Better Boss's Guide: How to build a training programme that works

Date: 09 Jun 2021

Author: Jemini Team

Giving employees the right training and development from the beginning gives them a foundation for success and sets the tone of your company culture right from the start.

Begin by identifying your training needs and objectives

Your people need learning and development throughout their tenure in your organisation and with the rapid acceleration of change in the world of work, knowledge can get stale pretty quickly. Before you begin designing your training program, we recommend creating a skills development matrix that identifies knowledge gaps and ensures every training requirement has a real purpose or objective. After all, nobody wants to waste time or money on skills development that doesn’t link with real meaningful business wins.

Here’s an example of a skills development matrix - use this as a template to identify training needs. We find that doing this with other colleagues on a whiteboard or online collab tool is a great way to brainstorm and challenge each others thinking. It’s faster too.

Training Item

Why? (Purpose)

Business Outcome

Business Objective

What’s the gain or win from training?

New Starter University

Give new starters the ability to use all the core business systems confidently

All people are competent and can confidently use all systems at speed

Hit monthly goal for overall workforce productivity and gaining Net Promoter Score

Successful onboarding of 5 new starters will improve department output by X%

Income Tax Act 2007

Team can deliver payroll in accordance with NZ law and legislation

Zero payrolls processed with inaccurate income tax information.

Total legal compliance in line with NZ law.

Avoidance of fine that could be $XXX,XXX

Diversity in the workplace

Ensure all new hires are in-line with company diversity policy and the law

Diversity policy and rules are understood by all and consistently applied

The business delivers on its promises and commitments in diversity


Employee retention is improved by X% and reputation is increased by %

New Coffee Machine

A new coffee machine was installed in building A4

The machine can be used safely and avoids regular breakdowns

Zero harm in the workplace

100% more coffees dispensed each day

New product training for Sales Team - MaxMallows sweets

Ensure sales team has accurate and confident product knowledge including features, advantages and benefits

Sales team are ready to sell MaxMallows. They have excellent product knowledge and can handle objections well.

Sales team are empowered to hit their monthly targets. They consistently act as ambassadors.

MaxMallow sales of $250,000 in Q1

The ‘Why?’ column helps to challenge you to define the real purpose of the training. The business outcome and business objective columns help to ensure each training need links to a real and urgent business need. By putting everything into a spreadsheet, this also doubles as a checklist where you can track progress.

Don’t stress about your skills development matrix; it doesn’t need to be full of text. It’s more about identifying the top level needs and getting the information down and into a manageable format.

Let’s explore some of the different common types of training and people management including the typical objectives of that training.

two woman having a meeting

New Starters

Your new recruits can’t wait to start. They’ve read about your founder online. They’ve tried your amazing products. They’re over the moon about your incredible open-plan offices, complete with barista-coffee, pool-table and the weekly all-you-can-eat sushi lunch. They’re raring to go and they’ve got the ambition to make it big with the work opportunities in your company. Most importantly, they want to make a big impression and hit the ground running.

They can only do this with the right training from the very start. In fact, because training is the first thing they’ll most likely encounter, this period is the most vulnerable to people having second thoughts and potentially dropping out.

Some people are sent into the deep end without the knowledge needed to do their jobs. This makes them feel vulnerable and denies them the chance to really impress you.

This is why your upfront employee training and onboarding needs to inform and educate effectively. It’s also why this initial training needs to be delivered in a variety of ways, so it’s inspiring, social and gives people knowledge that sticks. Stay with us; we’ll be going into the best ways of delivering training very soon.

Adopting new Systems and Technology

It’s very likely that your business is adopting new systems and processes on a regular basis. Or it could be the complete opposite, where things haven’t changed in a long time. Either of these situations can present a challenge. Whenever you ask people to make a change, you’re going to come up against some form of resistance. The objective here is to get all your users up to a consistent level, so their work output and quality improves (and most importantly doesn’t fall). After all, you’re implementing a new system to extract a business benefit. 

Career progression and training people to take on managerial roles

Your people amass deep knowledge and skills within your business. As people grow and progress, they develop competencies that enable them to take on managerial responsibilities. It might mean they need to spend less time ‘doing’ and more time ‘managing’. The truth is, people who have excelled in their role doesn’t automatically mean they will have the skills needed to be a good manager. A good example is sales teams. There’s many occasions where a consistent over-achiever in a sales team has been promoted to manage that team. The assumption is that this person can coach, motivate and teach the other team members to adopt the same behaviours and achieve those same incredible figures. Such plans don’t always work out in the intended way. The hard-hitting, high-octane and relentless approach that this salesperson used to deliver for the business could actually alienate the other colleagues. Developing people upwards in the business is crucial, giving them the opportunity to grow, achieve their career development and earnings aspirations and build their loyalty. However, managerial roles need special skills and therefore this is something that you need to build into your plan, especially for people who will manage others for the first time.

