Apprentices being trained
20 September 2018

Opinion: Workplace training must be more than a tick-box exercise

Learning should be about more than simply ticking boxes off HR’s agenda. Samantha Caine explores the benefits that a stronger training strategy can have for both organisations and their staff


Samantha Caine

Samantha Caine

Samantha Caine is client services director at Business Linked Teams


Learning and development Recruitment and retention Talent management


Learning should be about more than simply ticking boxes off HR’s agenda. Samantha Caine explores the benefits that a stronger training strategy can have for both organisations and their staff

Training is an essential part of everyone’s career path, but it can often be viewed as something of a chore – by both worker and employer. While training is a necessary part of an employee’s role, the ‘tick-box’ nature of some methods can result in the individual leaving with very little extra knowledge, making them feel demotivated and as if the organisation hasn’t really invested in their development at all. They might even leave the organisation as a result.

Changing attitudes towards training can have a massively positive effect on the long-term career goals of the employee, as well as the value the employer gets from the employee. Even when the employee is making the most of the time spent at training sessions in order to access alternative opportunities, the employer can still benefit from a greater set of skills and behaviours instilled in the employee through the training. The employee could even find themselves progressing within the organisation thanks to those newly enhanced skills and behaviours, and reverse their decision to find a new opportunity elsewhere.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

Employers should place long-term career planning at the forefront of their employee training strategies. By recognising the value that employees get from relevant training and building a training strategy around that value, employers can expect various benefits in return – including increased motivation, productivity and staff retention, and lower recruitment costs. Not only will employers find themselves getting more from their staff, they can fill their talent pipelines with high-quality candidates that not only have the right skills and behaviours, but also have a thorough knowledge of the organisation and its culture.

Circumventing the tick-box exercises

The truth is that, in the long term, tick-box training actually costs the employer more money: they spend money training staff who leave, and then again on sourcing high-quality candidates to replace them. But the real risk with tick-box training is that it isn’t aligned to genuine organisational needs. The training strategy should be driven by what the employer needs from its staff in order to achieve its goals; only then can employers be sure that training is purposeful and effective.

When it comes to delivering a training strategy that not only addresses workers’ long-term career goals but is beneficial to the organisation as well, great training design is critical. It isn’t good enough to just deliver content; the processes through which employees learn must also be considered. Staff need time not only to participate in training exercises, but also to absorb and practice what they’ve learned.

Many organisations make poor decisions about what type of training to invest in because they don’t understand how people learn and develop new skills. Learning and training must not only be linked to people’s roles and their individual objectives, but also to other considerations such as what their managers need to do to support them.

While tick-box training is often delivered in the format of a presentation, this type of one-size-fits-all solution fails to consider the processes that people need to go through when they learn new skills and behaviours. That makes such training ineffective. Instead, training should be tailored to each individual, with content delivered through a blended learning experience that combines elements of face-to-face learning, group learning and self-directed online study.

A blended training programme should be delivered in bite-sized chunks over a sustained period, enabling employees to ruminate on their learnings in various stages. This will provide them with the opportunity to put what they are learning into practice without becoming overwhelmed by having to absorb and put into practice everything at once.Employers that recognise the value of training that has an enduring impact beyond simply ticking boxes can achieve the strongest results by enlisting an internal or external training expert to oversee their training strategy. They must ensure that results are measured, and that feedback is acted on.  Most importantly, they must ensure that training happens regularly and is always current and aligned to their wider organisational objectives.

Samantha Caine is managing director at Business Linked Teams