A practice that is invested in developing their people creates loyal and dedicated team members. And a leader who takes time to learn about and teach their team builds an inspired team. It’s no wonder then that you need to consistently develop your team’s skills in order to build team retention.

Related: Are you an inspiring leader? Take the quiz to find out!

If you need some more convincing as to why team training is so important, here are some statistics from around the world over the last few years:

  • 69% of employees under 40 (and 59% of over 40) agree that training plays an important role in decisions to stay with their current company. (westuc.com)
  • 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week, compared to 18% of employees with low engagement. (whyteambuilding.com)
  • Companies with engaged employees make 2.5x the revenue. (officevibe.com)
  • In Australia, in 2016-17, 28.2% of employees participated in work-related training as part of their current job, dropped from 34.5% in 2013. (abs.gov.au)
  • 24% higher profits for companies who invest in employee training vs companies who don’t. (optimum-direct.com)
  • $13.5 million per 1,000 employee is lost every year due to poor training. (optimum-direct.com)
  • 40% of employees with poor training leave their jobs within the first year. (optimum-direct.com)

Don’t despair if you’re currently a boss that doesn’t give regular feedback or provide training. What matters is that you start to change your management style and provide the productive and proactive work environment your team deserves.

So, what can you do to develop your team’s skills?


#1. Identify training needs

First, you need to analyse your team and the productivity of your business to identify the gaps. Do this at the beginning of the year or periodically throughout the year. If you have team managers, sit down with them to define the skills that are needed in various areas.


Job-related technical skills

Do you find that the productivity of your team is low due to their lack of technical skills that are directly relevant to their roles? These skills can include highly role-specific skills as well as skills related to programs and processes they use on a regular basis including:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Project management tools
  • Time management tools
  • Communication tools.

These skills gaps can be identified by doing some industry research and looking at the average time taken to complete a specific task. Another useful method is identifying a trend in meeting (or missing) reasonable deadlines.


Professional skills

Professional skills include skills that aid your employees to work more efficiently and productively, such as:

  • Writing skills, including spelling and grammar
  • Formal and informal communication
  • Time management
  • Project management
  • Self-management and motivation
  • Work ethic.

If you observe that your team’s technical skills are more than adequate but their produced work is sub-par, it may be due to a lack of the supporting professional skills. For example, do you often have to proofread your employees’ emails before sending an important communication due to simple writing mistakes? Or do you find yourself attending most of the meetings that your employees are better qualified for, just because they don’t present well in a professional sense?


Interpersonal skills

Are your employees lacking in interpersonal skills that help them collaborate with each other? If you find that your team members often have conflicts or display disrespectful behaviour towards one another, you might want to help develop their interpersonal skills.

Another way to identify a gap in your team’s interpersonal skills is to observe a difference in output between individual work and group work. Does it take significantly longer for your team to produce collaborative work?


Conceptual/Leadership skills

Do your team managers or members struggle to lead their team or colleagues? Or do you find that they often need too much involvement from you for strategic planning? Do they constantly come to you for approval or to make a simple decision? These signs could tell you that your team lack (or not empowered enough to exercise) their conceptual skills.

When trying to identify the areas you want to develop your team’s skills in, be open-minded and look outside the box. Limiting your options to just job-related skills can risk missing important conceptual skills that could empower your team and increase productivity.


#2. Identify your team’s needs

In order to develop your team's skills spend time finding out about their needs.
In order to make the best efforts to align your needs for your business and your team’s needs, invest time learning about each employee.

In step #1, you have identified your team’s gaps by observing their behaviour and/or discussing with your team leaders. However, your observations may not necessarily be correct. Moreover, the skills you want to develop in your team are not always what they want to learn.

In order to make the best efforts to align your needs for your business and your team’s needs, invest time learning about each employee. The best time to do this is during performance management meetings.


Identify strengths

What are your employees good at? Not all development training needs to be in areas where their skills are lacking. If an employee is often late to work or take longer breaks but is fantastic at their job, you could mould their strengths to indirectly lift their weaknesses, or come to a compromise.

Identifying your team’s strengths can give you insight into how well your team’s skills are utilised, too. You could come to find that you haven’t been maximising their values according to their best skill sets. For example, if your social media manager makes a lot of spelling mistakes in their posts but is amazing at creating beautiful graphics, could you come to a solution that accentuates their graphic skills?


Identify weaknesses

Similarly to identifying the strengths, your team’s weaknesses need more analysis than mere observation. Is your employee who’s perpetually late just lazy or do they live too far away? Is your team manager who constantly comes to you for approval being respected by their team (or you)? Or does the employee who always misses deadlines spend too much time helping their colleagues?

