A Complete Guide to Staff Training

Published on 19/09/2018

Learning is a never-ending circle of new knowledge and skills, and from birth to the day we die, we are always learning, evolving, and developing ourselves. If you want to ensure that you’re benefiting from the most up to date theories, knowledge, and skill sets then it’s vital that, as a business, you take staff training and development super-seriously. If you don’t? Well, you run the risk of falling behind the competition, being clueless when it comes to new innovations, and you’re also not doing the best for your staff and their overall morale and job satisfaction rate.

With all of this in mind, let’s talk about staff training and development. Let’s highlight the differences between the two, talk about why it is so important, give you some examples to back it all up, and then set you on your way to designing your own comprehensive training package.

What is Staff Training and Development?

We will use the generic term ‘training and development’ throughout this chat, but it’s important to point out that these are actually two completely different terms, and that in order to successfully go down the route of training, you need to know the subtle differences.

To sum it up, staff training is an educational thing, whereas development is more of a skill-set deal. To give an example - staff training could take the shape of sending your staff on a training course to learn about a new computer system you’re about to install in your office. This would give them the necessary knowledge to learn how to use the system, and then they will be able to become more knowledgeable and used to the system when they begin to use it themselves. On the other hand, staff development could take the form of discussing what a member of staff wants to do with their career, during an appraisal. From that chat, a training package could be put into place to help that member of staff reach their goals, e.g. to progress to management.

The two terms are very similar and are often grouped together, for obvious reasons, but they have quite large differences and serve two completely different purposes. Of course, you’re developing your staff when you send them on training courses to learn something, but you’re not really doing much for their future hopes and aspirations, which is what development is really about.

What Staff Training and Development Means to Calibre

Here at Calibre, we take staff training and development very seriously. We’re not just about executive office furniture and the latest modular office furniture brand; we’re about the whole package. Why? Because we want our staff to be happy, and we want to help them reach their potential. From a business point of view, staff training also ensures that every single member of our staff know what they are doing, they know their role, and they know how to use the software and equipment they need to be able to help our customers and get the job done.

If we didn’t take staff training and development seriously, our staff wouldn’t be that happy, sat behind office partitions or office screens, they would be lacking in morale, and the chances are that our competitors would be a big step ahead of us, by using the most up to date technology and communication methods, to reach out to new customers. Conference

As you can see, training and development doesn’t just benefit the employee, but it benefits the overall success of the business too.

To this aim, we’ve been trying to think of new and unique ways that we can incorporate training sessions. We don’t want to always go down the route of classroom based training sessions, sat around desks - these can be very boring, and we believe that training should be innovative, interactive, and fun! When you start to look into ways you can incorporate training and development, it’s a great idea to think outside the box. In order to engage staff, you need to encourage them to be excited about what they’re learning about, and even if the subject isn’t that exciting, you need to find a way to deliver that knowledge which is going to engage them, and ensure that the knowledge they need to know sinks in effectively.

We’ve tried various different methods quite successfully, including chat-style lunchtime training sessions with comfortable and casual cafe seating arrangement, which are more informal and collaborative. We’ve sent our colleagues out on external training sessions, and asked them to give feedback on what they’ve learnt to other members of staff, and we’re also encouraging our staff to learn about and use webinars, providing the necessary time to be able to do this during working hours.

All of these methods have been very successful, not only in boosting our office furniture in London transactions, but also in ensuring that our staff are up to date, confident, and productive.

Popular and Useful Staff Training and Development Techniques to Try

The type of training and development technique you use completely depends upon your staff and the way you think they will respond best. If you have a more mature workforce, perhaps going down the route of e-based learning and webinars may not be the most successful way. On the other hand, if you have a mixed age workforce, or you have a younger workforce then interactive training is a great idea. It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each method before you make a final decision, in terms of which route is more successful.

