Everyone has a to-do list that threatens to overwhelm them, so the idea of squeezing in ongoing learning opportunities can be a challenge. But it doesn't have to be difficult and it doesn't have to stretch the budget. Below are 11 ideas for fostering ongoing training for your organization. Pick a few and schedule them throughout the year.
1. Understand your how your staff learns.
The key to helping your staff pick up new skills and perfect existing ones can be understanding how they learn best. Everyone has a different learning style that reflects a preference for reading, listening, viewing or doing. Once you know what style of learning sticks best, you can present new information in that format. Ask staff to complete The Vark Questionnaire so you can discover more about them.
2. Offer online learning.
On-the-job training is great: people learn by doing and reinforce their skills in the situations where they're needed. But it's also inconsistent and can leave big gaps in knowledge. Offering regular instructor-led online courses on a regular schedule, say for two weeks every quarter, can bridge that gap. Everyone will receive the same training at the same time on situations that may not present themselves. Here's an easy way to train a group of up to 25: CHWTraining is offering a discount on its course Diabetes and Prediabetes for the month of November.
3. Offer self-guided learning.
Instructor-led training works best on a set schedule, but you can fill the time between with self-guided learning on an open enrollment system. For example, we work with a community health worker association in the south that offers quarterly instructor-led courses, but in between, people can drop in on other courses to pick up skills. Make training available whenever your staff wants it.
4. Guest speakers.
Bringing in fresh ideas can sometimes require looking outside your organization's walls. Invite guest lecturers to give lunchtime presentations on topics that matter to your staff. These might be people at partner organizations who are involved in projects that inspire. You can also call in speakers in such topics as workplace diversity, sexual harassment, communication skills or other areas that appeal to a wide swath of your employees, regardless of job responsibility.
5. Visit other businesses.
In addition to inviting guest speakers to visit your business, you can take a field trip to visit theirs. On a regular schedule, assemble workgroups to visit either a non-competing organization or a partner organization. Ask each visitor to come equipped with questions to ask their counterparts. This idea can bring a flood of new information into your organization and workforce, and it can also open up a wealth of partnership opportunities.
6. Set up monthly mentoring.
Follow the lead of organizations such as USAA: establish a monthly mentoring program. That organization has an internal program where once a month, an employee from one department is matched with an employee from another. This lets them share their expertise with colleagues and give tips on how to do their work more efficiently. It's a bonus if you can create a place for employees to share helpful tips they pick up.
7. Encourage project sharing.
Task staff members with creating a case study of an active project and sharing it with the rest of your team. This technique works from a couple different angles. First, it helps your staff build their skills around creating and presenting case studies. Secondly, it helps everyone in your organization learn more about what their coworkers are doing. This can spark more collaboration and knowledge-sharing. In the process, you will also be building a resource library to share with potential partners or other department representatives.
8. Start a newsletter.
Company newsletters are appropriate for organizations of all sizes—large and small—and you can use them as a training tool. Publish a monthly newsletter (either electronic or printed) and ask your employees to contribute articles. Hint: if you're using the case study idea above, this is an excellent way to share them. Articles can include best practices, updated standards or screening guidelines or other new information.
Check out Tips to Creating an Engaging Internal Newsletter for more ideas.
9. Conduct a training needs analysis.
You may have a good idea of what your staff needs to know, but they may have others. The best way to make sure they're receiving comprehensive education in areas that you deem important, and areas you may have missed, is to conduct a training needs analysis (TNA). Create a survey form and distribute it once a year to everyone in the company. Look at the results from your TNA to gain insight into what kinds of training your staff could use.
This article on Wikipedia shows the essential elements to include into a training needs analysis.
10. Provide opportunities to attend conferences and events.
I spoke with a woman earlier this year who admitted she spent hundreds of dollars out of her personal budget each year to attend conferences and events relevant to her health education job. Even though she was spending her own money to attend events that made her better at her job, she still had to negotiate with her supervisor to take a few days off work to attend them. This organization made it difficult for her to gain skills, but you don't have to make the same mistake. Provide a training budget that includes funds and time off so your employees can get the education they need.
11. Start a Community of Practice.
Encourage or start a Community of Practice (CoP) as a way for staff members to keep learning from one another. They are set learning communities that exist so people to share ideas and problems, collaborate on solutions and innovation and learn from each other. The CDC has an excellent guide to how to create your own CoP.
Once you start thinking about ways to expand learning among your employees, you'll undoubtedly think of many more. Start here and use it as a place to kickstart year-round educational opportunities to make your employees happier and your organization stronger.
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