How to Create an Effective Refresher Training Course
Nail down the what, when, and why of your training course for best results.
Now that you understand the why of investing in refresher training, it’s time to cover the how. In many ways, refresher training is like any other course. You have to establish learning objectives, offer feedback, and build a community around the course—even if that community is a subset of your larger office culture.
But there are a few extra factors you should account for if you truly want your ongoing employee training to be successful. Here’s what to look out for so that your learners get the most from your refresher course.
1. Identify both the training need and the frequency interval of the refresher training.
What is the purpose of your refresher course, and how often do you plan to run it? Many organizations plan to run refresher training on an annual basis, but they may vary the information that is covered from year to year. Maybe one year the focus is on customer service, another year it’s on security practices. Or perhaps different groups need training in one area, but not in another. Know what material is important enough to warrant a refresher course, and set a timetable that ensures you will cover it at appropriate intervals.
2. Make the case to your learners so that they are motivated to do the course.
Nothing destroys motivation more than the word “mandatory.” Sure, for compliance reasons the training may be mandatory, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be something your employees are taking because they believe it’s important and valuable. Don’t wait till the first day of training to show your employees a slide outlining the purpose behind the refresher course.
Instead, make the case from the moment the dates are announced. Give solid reasoning, and talk about how the training will benefit learners as well as the company. Many employees are actively seeking companies that are willing to invest in employee training. If you can frame it as something that will increase the employees skill set, that will be a big selling point in your favor.
3. Schedule your course so that it will be most effective.
Think about the timing of your training course. Are you about to launch a big company-wide change? Is the dry season for your business about to hit? Is there an annual deadline you need to meet for compliance purposes?
Your employees will retain information best if they aren’t overloaded, so avoid stress by scheduling your training during traditional down time. Similarly, your employees will be at peak memory retention in the period directly following their course completion. Try to schedule training as close to any compliance deadline or major business initiative as you can, to keep their memory retention and enthusiasm at its peak.
4. Review the previous year’s material. Research and update it to be current.
Don’t be satisfied with running the exact same training program year after year. Not only will you miss out on a chance to provide ongoing training, but your learners are more likely to mentally check out if everything is the same. And if your materials look like they haven’t been updated since the 80s, your learners may question if it’s still relevant.
If not much has happened, at least take the time to update some of the images to be more current. Look for examples from recent news coverage, or tap into a cultural reference that your audience is likely to pick up on and appreciate. If your learners have to respond to a scenario, write new scenarios every year so that your learners can’t repeat the same answer from the year before. Challenge your learners, and they’ll become more invested.
5. Consider inviting in a special guest or focusing on a particular topic.
Is there someone in your industry who could be especially interesting or insightful for your course? Bring in an outside perspective. This is an easy way to update your course each year, and it adds significant value to the course beyond a basic refresher program. It’s also a networking opportunity for you and your learners.
6. Set expectations for next year.
If you plan to offer the course again the next year, finish off your course with a segment on how you would like to see them using the information, and what they can expect the next time they take the course. If there’s another follow-up course they can take to improve beyond a basic review, point them in the right direction. Re-sell the importance of a refresher course, even to students who think they know it all.
7. Ask for feedback.
Be proactive in asking your learners about what they would like to see in future courses. Was there something they wanted to learn more about that wasn’t covered? Did some of the information in the course surprise them? Did they find the course ultimately useful, or were they frustrated by it in any way? Use the feedback to improve the next year’s course.
8. Tie your training initiative into a path toward advancement.
Finally, your refresher courses are a way for employees within an organization to set themselves apart. Don’t shy away from making this an explicit part of the course. This isn’t to say you should make promises based on the results of the course, but you should show how the course is relevant toward advancement within the company. That’s information your employees want to know. Don’t hide it from them.
A great refresher training course offers context, creates commitment, and inspires action.
It’s hard for many learners to get enthusiastic about what is often considered a basic review course. But refresher training has a lot to offer learners. When your learners believe that the course will benefit them, they are much more likely not just to take the course, but to seek out extra paths toward building expertise and mastery once the refresher course is finished. That is the level of commitment that makes your investment pay off well into the future.