As much as we believe in the benefits of initiating training programs, we know that sometimes it's easier said than done. Since no two employees are the same, it can be tricky to balance providing them with additional tools and giving them the personal attention they require. On top of that, you have budgets to consider and other tasks that need your attention, so you have to introduce a system in which you're not spending all of your time training. Self-training is often a useful solution to this conundrum, as growing and learning can provide a more impactful sense of satisfaction among your employees than money alone.
Here are some tips outlining how to empower employees to engage with a self-training system
Establish self-guided development as part of the job
Even if none of your employees are new, sit them down and introduce self-guided development as something for which they are responsible. This way you're motivating them to grow as employees and manage their time more efficiently, which can benefit the whole company. An article in Build embraces this philosophy: "Explain the concepts of informal learning and self-guided development to employees and proclaim them a priority. Talk about them in performance reviews. Encourage everyone to give one another feedback. Promote knowledge-sharing as the cultural norm." In doing so, you're establishing that the change is not about giving them less attention, but rather enabling them to take initiative.
Emphasize that employee development benefits both sides of the equation
Put simply, self-training is a tool for self-improvement. While it may seem as though a training initiative is designed to benefit the company first, it really only helps employees become more compelling candidates for promotions and stand out from their colleagues. To reiterate this mindset, emphasize that all employees above a certain level will need to be proven experts in using a certain tool or process. They'll line up for the opportunity.
Use virtual training to allow employees to learn on their own time
One of the main benefits of self-training is that you don't have to compare calendars and find a time that works perfectly for everyone to learn a new task. Instead, set up a deadline by which their training must be completed and prepare a custom dashboard that allows them to move through virtual resources on their own time. To save you some time, find a virtual-training partner who can organize this knowledge base for you and prioritize it according to your needs. So that your employees have the opportunity to ask questions, it might also be beneficial to set up a one-time webinar or in-person meeting for discussions.
In a contribution to Inc., Kevin Daum, an Inc. 500 entrepreneur and best-selling author, writes: "Many leaders complain that employees are stagnant but do little to help them grow. In such cases, somehow management has the idea that promotion and money are sufficient to get people to advance." He goes on to recommend that those in charge should "[b]udget dollars and time toward management and personal development training. Help employees set a plan for growth and reward them as they advance."
In this vein, instead of focusing on promotions for the sake of earning more money, emphasize development for the sake of accepting more responsibility. Constant promotions aren't possible, but consistent acknowledgment that an employee has taken steps toward self-improvement is.
Create an environment where it's safe to make mistakes
Daum also points out, "Many employees, by their very nature, are risk-adverse." This isn't a real stretch to imagine, as no one wants to be held responsible for a mistake that affects clients or other employees. That said, these same employees will likely be hesitant to put their self-training to use if they anticipate being punished for every small error. So provide them with a safe place to practice or reserve the right to review their first attempts at using a new tool before the work gets sent to the next person. For example, if you're using a new editing tool, ask to review the work before its deadline. In addition to putting out a potential fire, you can nip any bad habits.
Check back in
Once the deadline for completing the self-training has passed, check in with your employees to see if there are any lingering questions or if any unexpected issues have arisen in practice. You can't anticipate every snare, so you're likely to learn something as well. If you have the time, offer one-on-one coaching sessions to anyone who feels it would benefit them. You want to make them feel empowered to move on to the next step.
Make sure your virtual-training solution is the best option for your employees and business. Download our complimentary eBook, "Choosing a Virtual-Training Method that Meets Your Needs."