What is Corporate Training and Development?

Definition of Corporate Training

Corporate training, also known as Corporate Education or more recently Workplace Learning, is a system of activities designed to educate employees. While it helps employers, it is also beneficial for employees as it helps them obtain and hone knowledge and skills to progress professionally and personally.

The responsibility of training the workforce is generally taken on board by Development or Talent teams in larger corporations and Human Resources in smaller companies. They are required to identify topics and needs of the training programs and make them available for employees. They have a responsibility to build the strategy and roadmaps of employee experiences and journeys. 

There is a common stigma around corporate training programs, where employees often struggle to see value in them because they are designed to highlight gaps or are very specific and only relevant to current positions. Hence, the role of L&D now is evolving to enable ongoing learning rather than control it.

Only 1/3 of talent developers would be willing to recommend their own programs —they know there is room to grow.

Workplace Learning Today

Better workplace learning is more in demand than ever. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, 94% of employees stated that they would commit to staying at a company longer if the company invested in their development. Complimenting this statistic is the fact that 90% of top management also believe that investing in their employees’ career development is a positive requirement for the growth of the company.

That settles it then. Both the employees and employers see the importance in the career development of their workforce. What next? Creating 'standardized' training programs for all your employees will sure, present information in front of them but that does not guarantee transfer of knowledge and employee engagement that will translate into growth for the company. 

More importantly, your employees have varied roles, experience, knowledge, & abilities. Designing your training program to be specific to each one of them will improve learning efficiency and increase ROI. Well-structured L&D programs build the desired knowledge and skills that will impact individual employee performance and increase job satisfaction, which often results in higher employee retention.

“People bring their whole self to work and they take their whole self home every day." - Jennifer Yi Boyer, ACT

What's a good training program?

Undoubtedly, every individual has their own idea of what makes a 'good training program'. The truth is there isn't a unique model of what constitutes the ideal training program. However, some things remain standard in all good training programs –no matter the industry, the employee size, the purpose of the program, the geography and demography:

  • Relevancy and Need - The experience and information you offer your employees must be relevant, timely and applicable to their daily job activities. It should help them expand their knowledge, skills and should be easy to digest so they learn quickly and can implement what they learn. It is also imperative to correctly identify who needs to be trained, what topics and skills they should to be trained on. For example, if you have unsatisfied customers, you may need a customer service training for your sales team. However, if your company is going through a merger process you might need to train managers on Change Management.
  • Alignment - Anything you train your employees on must be aligned with your organizational goals. Don’t ask your employees what training they want or need instead, focus on what are the business outcomes and then identify the capabilities needed to achieve those outcomes. Then you can decide collectively what specific skill sets are needed by your employee base and the the types of learning experiences you need to create.
  • Goal oriented -  When structuring training programs, ensure they are goal oriented and the Key Performance Indicators chosen paint a wholistic picture - time, cost, effectiveness, quality and quantity of the program.
  • Manager Input - Manager involvement is important to increase employee engagement in learning. A survey conducted by LinkedIn, noted that 56% of employees would spend more time on their training if their manager directed, or recommended, them to a specific program that directly they believe will improve their skills.
  • Creativity -  Workplace learning is evolving to a place where adding fun, bite-sized and relevant activities to training is becoming increasingly popular to increase employee engagement. Moving away from traditional trainer style learning, or online learning experience similar to flicking through a powerpoint presentation, will allow you to explore more creative possibilities.
  • Post training - Organizations spend thousands of dollars each year on employee training with little knowledge of whether it's "working". Incorporating post training follow ups, such as short lessons or activities to review new concepts learnt or face to face feedback sessions, can help ensure concepts are understood and actively practiced.

Objectives of training programs

There are a number of reasons and motivations for an organization to develop a training program. Listed below are the most common objectives of training programs:

Career and Personal Development

Arguably the most common objective of training programs is to help employees in their current roles and prepare for future ones. Topics range from being very specific to job positions to soft-skills like leadership. 

Career development as a whole can be looked at from two perspectives: the employee and the employer. The company’s main aim is to increase its employees productivity in order to achieve business goals, which is generally done by ensuring "the perfect marriage between the job and the person". On the other hand, for the employee, both career and personal development are very important. Whilst 'career development' helps them meet goals, get promoted and even get higher remuneration, 'personal development' results in work satisfaction and makes them feel valued as individuals outside of work. 

A substantial difference between career and personal development is the fact that not all companies are willing to invest in the personal development of their employees as much as they are with career. Personal development can include training courses that don't have a direct correlation to the job being done, for example investing in health and wellbeing or personal interests like cooking. There is evidence to suggest that investing in the 'person' often attracts and retains employees and drives better business performance.

