Training your employees

Conduct a training needs analysis for employees and source appropriate training to help improve and develop their skills.


8 min read

1. Overview

This guide outlines the points you should consider when deciding how best to develop and train your employees. It includes information about the benefits to your business of investing in skills and also covers:

  • assessing your training needs
  • finding a training provider
  • choosing the right type of training
  • the different methods of training
  • evaluating your training

2. Why train your people?

Effectively training your employees can improve your chances of success and business growth. Developing your people and improving their skills can:

  • increase their productivity and quality of work
  • increase overall profits
  • improve employee motivation
  • improve customer satisfaction
  • give you a competitive advantage
  • reduce staff turnover and absenteeism
  • help you adapt to change and prepare for growth
  • enable you to reach new markets overseas

In order to get the most out of your training, you should ensure that your training programme:

  • is linked to your business's goals and performance
  • is part of a business-wide strategy
  • has tangible and obtainable objectives for your employees
  • focuses on helping employees carry out existing tasks more efficiently or to a higher standard
  • can train individuals to take on a different role, such as one with increased responsibilities
  • sets out who is responsible for planning, implementing and evaluating the training

3. Decide what training you need

A training needs analysis (TNA) is a way of figuring out what training your business needs and where you have skills and knowledge gaps. Regular TNAs help you to keep on top of your changing skills needs as the business develops.

As a first step, try to gather information through:

  • employee surveys
  • management observations
  • customer comments
  • company meetings and inspections

To carry out a TNA you need to:

  • assess the current skills of individuals at all levels of your business
  • identify the skills needed to take your business forward
  • analyse the gap between your business's current skills, resources and future skills needs
  • plan for bridging that gap with appropriate training

Ask employees for their input - they are more likely to experience the day-to-day problems that arise when there is a skills gap.

When carrying out a TNA, you should:

  • consider the full range of training available
  • consider the different levels at which training can occur across different areas of the business
  • think about the costs and benefits of any training

Think about skills when recruiting

Before you take on a new employee, you need to think about what you need them for. You may have an urgent skills gap that you need to fill in order to complete a specific piece of work. You may be preparing the business for a future challenge by hiring somebody with the skills that you know you'll need.

Writing a detailed job advert and person specification will help you to figure out the skills and qualifications that you need from your new recruit. It will also help you plan any future training needs for that person.

4. Find the right type of training for your business

If you decide to offer training in your business, you should consider the following:

  • whether the training will be in-house or external
  • the cost of the training
  • how your business would benefit
  • the space required if the training is done in-house
  • how much time is needed

Training can be very flexible. People can study for full or part qualifications or no qualifications at all. They can learn on day release, online, at work or at home or on formal courses.

There are numerous training methods that you can use including:

  • coaching
  • distance learning
  • e-learning
  • evening classes
  • induction
  • job shadowing
  • mentoring
  • networking/seminars
  • study leave
  • workshops

Whichever method you choose, you need to ensure that all employees, including home-workers, part-time workers and disabled employees have equal access to the training they require to perform their job.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) delivers a number of programmes that support Scottish businesses with employee training. Visit their Our Skillsforce website for more details.

5. Choose the right training to suit your employees

Matching your training to your employees' learning preferences can help you speed up their learning and reduce your training costs.

For the purposes of training at work, people's preferred learning methods can be broadly divided into active and passive types.

Active ways of learning include:

  • using initiative
  • doing
  • exploring
  • testing

Employees who prefer active ways of learning would benefit from e-learning, coaching, project work, individual workshops, simulation, mentoring, open learning, quality competitions and group workshops.

Passive ways of learning include:

  • observing
  • questioning
  • interpreting
  • reviewing

Employees who prefer passive ways of learning would benefit from job shadowing, induction, seminars, networking and evening classes.