What do your employees which they had more support in? Where do they think they’re lacking? Asking your team members to identify their own weaknesses might surprise you. Here, you need to be open-minded and leave your preconceptions at the door. Hear them out and let them tell you what they need to work on.


Identify passion

We don’t always like what we’re good at. You could be an exceptional project manager but your true passion might be in website design. Your employees could be the same – you just need to ask.

The reality is that we can’t always do what we’re passionate about. But if you could find some way to accommodate their passion as well as strengths, there is no better way to increase your team’s engagement. Start with providing a safe space for your employees to tell you what they want to learn.


#3. Prioritise the training list

Having identified your own training recommendations for your team and their own evaluation, it’s now time to prioritise the list of training options. What is the most important and urgent training for the entire organisation? For the high-level managers? For each team, and each employee?

You might decide that your whole team could benefit from a Microsoft Office training, but a particular team under the most amount of pressure could take a project management course.


#4. Choose the right training methods

Choose the right training methods to develop your team's skills
In order to get the most out of employee training, choose the appropriate training methods.

Fortunately for business owners, there is no shortage of team training methods to develop your team’s skills. There are plenty of options to choose from, keeping in mind your team’s workload, time pressure, upcoming events and so on.


Learning events

Send your team or select employees to a conference, seminar, workshop or an in-person course. Or bring an external source into your business to deliver the training internally.


Online courses

Enrol your team in online courses that you recommend or they choose. Online courses can be structured and time-limited or self-paced.


Group discussions

Facilitate internal group discussions where your employees can each share their tips and tricks, and teach each other on things they’re good at. Encourage book sharing, how-tos, and recommending tools and software that improve productivity. You could bring in a qualified workplace psychologist or counsellor to facilitate the conversations to ensure they’re civil and productive.


Mentoring and coaching

Mentoring is especially helpful for improving interpersonal and conceptual skills. Hire a professional coach for your team members or executives for structured coaching sessions. Or allow your managers (or yourself) to spend individual time with each employee to mentor them internally.


Experiential learning

Let your team members take on different tasks within the organisation on special assignments or coordinated job swaps. This can be useful in increasing productivity by allowing team members to provide their fresh perspective. It can also increase appreciation for each other’s work or help your employees further discover their strengths and passion.


#5. Develop the training plan

Create a training plan to develop your team's skills
Training to develop your team’s skills takes a lot of time and effort to plan, deliver and manage.

Remember that training to develop your team’s skills doesn’t happen overnight. As you have done in the previous steps, it takes careful planning and quite a lot of effort to plan, deliver and manage.

While some training sessions can be done in a few hours or a couple of days, it’s important to continue putting in the effort to help your team practice their newly learnt skills. For example, an intense Microsoft Office session can be done in a few days. But all of that knowledge gained will have been for nothing if your employees don’t retain them. These sessions can be overwhelming, so it’s essential to manage information overload by helping your team gradually adapt these skills.

Set your training plans with 6 to 12 months in mind. In order to maximise benefit gained from training, remember these points:

  • Consider your team’s and your workload. Don’t cram in several different training sessions into a small timeframe.
  • Give time for your team to digest, discuss and practice the information.
  • Plan with a project/training coordinator (and consider their workload).
  • Keep it simple. Don’t go overboard with budget or volume.
  • Create a simple timeline or calendar to help your team members manage their workload.
  • Book events or facilitators in advance to avoid last-minute bookings.


#6. Develop the assessment and review plan

As you have done in step #1 and #2, it’s critical to gain your team’s input when it comes to new initiatives and their satisfaction. Don’t forget that these training sessions aren’t about you; It’s about your team.

So, give plenty of space and time for your team to give feedback about the process and progress of their training. Create a questionnaire or facilitate a group discussion where they can talk about what they’ve learnt and what they think about the way it’s run or organised.

It’s also critical to remember the starting point to refer back to. In order to know if the training to develop your team’s skills has had any positive impact, you need to know what and how to measure against. Below are a few factors you can measure:

Do this periodically so that you can make any adjustments to your training plan as necessary.


#7. Repeat

Unpracticed skills can be forgotten. And there will always be new tools and processes that your team needs to learn. And new staff, too.

Team training is not a one-off. And it takes consistent effort and time to develop your team’s skills to increase their job satisfaction and productivity.

As long as you’re a leader and a dedicated business owner, you’ll need (and want) to repeat the above steps countless times. And each time, you’ll learn more about your employees, training options that work for them, and develop new skills for yourself.

Make sure to document every step you take and the corresponding feedback, so that you can repeat or do it differently next time.