Organizations are under constant pressure to improve productivity, operational efficiency and customer service. Many are modifying their business processes and adopting technology tools to advance these business objectives. Employees are expected take advantage of these tools to boost the bottom line and deliver the best possible customer experience.

In many cases, however, organizations aren’t providing the kind of training employees need to be successful. They provide very basic in-house training or informal coaching, or neglect training completely. In some cases, employees are forced to figure out new technologies on their own, which saps productivity and delays the return on investment (ROI) in the technology.

Inadequate training can also expose the business to significant risks. For example, it does no good to deploy a modern security system if employees open the door for hackers by using “123456” and “password” as passwords when logging into the network. If you want to maximize ROI from investments in technology and processes, training needs to be mandatory and properly managed.

Highly structured training, that is required or highly incentivized, helps ensure that your employees know how to take full advantage of new technology. Training also gives you the opportunity to improve employee performance by teaching new skills, addressing weaknesses, and raising the level of knowledge of all employees. Unlike voluntary programs, required training ensures that all employees have been exposed to the same information and are consistently following best practices.

Training improves morale by boosting employee confidence and job satisfaction. People feel valued when an organization invests in helping them become better employees. As a result, training reduces attrition and aids in recruitment. It also supports succession planning and minimizes the risk when an “irreplaceable” employee leaves the organization.

Because learning and progression drive innovation and competitive advantages, training should be integrated into business strategy. This process begins with senior management support of training as a key element of business success. Business objectives that are tied to training should be defined. Progress should be tracked and ROI metrics should be measurable. Establishing a learning development team, combined with direct involvement from senior leadership, will keep training programs aligned with business strategy as the needs and direction of the organization evolve.

When developing training programs, choosing the right trainers is paramount, whether they are employees or third-party specialists. The format of the training is also important. Ideally, training should comprise several, hour-long sessions rather than one day-long event. Every training program should include a skill or piece of information that employees can begin using immediately. This will motivate employees to embrace future training sessions and learn new skills.

Finally, don’t limit training to the classroom. Share training objectives and invite input before training begins, and continue training after the session by providing informational materials and online learning tools.

Informal coaching and ad hoc training programs can have value, but there is no standardization, consistency or scalability with such a practice. By developing mandatory or highly incentivized training programs and integrating training with business strategy, organizations establish a culture of learning that supports the growth of each employee and the organization as a whole. All of these factors lead to a team that is more empowered to meet the organization’s objectives.