Core employability skills

While extensive training is useful, there are several basic skills - known as core employability skills - that are essential for most employees to do their job. Core employability skills include the ability to:

  • demonstrate self-management
  • solve problems
  • work with others in a team and communicate well in the team
  • understand the business environment
  • use numbers effectively
  • use language effectively
  • use IT effectively
  • have a positive approach to work

Improving employee literacy and numeracy

The Big Plus is a Skills Development Scotland (SDS) awareness raising campaign focusing on adult literacy and numeracy skills. People who contact SDS via The Big Plus helpline or website are put in touch with local providers and tutors making it an ideal route to improving basic skills for employees. You can encourage employees to turn to the service for free, impartial advice and tuition that fit around their work and personal commitments.

6. Types of training

In-house training

Learning for most employees comes from informal on-the-job training.This could include job shadowing, coaching and mentoring. Even the smallest businesses with no training budget can carry out this kind of in-house training.

If your business doesn't have the necessary skills to design and provide in-house training, you may want to consider buying in off-the-shelf or tailor-made courses.

You can increase the profile of your business and the skills of your employees by having your in-house training recognised.

To do this, you could:

  • submit your training programme to a recognised Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Credit Rating Body
  • have your training developed as a qualification

External training

If you don't have the skills or resources to train your employees internally, you may need to use an external training provider. External training providers are likely to be specialists both in training and in your business sector, as well as being able to bring you and your employees up to speed on current best practice and new ideas.

You may be able to negotiate a discount by making a group booking for a course, or you could send just one employee on a training course and ask them to teach others in your business when they've finished.

Online and distance learning

Online and distance learning offers flexible, office-based training. Employees can complete the training at a time that suits them and your business.

The Open University specialises in online and distance learning and offers professionally recognised courses, using the web, CD-ROMs, books and videos. You can take single modules or an entire degree. All students have personal tutors to support them.

There are many e-learning and distance learning courses available. Your employees can learn at a time and place that suits you and them. By choosing from the many modules on offer, the training can be tailored to suit your business needs.

7. Choose a training provider

When deciding what type of training or training provider you would like to use, consider the following:

  • Does the provider understand my training objectives and the demands of my sector?
  • Is the training at the right level for those in my business and will it lead to any accreditations or qualifications?
  • Does the provider offer a learning environment best suited to my people?
  • How is the training assessed?
  • Has the provider got approval from my trade or professional body?
  • Can the provider put me in touch with satisfied clients or offer testimonials?
  • Does the course represent value for money?

Professional bodies and trade associations that provide training

Trade associations understand the current training needs of businesses in their sector as well as those skills likely to be needed in the future. They will often recommend approved private training providers or offer tips on finding reputable ones. Sometimes they offer their own training courses.

Professional bodies may offer or recommend training courses and information that are less sector-specific and more general, for example relating to exporting or accounting. They often have professional recognition, particularly if the training is part of a continual professional development programme.

Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) are employer-led organisations that aim to develop a skills-based economy for the UK.

8. Evaluate your training

Evaluating your training allows you to work towards improving it. There are several ways to get an accurate picture of what your training has achieved and what the limitations are.

Employee performance evaluations

Review the impact of the training on the employee's performance, as part of a regular appraisal process. This is a good time to discuss any additional training needs.

Business performance evaluations

Training can be evaluated by measuring tangible performance indicators, such as sales, production costs, output, absenteeism and staff turnover.

Qualitative improvements may be just as important. This could include higher quality goods and services, better teamwork, fewer customer complaints and greater innovation within your business.

Check that your training is geared to your business needs. How has the training helped your people deliver the aims or targets of your business plan? Investors in People's performance model principles can help you make sure that you get the best results from your training.

Employee feedback

You could use training assessment or evaluation forms to ask your employees:

  • if the training was relevant to their job and their level of expertise
  • how they will put their learning into action
  • for feedback on the training method
  • what worked and what didn't
  • what could be improved

Remember that the business's expectations may not be the same as employees' expectations.

Any evaluation should be done soon after the training is completed.

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