Workforce training is essential in virtually every organization. However, every organization approaches training differently, and not everyone does it effectively.

For some organizations, training is simply a matter of checking the box. It’s about providing the minimum education necessary to avoid legal risks and fines associated with noncompliance.

For other organizations, training goes a step further. It’s designed to support the needs of the business—not only mitigating risk, but also improving efficiency, nurturing workforce culture, and boosting employee engagement.

Can you guess which approach works better?

All Good Training Relies on the Same 4 Principles

The truth is that most employers with lackluster, dull, or out-of-date training know they have a problem. It’s just that the problem seems time-consuming and expensive to solve. And it’s rarely the first concern on anyone’s list. Given the choice between facing potential regulatory action and implementing a new learning management system from the ground up, organizations typically choose the intangible risks over the tangible costs.

Fortunately, this is a choice you don’t have to make. Any organization can easily and cost-effectively improve employee training. You don’t need to buy a million-dollar eLearning or hire a team of educational consultants. All good training is based on 4 principles or best practices—the same key elements of our award-winning training platform here at KPA:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Use real-life examples
  3. Assess prior knowledge
  4. Promote behavioral change through repetition

Let’s start with the first and most important tip:

Training Best Practice #1: Know Your Audience

This is the essential ingredient in any approach to training. Without it, content, technology, and processes don’t matter. If the training isn’t engaging, it doesn’t work.

All effective training is centered on the learner. Knowing your audience means understanding the individual or group taking the training.

To get to know your audience, you’ll need to answer a few questions. Whether we’re talking a single employee or a 50-person department, the same considerations apply:

1. What is the audience’s education level?

Meet your audience where they are. Don’t give people education they can’t understand or, conversely, is too simplistic to offer value. At KPA, our adult learning standard is 8th-grade language. Of course, there are instances when that standard needs to be raised or lowered. In some cases, an employee population may be largely illiterate—which would necessitate a training approach that doesn’t rely on text.

2. What is the audience’s range of experience?

Make sure the training is relevant to the audience’s knowledge and expertise, or lack thereof. Sometimes, it needs to be targeted to experienced, on-the-job professionals. Other times, it should be targeted toward entry-level personnel. And then there are times when the curriculum needs to speak to people with a wide range of experiences.

3. What motivates your employees?

Training needs to be engaging. Carefully consider format and content. Again, think about your specific audience: What kinds of lessons and activities do they find easiest or most intuitive? What’s most interesting?

4. Are there cultural considerations to keep in mind?

Your training should reflect your audience’s perspective and experience. Diversity matters—not only in what images are presented, but the kinds of real-world examples offered to support a topic. White, English-speaking men in business suits shouldn’t be the only people your audience encounters.

Know How They Learn—the 4 Learning Styles

Not everyone learns in the same way.

Some people are visual learners—they absorb information best by reading text and seeing images.

Other people are auditory learners—they learn better by listening and through discussions than they do by reading.

Others are tactile learners—they prefer to use their hands in ways such as sketching, putting together puzzles, or manipulating objects (e.g. building blocks, scale models).

Then there are kinesthetic learners, people who learn by doing—moving their bodies, climbing ladders, walking around job sites, working through simulated problems, and so on.

Training should ideally be provided with all of these styles or modalities in mind. Although most people are drawn to a single learning style, it’s not uncommon for an employee to gravitate to two or more. Plus, different formats help with reinforcement and retention.

Know What Motivates Them

Just as they have different learning styles, people also have different motivations for learning:

Winning/dominating. Many people enjoy competition. They want to beat their colleagues and achieve the number one spot on a list—for example, as the salesperson with the most deals closed in a month.

Socializing/networking. Instead of competing, some people would rather have conversations and collaborate on solutions together. For instance, members of this audience may prefer a panel discussion where participants exchange ideas.

Achieving. Some people are goal-oriented without the competitive or collaborative element. They want to accomplish things and see positive results. For these learners, training should incorporate opportunities to solve real-world challenges and demonstrate excellence.

Exploring/collecting. Finally, some people enjoy the thrill of discovery above all else. They like to find things, bring new ideas to light, and chart the journey from “here” to “there.” A dynamic, progress-oriented curriculum appeals to these sorts of people.

Brent Daviau is KPA’s Content Team Lead, helping us deliver award-winning training courses designed to help employees improve their performance on the job.