% more engaged when they can develop skills relevant to their interests.

Why should companies invest in employee training and development?

11 Strategies For A Successful Employee Training Program 

Set your company and people up for success by implementing these best practices when preparing and rolling out your training program.

1. Set Goals For Your New Employee Training Program 

Zoom out and understand why you're offering employee training and how you expect it to support your business objectives. Setting goals allows you to measure your training programs' success and make any tweaks as required.

For example, a SMART goal could be to improve employee retention by X% by the end of Q4 by enhancing access to reskilling in every department. Each of your SMART goals should use relevant metrics (in this example, your staff retention rate) to track progress.

2. Take A Skills-Based Approach To Hiring

Your training program will be more effective if you're attracting the right people through the door in the first place. Once you've hired people with relevant skills for your organization, these serve as a foundation for future training.

Recruiters can support this by prioritizing skills over less relevant criteria like college education or experience when selecting candidates to advance through each stage of the hiring funnel. LinkedIn's Future of Recruiting report finds that 75% of recruiters consider skills-based hiring a top priority over the next 18 months, and the share of recruiters using skills filters to identify qualified candidates has increased by 25% over the past three years.

3. Prioritize Your Training Needs

Average training expenditures for large companies decreased in 2023 from $19.2 million to $16.1 million. However, training budgets for midsize companies remained the same at around $1.5 million, while small companies increased from $368k in 2022 to $459k in 2023.

Whatever category your organization falls into, staying within your training budget requires you to be selective about the type of training you offer. Prioritize training according to business goals and create programs that address those needs. For example, offer leadership development or conflict resolution training to high-potential employees or technical skills training for those entering a new role. Prioritizing your training needs ensures that you invest in the right areas and achieve maximum impact from your employee development programs.

4. Customize Growth Plans 

Never cut corners by rolling out identical training plans for people in the same roles. Why? Imagine you have five new sales team members, all working at the same level in the team and all needing to hit the same quarterly sales targets. As they're working toward the same goal, it sounds like their training and growth plans should be the same. Right?

Wrong. These sales team members didn't arrive at your company with the same skill sets. Some of them are adept at negotiating, while others possess exceptional interpersonal skills. One team member wants to become a sales manager, while another aims to be a high-performing sales associate. Therefore, it's crucial to individualize training plans to suit each employee's unique needs, skill levels, and aspirations.

Customizing your training plan allows you to meet the unique needs of your team members

5. Combine Different Types of Training  

A comprehensive training plan should incorporate multiple techniques to accelerate an employee's learning and understanding of the topic. People Operations Manager Timothy Zimmer discusses how Great Lakes Psychology Group has found success integrating real-time training with supporting initiatives such as using a learning management system or completing job shadowing. He shares:

“Our employees benefit from working directly with trainers on actual client interactions, and then supporting those situations with secondary training. This training method is utilized during onboarding and has helped expedite our internal process with new hires. We are also able to grow employee skill sets with our current workforce. The buy-in from our training team is what drives the success of this training tactic and has been a benefit all around!”

6. Invest In Mentoring And Coaching 

While formal courses deserve their place in any training program, mentoring and coaching effectively supplement learning with practical, hands-on experience. Encourage employees to partner with mentors who can provide guidance and support as they navigate their current roles and responsibilities. This allows for personalized learning and growth opportunities while fostering collaborative relationships.

Senior Consultant Hitesh Soni shared how mentoring has been crucial to training success at NamanHR. He said:

“In my role as an HR professional, I've witnessed implementations of many training initiatives. Among these, one effective tactic has been the provision of mentoring and coaching opportunities for our employees. This strategy allows us to tailor the agenda to the unique needs of individuals while aligning with organizational goals. Through group sessions or one-on-one interactions, assigning new hires to seasoned mentors or coaches has enhanced their educational journey.
Moreover, this approach has provided a personalized experience, shaping not only their professional skills but also refining their behaviors, attitudes, and vision to align with future demands. While the optimal training strategy depends on a company's specific objectives, sector, and workforce requirements, the versatility of mentoring and coaching makes it an effective choice. It has proven to be impactful regardless of when, how, or where it is implemented, making it a reliable approach for employee development.”

7. Implement Training From Onboarding 

Get off to a flying start by embedding continuous learning into your company culture from orientation onwards. Comprehensive onboarding training gives new hires the tools and knowledge base they need to succeed in their new workplace. From here, you can build personalized training according to each learner's specific goals.

