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Making Employee Training as Effective as Possible

by Deborah Shulton

by Deborah Shulton

MOTIF Blog Guest Contributor
Managing Director, DS Textiles Solutions

In a particularly tough time for retail – where cost reductions are being sought across every business area- training budgets could be seen to offer a quick fix – after all – relating training to an increase in the profitability of a company is not so straightforward. However, a relevant, well targeted and well delivered course should lead to increased employee satisfaction and performance. If it doesn’t then maybe the training wasn’t quite right in the first place – possibly because of irrelevant content, poor timing, the wrong target audience or a whole host of other reasons.

The LinkedIn Learning  ‘2018 Workplace Learning Report’ reported that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. However, the same study also shows that the number one reason employees say that they feel held back from learning is because they do not have the time to learn the skills they need.

In 2018 MOTIF and Alvanon conducted an in depth survey on the State of Skills in the Apparel Industry which revealed that “people were largely unhappy with the training being provided. Respondents said that the primary reasons for dissatisfaction were the time required and the relevancy of the content.”

Source: 2018 MOTIF & Alvanon Report “The State of Skills in the Apparel Industry” 

Based on my 10 years of delivering training workshops in Fabric Appreciation in the apparel and textile industry I discuss some of the factors that should be considered by those organising training courses and those delivering the training.

Those organising the training course


Be clear about the learning objective with all parties

Ensure that the course participants know what to expect when they sign up to the course and that the trainer is fully briefed in advance with the relevant and specific subject matter required. There’s nothing worse (for either the participant or the trainer) than turning up to a training session expecting to learn about something – only to find that the trainer is going to cover something completely different.

Consider the audience

Depending on the subject matter it may be better to run courses for a multi discipline team that work together (e.g. A buying team) – especially if it’s a subject that affects them all. However, in some instances mixing teams (and therefore having different seniority of people at the same course) can be intimidating for more junior team members – in which case it may be better to organise by peer group (e.g. Assistant buyers / Buying Admin assistants etc.).

Plan in sufficient time

Be clear about the timings to those attending so that they can plan their time away from their day job. If you are holding a course in house, then I would usually start around 09:30 so that people can see to any overnight crisis before they attend. It’s also a good idea to plan in a short break after a couple of hours and then beak for a short lunch. This helps the audience to keep their concentration, and also, if need be, make an odd urgent phone call / e mail.

Those delivering the training


Be aware of different learning styles

People absorb information in different ways. Some people will learn information best by looking at it or reading it (Visual learners); some by listening to it (Audio learners) and some by actually doing practical exercises (Kinaesthetic learners). In actual fact people will generally absorb information most effectively using a combination of these styles.  Therefore, to make any training more effective the trainer should use a number of different techniques to cater for all styles and to keep people engaged. Avoid standing in front of the audience and just talking – they will very soon switch off and won’t remember much of what’s been said. I always include as many samples to touch and feel as possible as well as fabric swatches to analyse in detail and exercises / questions throughout to test people’s understanding.

Confidence and enthusiasm

People that are the most confident and passionate about what they are presenting will generally be those that are able to hold their audience’s attention. If you are presenting – don’t be afraid to talk around the subject and illustrate points with real examples – don’t be tempted to just read out the information that is in front of the audience on a power point presentation, they can do that themselves. A good trainer will bring the subject matter alive – and personalise the subject matter by encouraging the audience to share their experiences / problems and discussing possible solutions together. It sounds daunting– as you may be caught off guard – and there may be the occasional question that you can’t answer. If that happens (and it still does to me) then I always own up – tell the participants that I’ll look into it and get back to them – and if I get the chance during a coffee break / lunch to quickly research, then I do that. Otherwise I’ll send the answer on to the organiser and ask them to forward to the relevant people.

Make it relevant

Encourage as open an environment as you can – allowing the attendees to feel able to ask those questions that they’ve always wanted to ask as they arise. This will make the training far more effective and relevant to the audience.

Include a plenary

It’s good practice to include a session at the end of training that allows the participants to prove to themselves (and the course leader) that they have learnt something! I will often run a quiz at the end of the session with questions based on the course content that’s usually quite a fun and effective way of finishing the training. 

Continued learning

Some participants may be keen to learn more – so I will often give them pointers as to where they can get further information from – including letting them know they can contact me with questions they may come up with after the course.

Act on feedback

After running any course – always seek feedback about from those that have attended – and if there is a common theme consider what changes could be made to improve on the course.

And so, in summary it’s even more critical than ever to continue with employee training. However, it’s essential to plan in the correct training, to the correct people, at the correct time and by the correct trainer. When this happens – clear benefits will be seen by all.


Learn more about Deborah and the on-demand Fabric Appreciation Workshops she leads in the UK and Europe HERE.

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