Training in the Workplace

Employers understand that proper employee training in the workplace is essential for an company’s success. Training topics may include general skills, technical skills, safety procedures, and programs designed to prevent legal problems. The training programs must not discriminate, and time spent in training may be compensable. Federal law requires training in many health and safety-related areas.

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Why should I offer training?

Employee training was once considered an optional benefit that only the most forward-looking employers provided to their most promising employees. When the economy turns downward, employee training was often the first to go. Training may be viewed not as an investment but as an expense to be disposed of in tough times. But today, more employers understand that proper employee training is essential to a company’s success. More employers know that an intelligent, well-trained workforce is central to worker success and well-being. More than 70 percent of employers provide some job training for employees, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The survey also found that employers with high employee turnover train less and spend less on training than other businesses. While it is unclear, which comes first, it can be assumed that training is linked to long-term employment, successful performance, productivity, and morale.

Adult Learning

Most adults are self-directed learners; they want to learn what they want when they want and how they want. Adult learners have their own style of learning that includes four key elements, discussed below. Even if an employer structures its training program to meet these elements, it may still run into reluctant learners.

The Four Elements of Adult Learning

1. Motivation. To motivate adult learners, set a friendly tone at each session, create a feeling of concern for your employees, and make sure an appropriate level of difficulty is set. Other motivators for adult learners include:

Personal achievement—attaining higher job status or keeping up with surpassing competitors

Social well-being—including opportunities for community work

External expectations—such as meeting the expectations of someone with formal authority

Stimulation—training can break the routine of work and provides contrast in employees’ lives

2. Reinforcement. Use both positive and negative reinforcement to be successful in training adult learners. When your employees are learning new skills to encourage progress and reward their results use positive reinforcement, such as verbal praise. Do not use “negative” reinforcement, such as constructive criticism, to stop bad habits or poor performance.

3. Retention. Adults must retain what they’ve learned to realize benefits on both the personal and company-wide levels. Achieve high retention rates by having trainees practice their newly acquired skills until they are familiar and comfortable enough to ensure long-term success.

4. Transference. Adults want to bring what they learn in training directly to the workplace. Positive transference occurs when adults can apply learned skills to the workplace. Negative transference occurs when learners can’t—or don’t—apply skills to the workplace.

Training Required by Federal Law


The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) has many safety and health training requirements, depending upon your industry, that includes the following:

Emergency plan

OSHA Training 

Fire hazards

Hearing protectors 

Processes and operations

Personal protective equipment (PPE)


Bloodborne pathogens. 

Right to know/hazard communication

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Federal Requirements for Effective Ethics Programs

Under Federal Sentencing Guidelines, employers can reduce the fines imposed on them for the criminal acts by their employees by providing their employees at every level within the company with compliance and ethics training. The current guidelines have rigorously toughened the requirements for companies to reduce their fines if even one of their employees is guilty of criminal misconduct. According to the Federal Sentencing Commission, an organization that has an effective compliance and ethics program can reduce its fines for a criminal conviction by as much as 90 percent.

The Federal Sentencing guidelines outline seven steps an employer must take to have an effective compliance and ethics program:

1. An organization must establish standards and procedures for preventing and detecting criminal conduct.

2. An organization’s high-level personnel must be knowledgeable about and oversee the content, implementation, operation, and effectiveness of the program.

3. An organization must take reasonable efforts to avoid giving substantial authority to an individual whom the organization knew, or should have known, has engaged in criminal activity or other conduct inconsistent with an effective ethics program.

4. An organization must take reasonable measures to periodically conduct training programs for and disseminate information to the organization’s governing authority, high-level personnel, employees, and agents.

5. An organization must monitor and audit for criminal activity, periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the program, and create and communicate procedures for employees and agents to report criminal activity without fear of retaliation.

6. An organization must provide incentives to comply with the program and enforce disciplinary measures for engaging in criminal conduct or failing to prevent or detect criminal conduct.

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