employee training
8 steps for creating a continuing education program
by Eugenio “Geno” Jaramillo

Many different industries require professionals to take a certain amount of training, whether as continuing education units (CEU), professional development hours (PDH) or continuing education credits (CEC). Exactly what is mandate may be dictated by law or by accreditation standards or may be up to managers to determine. What are you doing to educate your employees and keep them up to date?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2015, millennials will represent the majority of the workforce; by 2030, this hyperconnected, tech-savvy generation will make up 75% of the workforce. This group was brought up with technology in their hands but are often reported as lacking the soft skills and people skills to thrive in corporate America. Plus, baby boomers are retiring with a wealth of information that needs to be passed on to the next generation of leaders.

There are 71% of Fortune 100 companies with a mentor-protégé program. Is that just a coincidence? Of course not.

Consider using your company’s baby boomers to mentor your millennials and Gen Zers. Establish a formal program, but allow informal relationships to develop, too. For a chance at true success, every generation needs to continue to develop the next.

So, where do you begin? Here are eight guiding steps to initiate a training and development program.

1. Determine Needs

If programs are going to be effective, they must meet the needs of participants. There are many ways to determine these needs, but some of the most frequently used may include:

  • Start with where you are now. Have human resources (HR) find out what degrees and training certificates your employees hold and what courses they have taken. Set the bar from there.
  • Ask participants what they believe to be their educational needs.
  • Ask management what they believe to be the educational needs of their employees.
  • Ask others familiar with the job tasks, including subordinates, peers and customers, what they perceive to be the training needs of employees.
  • Test participants to determine the areas in which they lack knowledge and skill.
  • Analyze performance appraisal forms, which often reflect deficiencies in ability and understanding.

2. Set Objectives

It is a must to set goals and metrics—what is measured is monitored. How many people will you train? How many training sessions will you have? What results are you trying to accomplish? These results can be stated in terms, such as production, quality, turnover, absenteeism, morale, sales, profits and return on investment.

3. Determine Content

Ask which topics would meet the company’s newly defined needs and accomplish the objectives. Then, limit training sessions to an hour. An easy way to do this is to schedule a lunch-and-learn once a week, which accomplishes 52 hours of training in a year.

4. Select Participants

All levels of management can benefit from training programs. Obviously, some levels can benefit more than others. At least some basic programs should be compulsory for first-level supervisors, if not also for others.

If a program is voluntary, many who need the training may not sign up, either because they feel they don’t need it or don’t want to admit they need it.

Those who are already good supervisors and have little need for the program can still benefit, as they can help train others. This assumes, of course, that the program includes participatory activities on the part of attendees. To supplement the compulsory programs, other courses can be offered on a voluntary basis. Remember to include any training required by local, state and/or federal training regulations.

5. Set a Schedule

The best schedule takes three things into consideration: the trainees, their bosses and the best conditions for learning. Many times, training professionals consider only their own preferences and schedules. An important scheduling decision is whether to offer the program on a concentrated basis—as a solid week of training, for example—or to spread it out over weeks or months.

One good schedule, besides the one-hour weekly lunch-and-learns, is to offer a three-hour session once a month. Three hours leaves you time for participation, as well as for the use of videos and other aids.

The schedule should be set and communicated well in advance, and the program date and time should be established to meet the needs and desires of both the trainees and their bosses.

6. Select Facilities—Or Go Virtual

Facilities should be both comfortable and convenient. Avoid rooms that are too small or that have uncomfortable furniture, noise or other distractions, inconvenience, long distances between training rooms, uncomfortable temperatures, etc.

In this day and age, more and more training is occurring virtually, especially for groups that may not be able to maintain the appropriate level of social distance. Look at various options for online training, whether via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or various webinar platforms.

7. Select Instructors

Instructor qualifications should include extensive knowledge of the subject being taught, a desire to teach, the ability to communicate and present, and skill at getting people to participate. They should also be learner-oriented or have a strong desire to meet learner needs.

Budgets may limit the possibilities. For example, some organizations limit the selection to present employees, including the training director, HR manager and line and staff managers. In this case, there is no money to outsource, so subject content either needs to be tailored to the available instructors or the instructors will require special training before teaching. If budgets allow and internal expertise is not available, outside instructors can be hired.

The selection of these instructors also requires care. In order to be sure that a potential instructor will be effective, the best approach is to observe their performance in a similar situation.

The next best approach is to rely on the recommendations of other professionals who have already worked with the individual. Avoid interviewing potential instructors and then making a decision based on your impressions alone.

8. Coordinate the Program

There are two approaches to the position of coordinator.

Some instructors must introduce themselves, find their own way to the lunchroom, tell participants where to go for breaks, conclude the program and even ask participants to complete reaction sheets at the end.

On the flip side, some coordinators handle the logistics. They also work to ensure the instructors have ample setup time before the meeting, introduce instructors to other team members, handle breaks, conclude the session and even stay for the entire program to assist.

Eugenio “Geno” Jaramillo is a professional speaker, a mentorship and networking expert and a public speaking coach. Jaramillo is an adjunct professor at Florida International University in the College of Engineering and Computing in the Moss School of Construction, Infrastructure and Sustainability. He is a lifetime member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and sits on the board of directors of the Brinker Education Initiative.