A quick breakdown of what career and personal development programs enable:

  • Providing employees with career growth opportunities aligned with company objectives, goals and strategies
  • Upskill or maintain knowledge of current job related tasks
  • Develop personal skills and abilities for soft skill topics to plan for personal growth
  • Enhance or obtain education, abilities and skills for duties unrelated to current job to achieve self-set goals and career objectives
  • Better community members and happier individuals

Employees are tuning out of corporate training, saying “it is wildly out of sync” with how people learn. —Deloitte

Onboarding: New Employees or New Roles

Training programs to onboard new employees are often underestimated by companies. According to a recent survey, it was observed that 22% of companies do not have a formal onboarding program while a good 49% believed to have a ‘somewhat’ successful process. 

New employees generally take some time to become productive as they tend to be more stressed, anxious and definitely feel a disconnection from the rest of the team. It’s also observed that 33% of new employees are likely to look for a new job in the first six months of starting and a good 22% will change within the first 45 days.
A good onboarding process helps manage the emotions experienced by most new hires, reduces the costs of employee turnover and increases general productivity. An employee that goes through a well structured onboarding process is 58% more likely to continue to be with an organization after three years. 

Mandatory Training

Some companies have company-wide training programs from time to time, designed to educate their entire workforce on specific topics. The variedness of these programs depends of course on factors like the company location or industry in which it operates. Programs include updating employees on regulations & policies, discussing occupational health & safety, diversity, workplace etiquette, and more. For example, public sector employees often require to take occupational health and safety training, and some industry legislations require both private and public companies to deliver sexual harassment training to their employees.  

Types of training programs

Whatever modes and mediums you use to deliver workplace training, make sure they are interesting. There is nothing worse for an employee than having to go through a compliance training that they ‘have’ to do, and also happens to be 'boring'. 

Face-to-face training


Possibly the most commonly used training method (which mimics the widely used teaching method used in education institutions). This type of training accounts for on an average 42% of an organization's training hours. It involves a trainer physically teaching multiple employees in a ‘classroom’ type of experience, usually with a powerpoint presentation as a visual aid.

No doubt this style of training comes with its perks - the most notable being personal interaction. It sets up the opportunity for employees to ask trainers questions that may otherwise go unanswered in other modes. More importantly, it allows for relationship building between the employee and the trainer and among the employees learning together.

However, what it does not allow for is practice and scalability, and is often quite costly. It requires an instructor to be present at all times and may get difficult as more and more employees start to join –limited the personal interaction (which is this methods' biggest advantage). From a trainers point of view, it gets challenging to cater to the needs and speeds of each participant as they don't learn at the same pace.

In any case, if this is your preferred method of training, endeavour to keep the morale and energy high by incorporating shorter sessions, breaks and allow for dedicated discussion and practise times. 


This method takes the traditional classroom style training to a whole new and exciting level by incorporating group and interactive activities. This involves smaller group discussions, role playing, case study reviews, demonstrations and even games. One in three employees say training is often uninspiring and discourages creative thinking, so this approach is recommended to increase overall engagement and develop much needed soft-skills. 
Interactive training can be effective as it encourages transfer of knowledge in all directions allowing participants to learn and share information from each other and helps keep the energy high. However, some people who are not outgoing, quieter or introverted may get lost in the shuffle. So it is recommended you consider all types of trainee personas when including activities so they all feel involved and maximise learning. 

A great (but a little old) example of an interactive training program is Pixar’s in-house training initiative. The video below explains this concept in detail:


On the job training

On the job training dives straight into the practical, skipping all concepts and theory. It allows employees to get hands on experience of their roles quickly - often from day one. 52% adults believe this is the best way to learn, ie., through active learning. This type of training can boost information recollection and improve knowledge retention as some employees dislike hours of training lectures. 

However, others prefer to understand the concept first before directly diving into the practice. It is recommended to evaluate which employee would benefit from this method. Another way to incorporate this method without actually going all in is having your employee shadow someone (in a similar role as them) while they work. 

Online learning training

Online learning is gaining popularity with more organizations turning towards this type of training. 77% American companies offer some level of online learning as a readily available career development tool. Online training programs are easier to scale as newer learning technologies can help understand the behaviour, learning journey of each and every one of your employees taking the program. You can use online learning platforms like Smart Sparrow to incorporate interactive and adaptive elements in your online training programs. 

Employees are understandably busy with their job activities and hence this delivery method can help them learn in their own time and at their own pace. Whilst online learning can restrict the personal connections that a face-to-face training program can provide, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities from infinite practise to shooting planets. Also face-to-face time can be used to address misconceptions or weak points, surfaced by real-time learner data. If you want to maintain the trainer interaction consider blended training as an option. As the name suggests, blended training is a blend or combination of online training and ‘classroom’ style in person training. Some training topics are covered in person whilst the others can be completed online. 

