1. Overview

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

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 - eg 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' 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 member of staff, 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 staff have equal access to the training they require to perform their job.

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 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

Benefits for your business

Investing in the skills of your staff will help you to improve productivity, increase accuracy and offer a better quality of service, thereby strengthening customer relations. By creating an atmosphere of initiative and innovation, you will be seen as an employer of choice - helping you to attract and retain the best staff.

Your reward will be:

  • Better response to changes in technology, processes and equipment 
  • Higher levels of compliance to legal requirements and in particular health and safety legislation 
  • Enhanced reputation among the workforce and community

Your workforce will find it easier to understand instructions, take orders and messages more accurately, participate more fully in team activities and follow procedures more confidently. Over time, they will grow in confidence and get more enjoyment out of their jobs.

With your help they can:

  • Communicate more effectively
  • Grow in confidence
  • Use ICT to work more efficiently
  • Work safely through better understanding of Health and Safety procedures

Read more about skills and training on the Welsh Government website

6. In-house training

You might want to design and run your own training or work with customers or suppliers. If you do want to conduct your training in house, make sure you have the appropriate expertise and resources, including:

  • an experienced trainer
  • relevant and useful training materials
  • the right equipment and space to conduct the training

Informal in-house training

Learning for most employees comes from informal on-the-job training. Even the smallest businesses with no training budget can carry out in-house training.

This could include:

  • job shadowing
  • coaching
  • mentoring
  • passing on training – when one employee goes on a course and then passes the knowledge on to other employees
  • knowledge banks

Formal 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.

Training can be run in a classroom, or over the internet and covers topics like:

  • managerial skills such as communication, presentation and leadership skills
  • computer packages
  • finance
  • sales and marketing
  • business planning
  • legal and regulatory requirements

Accrediting your in-house training

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

To do this, you could:

  • become a recognised awarding organisation and provide the required standard of quality assurance to develop and award your own nationally accredited qualifications
  • work with an existing awarding organisation that designs and awards bespoke qualifications for you and provides the quality assurance and accreditation
  • work with a third party that provides the quality assurance to meet the requirements of the national qualification system

7. 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.

Things to consider before using an external training provider include:

  • they are specialists in both training and in your business sector
  • they can bring you and your employees up to speed on current best practice and new ideas
  • it gives your employees the opportunity to network with others
  • your employees may learn better away from their usual work environment
  • it is difficult to know the ability and subject knowledge of the trainer - so you should make sure you choose one that will best suit your business
  • it can disrupt your business - as it may require you to send an entire team away from the office at the same time
  • they are more expensive than internal training
  • the training may not be specific to your particular business

Planning ahead can help you save money. You might be able to negotiate a discount by making a group booking a course, or you could send just one person on a training course and ask them to teach others in your business when they've finished.

National Training Federation for Wales 

ColegauCymru / CollegesWales

8. 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.

Smaller businesses without the time or resources to evaluate courses may want to consider this type of training.

Correspondence courses provide your employees with the necessary books, CD-ROMs, DVDs, tutorials and seminars.

The Open University 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. Read about business courses on the Open University Business School website - Opens in a new window.

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.

9. 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 government-licensed independent organisations bringing together employers, trade unions and professional bodies. Their aim is to identify and tackle skills shortages and gaps by sector.

10. 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 'plan, do and review' approach 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 process should commence soon after the training is completed.

11. Welsh Government skills and training support programmes

Welsh Government skills and training support programmes include the following:

For advice, guidance and information on all skills related issues please contact the Welsh Government Business Wales Helpline Team on 03000 6 03000