10 key training methods for your small business | HR blog

Published on July 8, 2022 by Gemma Dale
10 key training methods for your small business

HR consultant Gemma Dale showcases 10 key training methods to adopt as part of your training method mix to promote learning and development more effectively in your business.

There are many ways to provide training and development to your employees. Formal or informal, individual or group learning, classroom based or self-directed, there is no one single ‘best’ training method, or one that will work effectively for every employee in every situation. What organisations really need is a training method mix.

Top 10 training methods for employees

Providing training through a variety of methods allows employees to engage with the type of learning that works best for them, considering their learning needs and personal preferences. Learning can take place through many forms, and this should be reflected in the training methods used to support it.

1. Coaching

Coaching is about making people resourceful. It starts from the idea that the employee will have the solution to their own challenges, but they may need support with the process of identifying them. Coaching provides space and structure to support employees with thinking and reflection. It’s a 1-2-1 relationship and can be a highly effective training and development method.

2. Mentoring

Mentoring training method

People often use the terms ‘coaching and mentoring’ together, but in practice they are very different things. Where coaching encourages employees to find their own solutions, mentoring is more advice based. Senior, experienced individuals act as guides to less experienced employees, sharing useful information and supporting them with performance and growth. As a training method it is low cost but potentially high impact – providing benefits to both the mentor and mentee.

3. Job shadowing

This training method provides an employee with the opportunity to observe work in practice as it is undertaken by an experienced colleague. It’s an on-the-job method of training that can be helpful for new starters or employees who want to broaden their knowledge about different roles or parts of the organisation. It can also benefit those who want to make the first step into a management role, providing insight into activities that the employee would not otherwise undertake.

4. Action learning

This is a form of group learning where learners are typically provided with a real-life organisational project or problem to work on together. As a training method, action learning has been found to be very effective in developing leadership and problem-solving skills. Reflection on the learning is part of the approach, which further supports personal development.

5. Expert led

Expert led training method

Here, employees learn from hearing directly from experts, whether these are internal or external. For example, lectures, events, or talks delivered by experts can help bring new thinking or points of view to an organisation, bringing the outside in whilst providing challenge.

6. On the job learning

As the name suggests, this typical training method for new employees involves simply spending time with another employee, first observing, and then trying out work tasks for themselves. It’s an inexpensive method but does need to be undertaken by a competent employee who is also a good communicator if it is to be effective. It does have the added benefit of helping new starters to build relationships with colleagues, so can be a useful part of the overall training method mix.

7. eLearning

Technically eLearning is any training method that includes learning through digital or online resources. Often this is the form of short courses that employees can undertake in their own time and at their own pace, accessed from anywhere. Designed well, eLearning can be a flexible and inexpensive training method, and it can be mixed with other methods discussed in this post to further support employee learning and development.


8. Curated content

Here, learning is supported through bringing together existing materials and providing them to employees in a structured way. One example would be curating a playlist of podcasts or videos on a specific subject. This can be a standalone training method or used to support other forms of learning discussed here, such as information for an action learning set or pre-work in advance of traditional classroom activity.

9. Classroom training

Classroom training method

A very familiar training method, this brings employees together to learn together. Classrooms can be physical or virtual, and generally involve some degree of provided content (such as a presentation) with opportunities for discussion, sharing and group activity. Classroom training has benefits and drawbacks as a training method – not everyone learns well in this environment and there are important questions about how much of the learning is retained after the event. It is, however, good for encouraging sharing and building relationships, helping employees to learn from one another.

10. Blended learning

This is a training method that is highly suited to a hybrid working environment. Taking elements from digital learning and classroom activity, it blends the two, combining the best of face to face and online delivery, providing maximum flexibility for learners. Usually, learners spend some time learning together and then have tasks to complete independently. When designed well, this is a highly effective training method.

In conclusion

Every training method has benefits and challenges – and different methods will suit different learning situations. An effective training method mix will pay close attention to the needs of learners, providing choice and flexibility. It will also provide a balance between supporting employees to become more competent in their current role, whilst also working towards future goals and aspirations. Finally, it will support not only the growth of the individual, but the growth of the organisation.

When it comes to training effectiveness, remember that whilst method matters, so does the learning experience that you create along the way.

Read more from the myhrtoolkit blog

Can reskilling employees save your business money?

Why manager training is crucial to your business success

How much time should managers spend developing employees?

Picture of Gemma Dale

Written by Gemma Dale

Gemma Dale is an experienced senior HR professional, CIPD Chartered Fellow, HEA Fellow, and a regular speaker and writer on a variety of HR topics. Gemma is the co-author of the book 'Flexible Working' published by Kogan Page in 2020. She is also a lecturer in the Business School at Liverpool John Moores University and runs her own business, The Work Consultancy.

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