“Companies with engaged employees see 22% greater levels of productivity and outperform those without engagement by up to 202%.” —Gallup


Creating effective training programs requires you to select strategies that will allow evidence of successful learning in your employees. Below listed are a few ‘innovative’ strategies that you may consider. Please note that every organization’s requirements vary and hence consider possibilities that are most suited to your needs.

Active Learning

Probably the most challenging task for a Learning & Development team is to engage employees in compulsory training programs. Constantly reminding employees to complete mandatory programs is not something L&D teams enjoy doing. How much can you push? Consider Active Learning as a means to engage your employees in training programs.

Active Learning, also known as Pragmatism or Experientialism, emphasizes on the real-world applications of knowledge, which promotes learning through experience and not simply through concepts. 
Having a core strategy that encourages employees to not simply soak in concepts but actually practice them makes for a promising training program. It is important however, to focus on things that are immediately relevant and applicable for people in their day-today jobs and train them for future jobs.

For departments that deal with sensitive information or where wrong or uncalculated actions can result to catastrophic outcomes, it is imperative to progress from simple training concepts. This can be looked at as ‘Safe training’ so people can try out new behaviours in training without the fear of repercussion or making decisions that might be career limiting, it lets them experiment without any judgement and educates them in the process. For example, a financial advisor dealing with millions of dollars would benefit from trying a few different economy scenarios in their training process and learning from their successes and failures. Furthermore, they would be better equipped to face such a scenario in the real world. 

Basically, it’s about understanding and experiences how different behaviour will play out when you practice them. You want to maintain self-esteem, give realistic experiences and support them when the experiments don't work out the way you wanted to. Simulating environments helps in creating a ‘safe place’ for your employees to trial them. Active learning helps cement new information, so employees successfully transfer new skills when they go back to their job.

Assessment with a Purpose

If you struggle or want to maximise the training programs you create, start by asking yourself a few questions “what do people bring to the table”, “what are the gaps”. Revisit your current workforce’s strengths and weaknesses and assess their need for the programs you currently offer or what to potentially offer. This strategy will help you to create courses that are absolutely required. 

The strategy you implement should be appropriate to the goal of the business and be supportive of the training process. In planning for assessment, you will also need to consider how the outcomes will be recorded, while ensuring that there is sufficient and appropriate information collected for making an 'on-balance' judgement of the standard achieved by the employee at the end of the training program. 

Tapping into learner analytics, which many online learning platforms provide, allow you to measure the effectiveness of your training programs and report ROI to executives. Real-time data is critical. You can use that information to pinpoint where learners are doing well and where they’re having trouble, so you can continually improve existing material instead of making guesses about what’s working or starting from scratch.

Create an environment in an outcome that drives success and productivity.

Adaptive Learning

In the era of technology, companies are looking to automate and personalize their training programs via more online learning training. Agreeably, it will never replace the personalisation that a face to face setting offers, but today the technologies that exist that can, to some extent, bridge that gap. 

Digital guided active learning (aka adaptive and active learning) allows training to me more “personal”, meaning your employees will only learn what matters most to them, what’s important for them and at the speed and place they’re most comfortable learning.

  • For example you can have one experience that adapts to different employee roles, staying relevant across different business units.
  • Online environments can reinforce what has been taught, allowing for application and practice of skills
  • The online medium allows companies scaling training programs and augment sessions in order to alleviate reliance on instructor led training (ILT)

One size does not fit all.

Tip: How to group learners for personalization

When developing training relevant for every employee, break employees into groups with similar needs. From your groupings, you should be able to understand the context in which your employees work — and then you’ll be able to provide training that impacts their day-to-day. Here are some grouping possibilities:

  • Department (e.g. marketing, sales, customer success, project management, engineering)
  • Role (e.g. executive, manager, associate, contributor)
  • Function (e.g. customer-facing, internal-only, mixed)
  • Location (e.g. San Francisco office, Sydney office, remote worker)
  • Number of months/years with the company (useful for one-time onboarding training materials)
  • Language (e.g. is there first language the same as the head office)
  • Style (e.g. are they mostly in the office, or work remotely, or is mostly out meeting customers/facilities)
Training strategies infographic

Download the pdf version of this infographic here.

The Future of Organization Training

By 2025, millennials will constitute more than 75% of the workforce. This is a digital audience that has only ever known a world with technology in it - they want ease of use, innovation, creativity and flexibility. It will be more important than ever to focus on training programs that are a reflection of all these characteristics. 

There is a strong move towards flexibility in the workplace, not only in terms of location but also the structure of job assignments. The employees are getting more vocal in their demand for training of fundamental skills sets that are transportable across departments and industries. There will be an added requirement of ‘21st century’ skill sets and social emotional learning component with the next generation employees because these are people that have grown in the digital age and interaction from social perspective is very nuanced to a virtual environment. Researchers have observed that these people haven’t acquired these skills.

The bottom line will be the necessity to create a training program that looks more like the future than the past.