The main types of training and development techniques are:

  • Classroom training, e.g. with an instructor or teacher leading the class. This will usually take the form of sitting around a large conference table with office chairs for half a day or a full day, with a whiteboard or projector showing the main facets of what is being taught. There will usually be several activities and exercises throughout the day, often in a group setting. Handouts will be given at the end of the session, to take home notes about what has been learnt.
  • Interactive training methods. These can be in a classroom setting, perhaps with booth seating for comfort, or they can be more web-based, but the idea is to get everyone involved with learning and to be more ‘hands on’, as opposed to being taught in a more academic way. Quizzes can be used, class discussions in a breakout space, usually in smaller groups, and case studies, with real life examples.
  • Hands-on training sessions. A good example of this is St John’s Ambulance training sessions. In this case, you are learning by doing, e.g. by learning the life saving techniques on a dummy. These sessions are supplemented by theory segments, videos, quizzes, and group discussions. The more hands-on approach helps employees to learn faster, and to experience the subject in real life terms. In this case, feedback can also be given when a technique isn’t quite right, and can be corrected much more easily.
  • CBT/Computer-Based Training. This is a very popular route to go down these days and can be quite interactive, in terms of quizzes and real life scenarios. A good example here is the theory driving test training module you will do before you take your test. In this, you will be put into the situation virtually, and from there you can decide what you will do, taking in feedback as you go. These types of training sessions also allow employees to learn at their own pace, without feeling pressured to keep up.
  • Distance learning via video call or teleconferencing. If you have members of staff who work on a distance basis, e.g. from home or anywhere else in the world, then video conference training sessions are a great idea. This is very much like a classroom based training session, but staff don’t have to travel to get there!  

Within each of these training and development types, there are of course subcategories of how that session will be run. If we’re talking more on the development side of things, a one-on-one approach is often better. The reason for this is because we’re talking about something much more personal than learning skills for a job; we’re talking about bettering a person, helping them learn so they can take that new knowledge and use it to get to where they want to be. The initial stages of a development plan should therefore be more personalised, e.g. an appraisal or informal setting, which then goes onto the training route, when you identify the particular issues they need to learn more about, to put them on their road to success.

We do need to talk about two particular training modules within all of this, which are very successfully used in various industries. These are both used to assess how successful a training programme is. These are:

  • Kirkpatrick’s Four Level Training Evaluation Model
  • Kaufman’s Model of Learning Evaluation

Kirkpatrick’s Four Level Training Evaluation Model

Developed in 1955 by Donald Kirkpatrick, this particular model was designed to help evaluate just how effective a learning method proved to be. The name really gives it away, with four tiers to the entire deal, including reaction, learning, behaviour, and results.

Reaction measures the first reaction to the training programme, e.g. how quickly it is understood. This is designed to help develop the programme and improve the training materials, as well as the person delivering the training. Learning measures how quickly and effectively the information is absorbed by those in the class, and how quickly learning objectives are met. Behaviour measures how well the information delivered equates in the real world, and how easily it is applied to the job. Finally, results measures the impact of the training programme, and how successful it has been overall.

This particular model is very useful for companies developing a new training programme, to assess its ease of learning, as well as the results as a final mark.

Kaufman’s Model of Learning Evaluation

In opposition to the Kirkpatrick model, Kaufman actually has six levels to it, but works to measure the same kind of impact. The tiers to this model are input, progress, acquisition, application, organisational results, and societal/customer consequences. The first four are quite similar to the Kirkpatrick model; however, the last two seek to measure the impact of the training programme on the organisation, and on the experience of the customer as an end result. For larger organisations, who have a lot of one-on-one contact with customers and clients, this particular model can work very well in order to ensure the best outcome for all concerned, i.e. the business, the employee, and the customer/client.

The benefits of staff training and development are clear to see, and we’re going to talk about the specifics of that subject very soon. It’s not just us at Calibre who are placing a huge importance on this aspect of the staff experience either, with such big hitters as Amazon, AT&T, Marriott International Inc, Pixar, Airbnb, and Optoro all have fantastic staff training and development programmes.

Benefits of Staff Training and Development

To really drive home the major benefits of why your company should incorporate a comprehensive staff training and development programme, and overall training ethos, let’s check out the major benefits that could come your way.