Top view of eight people doing a high five in a circle

Improve team performance

There can’t be a single team in the entire world that doesn’t want to improve its performance. Businesses seek continual growth year after year. Performance goals and KPIs vary in myriad ways. You’re tracking so many different things such as:

-Sales figures and revenue growth

-Success rate (e.g. 1 in 3 appointments turn to an order)

-Uptime % (of systems for example)

-Quality (quality standard, zero flaws and defects, etc)

-Number of items produced per hour or day

-Reduction in failure rate

-Market share or market penetration

-Marketing effectiveness; conversion rates, brand recall, etc

-Build essential skills; selling, presenting, pitching, bid-writing, commercial

Improving team performance needs people and processes to evolve in different ways. First of all, the very notion of ‘team’ requires people to work effectively as a group. People need training and coaching so they can can interact and thrive as working groups or cross-functional teams.

Improving team performance could be about using known techniques and knowledge from within the business. It could be that you have your own subject matter experts. Or it could be that in order to take performance to a higher level, you need to bring in outside expertise. Outside experts or consultants can train your people directly, or you could adopt a ‘train the trainer’ approach where you identify key people in the business who will become the champion and expert in particular areas. It will then be their responsibility to advocate and evangelise this knowledge and these approaches internally.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it

A successful training programme needs accurate and timely measurement. Training has a cost and you’ll want to allocate a finite amount of time to it. To justify that time and cost, you’ll need to be able to quantify and demonstrate the business benefits it has created (in other words, be armed with data on return on investment. We can only track employee progression if there are tangible, meaningful ways to measure that performance. To many this might sound blatantly obvious, but there are still large enterprises worldwide who struggle to find the right measures of performance (or actually try and use too many measures to define what good looks like).

In the skills development matrix we included above, there is a column called ‘win or gain from training’. As part of your training programme, choose a number of simple measurements that you will track over time. These are most likely to be the measures your business already uses to track high level success. Track the change in these figures over time, in relation to the training that you deliver. Build your business case by showing where performance increases strongly correlate with your training programmes.

Seeing is believing. Book a demo today to see what an HR & Payroll system that people love to use looks like.

Jemini Demo

Think about how your training programme will be delivered

As you begin to decide the method of delivering training, think about the resources and employee development budget available to you. Learning and development strategies can be delivered internally by your own people or externally by experts or specialists. You’ll want to consider whether it’s better to do on-site or off-site, classroom style or workshop style. Then of course there’s the option for training to be done online; live (conference style using something like Microsoft Teams) or autonomous courses where people can work through each module at their own pace. As you’ll see, there’s no specific right answer. The variety of training delivery methods means you can mix and match the right tools to the right audience.

Two women in an interview

Internal training vs outsourced training programmes

You’ll need to decide between training that’s delivered by your own people internally, or by outside training companies (who will have their own subject matter experts and specialists). There are pros and cons to each. An in-house program will mean that you either need an in-house trainer or an expert who you nominate to deliver the sessions. It’s important that this person is perceived as an expert and is highly regarded and respected by your people. That way, the training sessions will be taken seriously and maximise active participation. Delivering training internally does require some logistical preparation. You’ll need a dedicated space, away from the regular day to day work distractions. You’ll need plenty of coffee to keep everyone sharp and on-point. You can choose the best way to share visuals and other information. A paper Flipchart or slides and a projector screen are equally good. Engaging materials that can be taken away are a must - so people can revisit, read and reinforce the most important takeaways.

Off-site training sessions do have their advantages. They tend to be led by professional companies and give you access to specialised instructors and knowledge-experts. Being off-site turns the training into an ‘event’ that is likely to be more memorable or ‘special’ for your people. Being away from the noise, stresses and distractions of the normal work environment can give people the headspace and focus needed to think in a different way and to be open to new ideas and thinking. But think carefully, as off-site training delivered externally is likely to cost quite a bit more than you delivering training in-house.

There’s no right or wrong answers here - whatever your budget, aim to deliver the very best experience you can, given the resources you have available. Don’t forget, some of the world’s most valuable businesses started from a garage with little resources. With the right trainer who can rouse enthusiasm and a gung-ho attitude, you’re good to go!

empty classroom

Classroom style or workshop? Individual vs group?

Different types of training need a slightly different delivery approach. If training is to be delivered as a group, then you can opt for classroom or workshop style. Classroom is what it says on the tin - training delivered by a speaker at the front of a room, using a variety of presentation materials. If you think back to your school or university days, these types of experiences tend to be very formal, can drag-on and can mean there is a lack of opportunities for group work, interaction and engagement. Think carefully about the group of people you are about to train. How will they cope with 2 or 3 hours listening to somebody talk? - will they be able to focus for that long? Or is the group going to need something more interactive to stay engaged?

