7 ways business skills training can improve team performance

11 December 2018 by Paul McElvaney

So, how do you make business skills training effective and improve team performance? You find the right programme and make sure all your employees take it.  Job done. If only it were that easy.

But, we know that even with the best training courses, people forget what they’ve learned.  And very quickly too.

We also know that training doesn’t and shouldn’t stop when the last slide has been viewed or that last assessment question answered.  Training is a continuum, and the need for continuous training is becoming even more critical in our fast-paced, constantly-changing, modern working environment.  

Here are 7 features to look for in any effective training programme that will help you boost your team’s performance.

1. Having the supply meet the demand

In many organisations, the direct, straightforward, instructor or instruction-led approach to training still exists.  That’s because it’s easier to see training as a discrete entity, the responsibility of a single L&D department or a group of trainers.  This supply-side view, though, is being challenged by modern technology and the opportunities it affords learning development and learners.  When everything’s available and verifiable at the press of a button why bother sitting through a whole training programme to find the answer?

Mobile connectivity and ease of access have driven the demand for knowledge and learning.  It’s changing the training environment. Organisations need to meet that demand with more accessible training.

2. Getting the measure of training

Ultimately the purpose of workplace training is to enable employees to do their jobs better.  That means measuring performance and efficiency.  More than that, there’s a need for employees to work effectively with each other.  Without teamwork, overall performance will suffer. An organisation can’t be a one-man band.

So, the solution to providing business skills training to improve team performance must involve a training strategy and process that support training programmes but which cannot be reduced to a single course or set of modules.  It should focus instead on the outcomes: the what and the why, rather than simply the how (even though the how needs some consideration too).

3. A matrix of business skills training

If you look at the make-up of Business Skills training catalogues, you’ll have a sense of the range and scope of skills modern workers require.  Modules cover aspects of Finance, Management, Health and Safety, Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, Communications, Personal Professional Development and so on.  

How do you square the need to learn these critical skills with the demand to maintain productivity? Already training is perceived in some quarters as a burden or drain on performance.  Can you afford to have key staff away from their place of work in training, no matter how effective it claims to be?

This challenge can be addressed by bringing training into the working environment.

4. Bringing training in the workflow

Today’s employees expect more from training.  With information potentially accessible wherever they are, they’ll expect similar connectivity in the workplace.  

There’s a behavioural change linked to this: people are actively looking for information.  Training departments need to design for this new style of learning.  An employee looking for a piece of learning while on the job has limited time and bandwidth.  

It’s time to shift the place of training.  Training shouldn’t cease when you leave the classroom or exit the elearning course and moving learning into the workflow can achieve and enhance its effectiveness and improve productivity.  Learning on the job is better than learning before the job.

5. Making training accessible: pull not push

Learning content needs to be created for quick access and intelligent searching and retrieval.  This way it can offer learning and support at the same time.  Mobile connectivity helps by making your training resources easily available across devices and platforms.  

Ease of access not only removes barriers to learning, but it also allows learners to pull the information they need when they need it.  This stimulates and encourages employees to take responsibility for their own learning, using tools that they carry with them all the time.  If we recognise that training can be a burden, then allowing learners the freedom to make use of training as and when they need it helps relieve it. They can decide what training they need and access when they need it.

Accessibility also applies to how we design training.  We need to move away from the monolithic course structure – in elearning as well as classroom-based training.  Instead, you can develop resources that support learning in the workflow. Adopt some of the techniques of microlearning to develop bite-sized chunks of training that are quick and easy to digest and are always accessible.

6. Stories and games that engage learners

Improving access is certainly a huge step towards making training more relevant and enhancing its effectiveness, but it doesn’t of itself overcome the problem of employee disengagement with training and the problem of forgetting.  For that, we need to look at learning techniques that aid retention and application of knowledge.

Story-led and scenario-based training emphasise the applicability of what you’re learning to your job.  The scenarios deliberately place you in a work-like environment, where decisions are made and the consequences revealed.  By exploring different narrative trajectories, you can learn what works best where. This is particularly true in Leadership and Management Skills Training where knowing how to deal with people in particular circumstances is vital.

You can also use the power of gamification to drive interest and motivate learners.  Making learning a challenge and rewarding attainment – common features of the games we play outside of work – can manifest learning goals and show the benefits of achievement.

These learning strategies prioritise practice over theory and demonstrate how training is applied, making it more relevant to people’s jobs and so more valued.  

7. Building teams through collaborative learning

The subject of games and their applicability to workplace training raises another aspect of effective business skills training: teamwork.  It’s not enough to train an employee well if you don’t pay attention to his or her role in the team.  Just as tasks and goals are shared, so too is knowledge.  Your approach to training needs to be aligned with the organisation’s common purpose, goals and values. Efficiency and effectiveness must be achieved across the board for overall performance and productivity to improve.

Again, the experience of modern learners helps here.  Much of the knowledge we attain is acquired informally and shared.  If we think of the role Social Media plays in our social lives, we can see how much of our learning and information comes from peers.  This can be replicated in workplace training by using the collaborative functions of LMS’s or encouraging employees to create their own repository of training material: from simple tips and tricks to expert explanations of procedures and processes.

The task for training departments is to encourage the informal sharing of information and peer-to-peer training, while at the same time capturing it within the more formal training content.  Doing this can close the circle of training strategy, where information, knowledge and experience feed back into the loop of learning design.

Capturing knowledge from the workplace makes your training updatable and scalable while allowing knowledge and experience to be shared better.

Continuous training

There needs to be an emphasis on the development of people on a continuous basis, not simply for CPD points.  Rather than push training programmes at people in a scattergun approach, it makes sense to encourage people to take more responsibility for their own learning and development and that of their peers too.

There’s no one magic training programme that will improve team performance overnight.  But if you ensure that these features are reflected in the way you run your organisation’s training you can make a real difference to performance.  

By bringing training into the workflow you make it more relevant and you distribute it better throughout the organisation.  You’ll reap the benefits in greater efficiency and better productivity across the board.

Paul McElvaney
Chief Executive Officer
Paul is Learning Pool’s founder and CEO. Since 2006, he has grown the business from a modest team of 5, to the success story it is today, with 7 sites and almost 200 employees. Paul’s ambitions centre on providing world-class customer care to our 750+ global clients, driving continuous innovation through Learning Pool’s product set and nurturing the talent within his team.
Paul was awarded ‘Director of the Year’, from the Institute of Directors in 2016.
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