What is Corporate Training?
“Corporate training” is a broad term that refers to any employee training program established, facilitated and maintained at an organization, usually managed by the Development or Human Resources departments. There may be many levels and specializations available within a corporate training program, most of which are usually applicable to multiple types of employees. Terms including continuous improvement, Training Within Industry, Kaizen and workplace training all refer to corporate training initiatives.
Corporate training encompasses practical skills instruction for specific jobs; effective communication and problem-solving strategies; leadership development and vision implementation; and can even address specific issues like diversity, sensitivity and safety.
The goals of an ideal corporate training or workplace learning initiative don’t need to be confined within the physical or functional walls of an organization. Instead, corporate training programs can help employees build a skill set that applies to most aspects of their professional and personal lives.
Likewise, training is not limited to new hires. Organizations with ongoing training opportunities are investing in their employees’ improvement and growth long-term, which conveys an interest in their continued success. The most effective employee training programs are scalable, adaptable and iterative, able to change with evolving employee and organizational needs.
Modern Workplace Learning Practices
Many of today’s employee training programs are built around the following needs:
New employee onboarding: Most, if not all, organizations have some form of new employee training, wherein new hires “learn the ropes” from a current employee or training course. Onboarding will always be a part of the workplace, though organizations that integrate new employee training into daily, standardized processes experience shorter onboarding time, as opposed to those who keep trainees siloed from their teams until they’re “ready.”
Remedial training: Programs like sensitivity training or conflict resolution too often come as a reaction to an issue, and are prescribed more as a consequence than an opportunity. In an ideal scenario, all employees would experience this type of training regardless of performance, and therefore may develop the tools to avoid potential issues or conflicts.
Upskilling: Often broadly labeled as professional development (PD), upskilling involves an employee learning new, relevant job skills to elevate their own performance. Many organizations offer upskilling opportunities, though many employees are encouraged to seek out their own PD. Similarly, reskilling prepares employees to take on a new job in their organization, perhaps in a lateral move to fill a new need within the company.
Today, increasingly more organizations are realizing the importance of proactive — rather than reactive — training. Proactive training anticipates potential growth and change within an organization and aims to build employees’ skills as insurance for the future, instead of simply responding to industry trends.
The key to successful corporate training programs is the role of the leadership team. Leaders who support and enable ongoing learning — and encourage innovation along the way — empower their employees to stay “hungry.” That is, leaders who trust and enable their teams to pursue training at an appropriate pace encourage employees to constantly want to learn more and do better.
Organizations that adopt the following learning modalities experience the greatest success with their employee training programs:
- Active learning emphasizes the real-world applications of lessons, showing employees exactly how course content relates to their specific jobs.
- Assessment with a purpose encourages employees to approach solving existing problems by asking questions: What is the end goal here? What hasn’t worked in the past? What do I need to be more successful in this job? Who on my team has the skills I depend upon, and why?
- Adaptive learning is exactly what it sounds like: Course content or format that adjusts to meet specific employees’ learning styles and preferences. This can mean programs with hybrid capabilities, different materials available for different types of learners or lessons that can be applied to a range of jobs and workplace scenarios.
- Small group personalization helps employees with similar functions or experiences align their learning. Though some employees may not enjoy group work, multiple heads are better than one when it comes to problem-solving on the job.
Corporate Training Benefits
When corporate training focuses on building practical skills — both job-related and interpersonal — the benefits extend far beyond the specific job at hand.
- Higher employee satisfaction: Supervisors aren’t the only ones who benefit from expanding their managerial skill set. When employees feel heard, encouraged and valued, company loyalty increases.
- Increased productivity: Likewise, when employees feel supported by managers who have their best interests in mind, motivation and productivity grow.
- Improved company morale: Productive, respectful communication breeds overall satisfaction on the job. Motivated employees and invested supervisors mutually benefit one another.
- Lower turnover: Higher satisfaction and improved company morale reduce turnover, since workers who appreciate their company’s investment in their improvement are less likely to want to move on.
- Lower costs: With increased productivity comes increased revenue, but it also cuts down on waste — of time, resources and underutilized talent. The right training can teach learners to innovate on the job, which encourages entire teams to allocate both people and resources more strategically.
- Streamlined processes: Once teams cut down on waste, processes become lean, standardized and easily translatable to new hires, which reduces onboarding time.
