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Training is an essential part of a job in order to ensure that the staff remain up-to-date in their jobs and stay on top of their industries. Therefore, a training and development programme needs to be structured so that it’s relevant, lively and engaging for it to be effective.

According to the CEO Institute, a training and development programme should be considered an investment rather than an expense. From new technologies to market expectations, business environments and industries are constantly changing and evolving. SMEs need to keep up with these changes and ensure that employees are constantly kept in-the-know of the latest market updates and developments. This can be best achieved through a good training plan.

A training and development programme is also useful for attracting and keeping young talent. Studies show that Millennials, or people born between the years of 1977 and 2000, rank training and development programmes higher than cash incentives.

Developing a training and development programme

Developing a training and development programme is a step-by-step process. It begins with clearly identifying and defining the areas where training is needed. These can roughly be divided into “hard skills” such as training in the use of new technology and equipment and “soft skills” such as time management or changes in sales strategies.

The specific training needed is just one aspect of an effective training and development programme. Training programme developers and trainers also have to address the three types of needs:

To identify and address issues within the organisation as a whole.
Individual needs
This includes training required by individual employees, and can be role-specific, such as leadership strategies for managers who run a team.
These are training programmes needed for a variety of issues, from training in the use of new equipment or new technologies.

Structuring a training and development programme

Once the core issue or issues are identified and clearly defined, a training programme can be structured. According to Canada’s HR Council, the components of a well-structured training and development programme must include:

1. Employee participation in the planning stages
Employees should be encouraged to be involved in what will be included in the training programme.
2. Employee engagement in the learning process
Employees’ work experience is a valuable resource. As active participants they should be encouraged to share their knowledge.
3. Real world training
The focus of the programme must be practical and problem-centred rather than theoretical.
4. A positive approach
Even if the training is required due to poor work performance, positive solutions should be emphasised. Enhancing self-esteem and respect for individuals is empowering while criticism leads to low workplace morale.  

In short, an effective programme should not be structured or implemented in isolation. Employees should be included in the process at the planning stage and encouraged to participate in the programme as it takes place. A well-planned training and development programme can be a good asset for any SME to help increase commitment amongst staff, and help keep employees engaged throughout their careers with an organisation.