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Going deeper to go higher: Getting the most out of in-service training for employees and employers

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September traditionally marks back to school for kids, and many employees are also starting new courses and maintaining in-service training requirements. For most employers vacation schedules are calming down, as managers are revving up production, sales, vision and values kick-offs, quality improvement programs, client-centered programs and increased service delivery. Underpinning the organizational capacity to deliver its desired goals is training.

In-service training, as distinct from pre-service education or ongoing employee career development (training for future roles), is the process of staff training with the goal of improving the performance of the employee with regards to their current job responsibilities.  It is also often tied to issues of legislation and compliance regarding the job that the employee holds.  Frequently, the training will help employees to refresh or maintain something they already know (think annual WHMIS training) or it may be designed to meet requirements of an new organizational policy, process or vision and values rethink or may be mandated to meet an external legislative requirement (think AODA training requirements).

In-service training must meet both the needs of staff and of the employer. The following are some tips and best practices for delivering a great program of in-service training.

Create an annual training budget that includes all employees

This training plan should include:

  • Proposed budget (to submit for approval).  It is key to have your budget in place as soon as possible so that you can prioritize spending and allocate training dollars effectively.
  • List and highlight mandatory training requirements for your organization, including WHMIS, Health and Safety, Accessibility for all Ontarians with Disabilities (AODA), Workplace Violence and Harassment (Bill 168).
  • List the training requirements for job performance improvement.
  • List the training requirements for organizational changes in processes or vision and values.
  • List the number of employees to be trained for each session.
  • List the training hours required for all training hours* for which the organization will pay and include cost estimate of training time costs. If you are on a tighter budget, some in-service training can be done without increasing employee hours if employees are required to complete the training during regular working hours.
  • List the training provider (subject matter expert) or training resource (online module, DVD etc.) and cost for each in-service training.
  • List expected dates of training.

Have an in-service training policy

This training policy should state that participating in in-service training is a job requirement and employees who are not compliant will be disciplined up and to and including termination for not completing required training.

Set your annual training calendar

A great way to capitalize on in-service training is to use your sessions as the theme for the month.  For example, in long-term care and retirement residences, October is often “Infection Control Month”.

Use a variety of training delivery mechanisms 

The most cost-effective way to deliver mandatory training to larger groups of employees is through online training modules.  While this is a valuable tool, consider using the monthly online module as a base, being sure to include group sessions, a binder for each in-service training that employees can refer back to, quick tips at morning meetings, reminders on bulletin boards, notes in paystubs and a contest or teambuilding exercise.  Investigate free or low cost training from your municipality, region or  suppliers.  For example, your local fire department may be willing to come onsite and deliver a general fire safety workshop that would be much more dynamic than a PowerPoint.  Depending on how important the training topic is to meeting your organizational goals, you may want to find onsite champions for different training topics and use them to promote and spread the key messages that are embedded in the training content.  There will be people in your organization who are passionate about safety, inclusivity or infection control – you just need to find them! 

Track your training   

After taking the time to train your employees, ensure that you have a reliable tracking system.  You can create this yourself in Excel, or use your online system and create online quizzes for documentation.  A best practice is to keep your Records of Training compiled in one binder for easy access.  This includes employee signatures for attendance and acknowledgement of training.  Some companies are moving to a paperless system where policies and trainings are sent through email and employees must reply back acknowledging the material.  Staying on top of this is the only way that you can show your compliance for mandated training depending on what type of documentation is required.

Track your training results

Training is often seen as a cost for employers.  If at all possible, track employee performance on tasks and procedures before and after training to document the training benefit.  Better still, track customer satisfaction after training, or production, or errors, or another measurable outcome that can be linked to the training.

If the training is required for all employees, follow up and ensure that each and every employee is up to date

Have a follow-up plan for employees who miss training that designates the responsibility to ensure the training is completed (managers, human resources). Follow-up consistently with employees who have missed training.

Training can be the underpinning of strong organizational health and growth.  Each and every time your organization makes the effort to tailor training deeper into organizational specific challenges and goals, you have the opportunity for higher quality results. Go deeper to go higher, especially when rebuilding, restarting, or realigning.

Marcia Scheffler
M.A., CHRP Candidate

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Marcia Scheffler

Human Resources Generalist at Wawel Villa
Marcia Scheffler, M.A., CHRP Candidate is a Human Resources Generalist with M.A. working full-time as a Senior HR Officer. She is interested in the intersection of human resources theory and current best practices in HR. Read more
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