Who benefits from corporate training?
The short answer is: Everyone.
Training programs are not just for newly hired or promoted employees. In an ideal scenario, training is a perpetual element of all work processes, helping workers improve and innovate continuously.
Frontline workers and supervisors are clear candidates for continuous improvement training, though executives can benefit from training that builds leadership, communication, problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Any growth on a leader’s part has a positive effect on the rest of the organization.
Even customers benefit from corporate training programs. Empowered employees possess more motivation and dedication to their job, which in turn increases productivity and the quality of the end product. An organization that invests in its employees’ growth and development will see exponential returns.
Types of Corporate Training
As mentioned above, “corporate training” can refer to training at any level of an organization, and is often applicable to multiple groups of employees. At the TWI Institute, we work with learners at all levels of an organization, and can tailor most of our training programs to address varying audiences and accomplish specific learning outcomes.
For frontline workers:
In Training Within Industry (TWI), the suite of Kaizen programs known as the J-suite primarily addresses frontline workers. The programs include Job Instruction (JI), which teaches practical, job-specific skills in a hands-on format; Job Methods (JM), which teaches learners how to break down processes in order to create improved versions; and Job Safety (JS), which provides workers and supervisors with a framework for recognizing and preventing safety hazards on the job. Within each of these programs, specific courses in Kata and Standardized Work enable workers to build a comprehensive, sustainable toolbelt of improvement skills.
For frontline leaders and supervisors:
Frontline leaders participate in JI, JM and JS alongside their teams, but Job Relations (JR) falls squarely in their purview. JR gives team leaders and supervisors the tools to identify and break down communication issues, often in partnership with the involved parties. TWI Problem Solving (PS) and Frontline Leadership programs are also tailored to this group of employees.
While it may or may not be important for executives to understand the specific jobs being carried out in their organization, it’s their responsibility to strengthen their leadership skills and uphold the guiding principles of their company. Leadership Development training gives executives the ability to turn vision into reality, becoming someone their employees actively want to follow in the process.
Training program formats
All types of organizations are realizing the importance of adaptable training formats, and the savviest are able to deliver all of the following at short notice.
- In-person training: In-person training is conducted in a physical space, one-on-one or in a group and involves a coach leading training exercises in real time. This traditional format is most important to Job Instruction-type training, though virtual simulations have come a long way in enabling any type of worker to learn a specific skill. However, if an organization has no infrastructure for virtual training, it can be difficult to quickly pivot in-person training to remote — for example, in the case of a public health crisis.
- On-the-job training: This is typically delivered more often in person than not, although jobs based primarily online don’t require employees to be in a specific physical location. Like job shadowing or apprenticeship, it involves an employee practicing new job skills alongside a trainer or coach, asking questions and learning by performing their job.
- Interactive training: This training incorporates group activities like discussions and role playing. In this format, groups of workers learn together in more of a dialogue with the trainer.
- Online training: Many trainings these days take place online, especially for work that can be performed remotely. With tools like video conferencing and virtual simulations, online training is increasingly possible for any type of job. It may also enable asynchronicity, so new employees can learn at their own pace.
- Hybrid: This is the most adaptable format for training, as it makes content available in any format that suits employees. A hybrid infrastructure — one that incorporates both in-person and online training — can ensure that operations don’t have to skip a beat in case of an unanticipated site closure.
How to Find the Right Corporate Training Program for Your Business
Any new initiative is bound to be met with some pushback. Employees may not see a need for change, or may disagree with the change entirely, and may be slow to accept new processes. New training initiatives for existing employees carry an added layer of personal reflection, and many employees can chafe at the implication that they are doing their jobs incorrectly and need to be taught the “right way.”
The word “training” itself can also carry negative connotations, since it implies a one-way, clinical transfer of skills in a vacuum. A more appropriate word to use when introducing employees to a new program might be “coaching,” which implies a supportive, two-way partnership between an instructor and a learner.
Teams and their leaders tend to understand when new training or coaching programs are framed as an investment in their future. Frontline leaders and supervisors who are intimidated by new training initiatives are encouraged when their organizations implement time-tested, results-driven frameworks for improvement. When team leaders are overwhelmed by new processes, it can have negative effects on employee communication and production.
