Without well-trained, motivated employees your business is going nowhere. While you may think that’s obvious why, then, do one third of SMBs not offer in-house training?

There are a myriad of pitfalls for employees who don’t receive training: they won’t know how to get the most out of your tools and technology and will feel more reluctant to use them, they’ll feel less prepared to do their job, and they won’t have the skills and knowledge to contribute to your company, or to grow and develop as an employee. One recent survey suggests that as many as 40 percent of workers who get poor training leave their jobs within the first year. Again, all sounds pretty obvious right?

If you’re patting yourself on the back because you pay lip service to training with an induction program consisting of meeting different departments and some compliance training then don’t get too smug. Paying lip service to training won’t get you anywhere. Think mindless health and safety talks that use decades old PowerPoint presentations to describe situations that are not applicable to your role (how often do you operate a forklift truck?), or outdated compliance training that assumes you have no common sense or have arrived from Mars with no idea how a workplace operates.

But I run a small business and we’re already overstretched, you may cry. Not good enough – if you want your business to succeed you need a structured approach and a culture that welcomes learning, rather than seeing it as something that takes up precious hours of your already overworked employees’ days.

New ways to learn

As we’ve already mentioned, death by PowerPoint doesn’t count as training. With the myriad of technological advances available at a reasonable price (think SaaS apps), there isn’t any excuse for offering this below-par experience. Forward-looking companies are already reaping the benefits of e-learning and mobile learning (m-learning). Take the example of Merrill Lynch. The company delivered its compliance training on mobile devices, which resulted in a 12 percent higher completion rate, and an average reduction of 45 percent in time spent doing the training. Every single employee also said that they would complete more training in this format.

Another key trend that can vastly improve the way you deliver training is gamification, where techniques and mechanics from the world of videogames are applied to learning. This could be incentivizing employees to complete training with rewards such as badges or adding storylines to make courses seem more interesting. Seoplus+, for example, incentivizes continued training. It ran an in-house contest to see who could earn all Google AdWords certifications first, where the winner received a $200 gift card to the restaurant of their choice, and the runner-up received $100.

Social learning that emulates the way social networks such as Twitter and Facebook is also on the rise, while studying using wearable devices is set to take off. Almost a third of organizations surveyed by Tech Pro Research said they were planning to use wearables in the coming year. Then there is the trend of extended enterprise, which is not just about training your staff, but everyone from business owners, to the people delivering your training, right up to your software providers (training them in the needs of your business).

Personalized and customized

If you work with customers of any kind, you’ll no doubt be aware of the increasing demand for personalized experience. This trend also applies to workplace learning. Allowing your employees to choose to learn in the way that suits them best is key to successful training.

Treating your employees like individuals and allowing them to customize their learning experience will not only lead to greater adoption, but also more successful outcomes and the desire to do more. And if you’re still sending your employees on week-long courses that cover everything they could ever have dreamed of about a dry topic such as ethics, it might be time for a change. Bite-sized chunks of information delivered when your employees need and want it is far more effective.

Tracking your wins (and losses)

Overhauling your training to offer a much more engaging experience is useless if nobody uses it or it doesn’t help you meet any of your goals. According to research, a quarter of SMBs don’t track the success rate of the training they offer, while six percent said they merely based it on training completion time. What exactly counts as success will differ across companies and employees. Maybe it’s to do with mandatory state-wide training such as health and safety where you have to show that all your employees have completed the training, or it could be in a certain skill that’s vital to your business, which can be tracked according to company KPIs.

Mixpanel, an analytics startup based in San Francisco, has seen great success by using  Mindflash, an online platform that features analytics tools to track learning effectiveness.

As the company is growing so quickly, it hires groups of sales staff every month, and puts them through three weeks of intensive training as a team. The company has established several key performance metrics to measure the success of their sales training courses. It regularly assesses each class against established benchmarks and previous classes to determine whether individuals are meeting targets, and how changes are driving results. With just about every new hire class, Mixpanel makes tweaks based on past performance and the analytics allow them to go back and see if the tweaks worked.

How do I do this?

If this sounds like music to your ears, but you’re wondering how you get from where you are at the moment to where you’d like to be then it’s worth considering a learning management system (LMS). Companies are increasingly turning to LMS to help them enable all these features and deliver these methods of learning to their employees in an easier and more cost-effective way. Not only does your business benefit by being able to make sure you have ticked all the boxes on the mandatory training, but you also have more highly-skilled, happier employees that can grow and develop with your company. The result: you end up building both a team and a business you can be proud of.