Staff training and development ensures:

  • You stay ahead of any industry developments and changes - This is vital in terms of staying ahead of the competition, as well as ensuring that you and your staff are all familiar with any new legislation that comes into force, pertaining to your particular business. For instance, if a new health and safety regulation is introduced, and you don’t train up your staff, in the event of an accident, you could be liable and in quite deep trouble.
  • Keeps you up to date with new technology - We all know that technology is ever changing and as with legislation, if you don’t stay up-to-date you are going to be far behind the competition, and seriously missing a beat. By training your staff in the most up to date technology you are also arming your staff with transferable skills and giving them confidence in their abilities.
  • Allows you to see where weaknesses may lie - If you keep your training schedule up to date, you can easily identify where there may possibly be weaknesses within your workforce, and you can also identify any potential gaps in the market, which you can ultimately take advantage of. If you spot a weaknesses within your workforce, you can then look to recruit or fill in that gap, to ensure your company continues in the right direction.
  • Skills and knowledge are not forgotten - It’s easy to have one training session and then forget everything, but if implement a training programme; you can refresh these skills and knowledge, whilst adding on extras. It’s win, win all around.
  • Boosts employee morale - By investing in the training and development of your staff, they are more likely to feel valued. An employee who feels valued is always going to work harder for you, because they want to give back, they feel more upbeat and confident, and they have hope for their future career aspirations as a result. Morale is on the up!
  • Promotion within the business is easier - By keeping your staff training and development needs up to date, you may find it easier to promote existing members of staff within the business, therefore cutting down on the need to recruit new employees, who you need to train from scratch, get to know, and give them time to settle in.
  • Training can also help to attract fresh, new talent - A business which has a reputation for being all for training and development is attractive to new talent. If you’re looking to recruit fresh, new faces, then having this programme in place will attract the best of the bunch.
  • Training and development is an investment that pays off - You’re investing time and money into your staff, which will reap major benefits in the future. We mentioned morale, but this also affects productivity, and a rise in productivity brings extra profit to every single business.

As you can see, the benefits of investing in training and development are huge, and the more you commit to it, the bigger the benefits in the end. As with anything in life however, we do have to balance everything up with the potential for negative, so let’s talk about some of the possible drawbacks to implementing a comprehensive training and development programme within your organisation.

Potential Drawbacks of Staff Training and Development

There aren’t a huge number of drawbacks to this subject, but for completeness’ sake, we do have to mention them.

  • If you don’t identify the right way to deliver the training and development, staff can easily lose interest - It can be easy for staff to view training as somewhat of a paper exercise, another box to tick. This occurs when the delivery of the training or the development route isn’t done in the right way.
  • Some staff find training stressful - We don’t want to generalise, but it can sometimes be that the older generation of staff, the ones who have been working within your organisation for years, may find new training being introduced to be a little on the stressful side. Helping them to understand that it isn’t a threat, it is a positive, is vital in this case.
  • Extra cost involved - Of course, it is going to cost money to implement a training and development programme, which could be too much for smaller businesses. In this case, finding a happy medium will ensure that you can still keep your staff up-to-date, without breaking the bank. Again, this is an investment which will reap rewards in the near future.
  • Extra time involved - For those with a small workforce, having a member of staff away on a training course can mean extra work for the staff left behind. Webinars and lunchtime training sessions are a great way to get over this problem.
  • Staff may leave, with their new skills and knowledge - Of course, you could train a member of staff up with the newest knowledge and skills, set them on a development programme, and they could simply leave to be with another company. This is a risk you have to take, and there really is no way around this. Overall however training and development helps companies to retain their loyal staff, so this shouldn’t be too much of a risk to consider.

How to Design a Typical Training Programme

When you first start to put together a training programme, it is important that you give the first planning stage plenty of thought and time. Failing to be thorough at this point will mean less favourable results in the future. It can be difficult to know where to start, but the training methods and evaluation routes we mentioned earlier, such as the Kirkpatrick model, will help you ensure that you are on the right route to success.

Let’s look at a general timeline for designing an effective and thorough training programme.

Do an Assessment of Training Requirements - First things first, you need to know what your training needs are, before you can put together a package and plan. To do this, think about what your overall business goal is, and what training you need to put into place in order to reach that goal. What do your employees need to know? What do they need to be able to do? Everything has to reach towards your goal, and that should be your guide.

Bear in mind that you are teaching adults - Remember, your training also needs to be tailored to adults. Adults learn and interact in a very different way to children, so keep everything task focused, as most people learn by doing. Also remember not to speak down to people, adults want to be respected, and rightly so.