Workshop style training is a very different beast. This approach encourages every single person to participate. It requires your people to get involved and actually strengthens teamwork and interpersonal bonds. Rather than just sharing one way information, it encourages everyone to go on a learning journey where the answers to problems become apparent as different teams work together. Example tasks can include role-play, ideation and the presentation of team solutions. Workshop style training is a terrific way to ‘learn by doing’ - although it does require an experienced facilitator who can keep everything under control and going in the right direction, so the right learning outcomes are met.

Of course - not every training topic can become a workshop. When learning to use a new IT system, it’s likely that every person will need to sit in front of their own laptop or computer, classroom style and be guided by a teacher at the front of the class.

You may be of the belief that ‘dry or formal’ topics automatically need the classroom method of training. We’d like to challenge that. You can combine both the classroom and workshop method.

Imagine a group of accountants or management consultants doing two hours of formal classroom style learning. The third hour could include group work, where the participants hold life-like interviews or a tribunal, thus simulating how their learning will play out in the real world.

On-the-job training

If your people could have a choice, we’d bet they’d choose off-site training workshops every time. But with the day to day business realities, it’s impossible. Therefore, take a hybrid approach with your training. After initial training sessions, on-the-job training delivers knowledge and learning opportunities that no number of training sessions can compete with. Scientific research shows that on-the-job training is truly invaluable, especially in environments where people are shadowed by more experienced colleagues. With everyone’s brain acting like a sponge, there is a sustained transfer of knowledge between people in any given department. Whilst not everyone likes working open-plan, it does provide opportunities for knowledge sharing.

The reality is, training is happening all the time. Your people are learning everyday, even unconsciously. By allowing people to join professional development associations and organisations and even attend relevant trade conferences, you are multiplying the opportunities for this informal learning to take place.

Ipad with calendar view next to a computer

Online learning portals

In recent years, there has been an explosion in learning technologies with platforms becoming available in almost every business sector imaginable. Online training systems allow people to learn with the added benefit of on-demand content (videos, how-to’s, simulations, etc). These platforms bring a number of benefits. People can start these courses at any time and from any location. Formally delivered training requires everybody to be in once place and these tend to happen only at scheduled times. What happens if a new starter joins just the day after the big expensive onboarding session? Online training portals tend to be cost effective, are mainly web-based and your people can receive the most up-to-date information (especially when software has been updated, new features rolled out or there is a change in law or legislation). Add to that, these learning portals can give people real-life situations so they can test their knowledge in a safe, controlled environment.

In the same way that you’d never let a pilot fly without first being in a simulator, you can do the same with an online learning portal. You can put your people into highly realistic environments where they can experiment without the risk of a single dollar being lost. It can also mean that your people can apply learning in VR or AR (augmented reality) environments (e.g. a field based worker can practice a fire drill on an oil rig in a lifelike way).

In addition, these portals have a modular approach and include testing and re-testing on a regular basis. This ensures that people have captured and can demonstrate their new knowledge. This is especially important for highly regulated industries (e.g. banking, finance and medical) where people must complete statutory tests and exams before they can work.

Coaching - keep people fresh and sharp in between sessions

Training sessions are just the start. There’s no substitute for regular coaching in between training sessions (that might only take place every few months or even once or twice a year). Regular contact with a coach keeps your people focused on the things that matter and helps them to get help on areas that need special attention. By giving your people access to a coach from time to time, you’ll maximise and build on the investments you’ve made in training and employee growth.

In Conclusion

As you can see, a smart and proactive approach to training can keep your people competent, knowledgeable and compliant in the work they do everyday. There’s no one size fits all approach that can fit any one organisation. The key is to make your training budget go as far as it can, no matter the size of type of organisation. Always focus on the desired outcomes and purpose of each piece of training that you intend to deliver. Keep sessions focused an no longer than they need to be. Use a hybrid of classroom, workshop and online self-led learning to keep people hungry for constant improvement and development.

Explore more...

Latest Insights
Child dog and winner

The three best productivity rewards for kick-ass employees

Your employees are outdoing themselves, and you want to say thank you! So, what three rewards are the most appreciated by highly productive people?

Explore now
Latest Insights
Checklist with yes and no boxes

12 ways to make employee onboarding memorable - for all the right reasons

As your workforce grows, so will the need for great onboarding procedures. Here are 12 ways to make your new employees feel welcome!

Explore now
  1. Jemini
  2. Insights
  3. Latest Insights
  4. Better Boss's Guide: How to build a training programme that works