You probably wouldn’t make the mistake of creating training for your employees without talking to them first. (At least I hope you wouldn’t.) After all, a lot of time and probably money go into a solid training program, and you don’t want to waste either.

But do you know exactly how and what to ask them, so as to get the best input before you go ahead? That’s a little trickier.

The training video producers at whiteboardgeeks.com (I was going to say the geeks at whiteboardgeeks, but never mind) recommend approaching the problem this way:

    1) Ask people to assess the skills they have, or would like to have, that are most important for top performance in their job. You could simply ask them to write down the five most critical skills.

    2) Ask which of the five they most need training on.

    3) Ask which of the five they most want training on.

Your interest, their interests
Note the distinction between the last two questions. Operationally, your organization has a vested interest in ensuring that employees are given the training they need.

But you’ve also got a clear interest in providing the training people want; that is, if you want to keep your best employees around for a while. There’s lots of data that links effective training to employee retention, and here’s some more: According to the online training software company mindtickle.com, the Millennial generation that is taking over the workplace — an estimated 75% of employees will be Millennials by 2025 — values training and development above any other benefit an employer can offer.

In fact, 22% of those employees consider training the top benefit, compared with 19% who prefer flexible work hours and 14% who are most excited by cash bonuses.

In sum, the most effective training you can adopt will meet not only employees’ needs, but also their expressed wants. Don’t hesitate to ask them what these are.

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