Identify your objectives for learning - What do you need your staff to be able to do once they have attended and completed the training programme. You need a list of objectives in place, but you should also have regular tests of understanding throughout the programme, such as quizzes, case studies, and exercises which require manual or actual practice.

Put together your training materials - You need handouts, manuals, and other materials to undertake the training course, and you now need to put these together. Try to be as practical and hands on as possible when designing these, ensuring there are plenty of practical exercises included in the programme. Break everything up into chunks, as this will make it easier for new knowledge to sink in, and for your employees to remember everything. Handouts and brochures which they can take away with them for later reference is also a must do. Another good tip is to ensure that your programme runs naturally, e.g. walking through the process and building on it, by introducing one-step, and then the next one, which naturally follows.

Evaluate on a regular basis - Ask your staff to fill out an evaluation form after the training session, and ask for feedback on what could be done differently. Ask whether they were comfortable during the session too, as this will have an impact on how well knowledge is absorbed; if not, buy some comfortable, funky desk chairs to add an extra element to your training! This will also help you identify any weaknesses or areas of improvement. You could also do a check in with staff around a month afterwards, to find out how the training worked in real terms, e.g. when they implement it into their daily working practices, and whether it made a huge difference, or not.

Let's look at an illustration of what a effective evaluation process should essentially look like:

The above diagram shows the Kirkpatrick model we mentioned earlier, and really ties in well with the idea of evaluating and checking that your training programme is meeting your overall aims.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Your overall understanding of staff training and development should be quite in-depth by this point, but let’s sum up with some frequently asked questions, to pull everything together. Remember, staff training and development might not show it’s results immediately, but over time you will see the benefits, both for the company and your staff themselves.

What is Staff Training and What is Staff Development?

Staff training is giving employees knowledge and skills on various subjects, e.g. a new software system, or a new method of working. Staff development is helping employees to meet their overall aims, e.g. perhaps taking a course, which will result in an accredited qualification. A staff development plan will always incorporate staff training in different guises.

These two terms can easily be confused, and whilst they work hand in hand in many ways, they are subtly different in terms of how they work and what they aim to do. Staff development should be a subject, which the staff appraisal is all about. Putting together a development plan for every single member of staff ensures that potential is reached, and that your staff feel you are investing your time and energy into their wellbeing and talent.

Isn’t Training an Additional Cost to a Business?

Training does cost money, but it can be managed, and without this additional cost, a business runs the risk of being left behind and custom passing over to the competition. Online training can cut down on costs, e.g. no need to pay an instructor, and webinars are a low cost, highly effective method of staff training. The initial cost layout will more than be recouped over the course of a year, at the very least.

What Are The Benefits of Staff Training and Development to a Business?

There are countless benefits to a business, but the main ones are:

  • Staff’s knowledge is up-to-date and ahead of the game
  • Retention of quality staff
  • Easily attracting new talent
  • Staying ahead of the competition
  • Higher morale within the workforce means more productivity, and more profit overall

What Are The Benefits of Staff Training and Development to an Employee?

Again, there are countless benefits to an employee too, but the most prominent stand out as:

  • Transferable skills which can be used in the future
  • An investment in the future of an employee
  • Helps a member of staff feel valued and boosts confidence
  • Helps staff to feel more adept in their role, and cuts down on worries related to work


There is no denying that staff training and development should be high up on the importance list for any business. When it comes to staying ahead of the competition, and keeping skills fresh and up-to-date, there really is no other option. In addition to this, with every single development in technology that comes along, new training needs to be implemented, to ensure that everyone who needs to know how it works, does and knows it well.

Having said that, ensuring that the right training programme is implemented is vital. There are many modules out there which can be used, such as online training programmes and webinars, but it’s also possible for an organisation to design their own training course, and allow this bespoke package to be passed onto staff. By doing an in-depth training analysis before planning everything out, you can ensure that your training is targeted, but also entertaining and attention grabbing.

We believe that practice makes perfect, so get practicing with the help of various training sessions similarly to the genius in the video below!

What are your thoughts on training and development? As a member of staff, do you hold it in high regard? Alternatively, do you see it as an unnecessary task during working hours? If you’re an employer, are you looking for ways to boost your training programmes, or have you already developed a successful method? If so, share your thoughts!

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