Managing Director Michael Morgan shares how early training is integral to success at Medallion Partners:

“At our 20-person executive search firm, one of the best employee training tactics we have is an all-in, jump-in-the-deep-end onboarding process that focuses on building strong relationships and gauging a new employee's capacity and drive for the work. 
During their first two weeks, we make sure the new hire meets with each existing team member. We want to see their level of curiosity and self-drivenness, and if they'll actively seek and utilize the knowledge and connections within the organization. These qualities are vital in our relationship-centric industry.
Early challenges for new hires help us assess their capacity and enthusiasm, which is a win-win. If they excel, it bodes well for their future in the company. If it's overwhelming, they are encouraged to express their needs. This tactic has proven time and again to identify motivated, relationship-driven individuals while allowing new hires to assess their own fit within our dynamic organization.”

Creating an onboarding plan is an essential process to help new hires feel welcome. You shouldn't schedule every minute of the day, but the first few weeks should be filled with sessions to help employees get to know the company, their department, and their role.

8. Take An Inclusive Approach To Employee Training 

Employee training should be accessible to every worker in the organization. Adopting an inclusive approach also means offering a breadth of learning styles to suit every employee. For example:

  • Visual learners prefer that information be presented in charts, graphs, diagrams, and videos. They might benefit from slideshows, infographics, and other visual aids.
  • Auditory learners enjoy listening and verbal communication. An auditory training program could include discussions, lectures, podcasts, and other auditory techniques.
  • Kinesthetic or tactile learners engage well with hands-on experiences, role-playing, and interactive exercises.
  • Reading/writing learners thrive on written information, such as reading instructions and manuals or taking notes. 
  • Social learners excel in group settings and enjoy collaborative learning such as group discussions, team projects, and peer-to-peer interactions.

9. Create A Learning Culture

Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck believes two types of mindset can shape attitudes towards learning—a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. The growth mindset is the belief that someone can develop an ability or intelligence through sheer dedication and hard work. In contrast, the fixed mindset believes a person's abilities are unchangeable.

In employee training, we want all our learners to believe anything is possible, so we must build a positive learning culture. Companies can nurture this growth mindset by:

  • Creating an environment where employees are keen to take on new tasks and acquire new skills
  • Embracing setbacks and failures as opportunities to learn and grow rather than signals of incompetence
  • Challenging each other to think outside the box and explore new ideas
  • Providing regular employee feedback to encourage skill development and boost confidence 
  • Encouraging workers to seek the next learning opportunity, even after formal training programs have ended

10. Implement Regular Feedback 

Multi-way feedback between employees, their managers, and their trainers keeps everyone in the loop:

  • Trainers can provide guidance and suggestions to employees 
  • Managers can receive feedback on how their direct reports are progressing 
  • Employees can give feedback on how they're finding the training content or delivery

Encouraging open communication and creating a safe space for feedback is crucial to ensure that your training program meets the needs of all involved. Consider collecting these important insights through one-on-one conversations, surveys, or feedback forms.

11. Recognize Your Employees For Their Training Progress 

Motivation goes a long way in fostering a continuous training environment. According to Nectar's survey of 800 full-time US workers, employee recognition has a powerful impact in the workplace.

  • 81.9% of employees agree that recognition for their contributions improves their engagement 
  • 83.6% of employees feel that recognition affects their motivation to succeed at work 
  • 77.9% of employees would be more productive if they were recognized more frequently

Nectar's platform makes it easy to recognize training progress through public praise, rewards, and work-related challenges. Highlighting employees’ achievements and progress encourages everyone to continue their learning journey and demonstrate that their development is valued and appreciated within the organization.

Download Nectar's Free Employee Training Template

Are you ready to take today's article to the next level? Download our free employee training template via Google Docs. This one-page template gives you all the space you need to begin plotting suggested training, configure milestones, and give your team members notes on their development. Whether you are grooming an employee for an upcoming promotion or ensuring a new hire has a path to success, this template is a great starting point.

Download Nectar's free employee training template

Foster A Culture Of Continuous Growth With Nectar 

Nectar offers a range of features that align perfectly with an effective employee training strategy. To promote a growth culture your learners will feel motivated to participate in, check out the following tools: 

  • Recognition: Employees can give praise to each other in the Nectar channel. For example, a manager might recognize an existing team member has updated their annual health and safety training. They’ll give them a shoutout in the feed, accompanied by 20 Nectar points. 
  • Reward: Employees can exchange their accumulated Nectar points for a range of rewards, including Amazon products, gift cards, charity donations, company swag, and custom rewards. 
  • Challenges: Leaders can set up training-related challenges as an excellent motivational tool. For example, marketers could earn 50 points if they obtain an SEO certification by a specific deadline. 

Want to see how Nectar is the perfect accompaniment to your employee training programs? Arrange a free demo today.

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