For that reason, among others, it’s important for organizations to choose a training approach with proven efficacy. Building an internal program from scratch, while possible, takes a massive amount of time and effort, and lack of an objective assessment may result in the program architects neglecting an essential program element, such as scalability. A certified coaching partner can identify areas of need and recommend courses and programs that will address specific issues economically.
Of course, the type of corporate training program you choose may depend on the type of work your organization performs. However, there are a few qualities to focus on as you search for the right program:
- Relevancy and need: Are you trying to solve an immediate problem, or one with a larger scope? Think about the larger, systemic issues that may be contributing to the smaller-scale ones, and choose a program that will help you address the big picture.
- Alignment with organizational goals: Will your chosen training program help you cut down on workplace accidents, or help reduce employee turnover? Consider adopting Hoshin Kanri, the seven-step strategic planning process essential to achieving Lean management goals. Look for training programs that align well with your current goals, but don’t allow yourself to be limited by a five-year plan; think 10 years, 20, 30, etc.
- Supervisor involvement: Just as corporate training benefits all stakeholders, so, too, should it involve all affected parties. Include frontline leaders and supervisors in the program selection process to guarantee their investment in its implementation.
- Creative delivery and collaboration opportunities: Is your preferred program only available in an online format? Is it designed for static, large-group presentations, or does it encourage dynamic group collaboration? As discussed in the previous section, interactive training can turn lecture-hall-style presentations into organic dialogues, where everyone is speaking the same language as they share new ideas.
- Post training follow-ups: What does the maintenance program for your training look like? Will your coaching consultant remain available for questions or refresher courses? Hint: When external training programs don’t offer sustainable partnerships to their clients, that’s a red flag.
Training consultants and coaches should always make themselves available post-training to ensure their facilitation delivers positive results long-term. Better yet, look for programs with a train-the-trainer component, which have sustainability baked into their ethos. In this framework, supervisors learn the course content while simultaneously learning how to teach that content to others. Information is passed from new coach to new coach, ensuring that no knowledge is lost with employee turnover or retirement.
The Future of Corporate Training
Some organizations are ahead of the curve when it comes to anticipating shifts in work culture, while others have a ways to go in aligning employee preferences with work standards. However, there are several training trends that are expected to become more common in workplaces across the U.S.
Training as a differentiator: According to a 2018 LinkedIn report, 94% of employees polled said they would stay at a company longer if the company invested in their ongoing development. A corporate desire to help employees succeed is an exceedingly attractive quality job seekers look for.
Program personalization: Organizations that acknowledge their employees’ diverse skills, abilities and expertise — and customize their training programs to leverage these unique assets — experience higher employee retention and productivity.
Creativity and innovation: The workforce is not a monolith, and companies that give their employees the opportunity to experiment with solutions see more internal innovation and higher employee satisfaction. Even giving employees agency over small initiatives, like redesigning the office snack program, conveys a sense of trust from the top.
Flexibility: The culture of work has shifted to one where employees call the shots. Workers expect corporate flexibility when it comes to work location, time off, professional development and more, and organizations that offer flexibility in training initiatives gain their employees’ respect.
21st-century skills: A buzzword in education, this refers to skills like communication, collaboration, problem-solving and diplomacy — all attributes that lead to productive work partnerships. Employees are becoming increasingly vocal about their desires for social-emotional skills-building, which then serves as a bedrock for more tactile, on-the-job learning.
Corporate Training FAQs
Q: Is an outside trainer better than an internal program?
A: It depends on your particular organization, but an external trainer can be helpful for gaining an objective understanding of your company and its needs. Partnering with a training consultant also allows all members of your team to become pupils, since it does not require that someone on your existing team take on the extra task of facilitating training sessions.
Q: Is corporate training expensive?
A: Any training is an investment in your employees’ and organization’s long-term success. Single-day training courses or limited-time conferences, while they may temporarily energize your teams, have no guaranteed staying power. Just like any other important purchase, you do not want to jeopardize quality in favor of a good deal. Plus, the most effective corporate training programs result in increased productivity and reduced turnover, which are excellent ROIs.
Q: How long does corporate training take?
A: Again, it depends on your organization’s needs and the program you choose, but expect to commit to the long haul. Single courses can last anywhere from several hours to several weeks, but are often units of a program that can span several years. If the goal is continuous, adaptable and scalable improvement, training programs built into an organization’s infrastructure can help sustain employee momentum in perpetuity.