Classic training and development horror stories recall experiences very similar to scenarios pulled from TV’s The Office. Purgatory redefined, the idea of sitting in a circle with an over paid facilitator seems like (a) a waste of time and money and (b) a completely unimaginative way to get the job done. If training and development is your goal, then shouldn’t your means to that end be infused with a little more creativity and imagination? After all, you cannot ask employs to better themselves if you’re doing very little to raise the bar yourself. Here are ten ways to do it better.

1. Shadowing

I recently worked with a team of professionals on a specific project. Some of these professionals were better than others. Meanwhile, a conversation with one team member disclosed how she wanted to improve her training and experience. I advised she shadow who I thought was the best among them. Unfortunately for her, the company didn’t really facilitate this sort of training – even if she offered to shadow voluntarily and without compensation.

In a shadowing opportunity, one or two team members will follow and observe another team member without distraction or interference. The ‘shadows’ have a chance to interact as requested and engage in dialogue with the more trained professional in order to learn from their experience and skills. Shadowing is a method great method to use to get lesser team members exposed to training and development opportunities through a secure channel and at a comfortable pace.

2. Mentoring

Shadowing is also a natural opportunity for mentorship. However, mentorship tends to be a more involved process and takes place over a longer period of time. Working with a mentor provides a guided opportunity to grow skill sets, especially in industries that are heavily reliant on client interaction.

3. Pop-up Training

Food trucks aren’t the only type of services that offer pop-up shops. The idea that you can have a pop-up training and development session is, at the very least, a very curious approach to training and development
In the UK, Expol Limited, a local team of corporate risk consultants and forensic investigators, began offering a two day Internet Investigation Workshop for compliance professionals. Your own business needs may not be quite that complex, but it does offer new ways to get professional training. You can ask for similar services, especially with top consultants in the field. There’s no reason training and development can’t be approached with more flexible measures, including getting otherwise expensive services bundled into a much more affordable workshop.

4. Scaling

Call it working from the bottom up or working across various departments to learn the entire business eco-system, but it’s a surefire way to cross train a team. Zappos does just this by requiring every employee to spend two weeks dealing with customer calls, another two in a classroom, and another week in shipping.

5. The Corporate University

ore and more companies prefer an in-house approach to training employees in leadership positions or those with leadership potential. Apple was one of the first to do this, but Zappos does it too with an estimated 200 hours in class time to go over finer points that can’t be gained by scaling alone.

Another alternative to the corporate university is an online learning system. Take for example. According to an article in Inc. Magazine on training and development, the company grew so quickly that it couldn’t keep up with training. Their solution was a “comprehensive online employee learning system.” Called UFuel, the system “offers almost 100 different elective courses, ranging from Microsoft Office training to business skills.”

Your own company may be too small for a corporate university, but there’s no reason you can’t have your own training branch that equips employees with critical business skills, softer people skills, and which helps reinforce a sense of corporate and brand culture.

Author Bio:

by Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Benchmark Email's Online Marketing Specialist and Small Business Advocate. An Orange County based writer, Shireen specializes in online marketing and public relations. She has written for over 75 publications and has launched nine successful new media campaigns to date. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Denver Post, the Oklahoman and Green Air Radio, among others.