Why Role Specific Training Matters

Why Role Specific Training Matters

The level of training of your staff reflects on you and is visible from a great distance.

It’s important to unwrap this & explain why I find this disturbing.

Why “disturbing”?

I said “disturbing” because the short and long term impact of this lack of training hit me. It impacts the company’s success, the employee’s short term success in the role, and the employee’s career in the long term.

Think about the perspective of the employee who steps up. Employees might be stepping outside of their comfort zone in order to take a shot at this role. While access to opportunity is important, employees like to help their company & manager by filling an important role. Consider the potential chaos created by the departure of someone with “big shoes to fill”. Everyone knows the impact of that departure – yet someone is likely to volunteer to take on that role. Employees who step up to fill a role created by increased workload feel similarly.

From the owner’s perspective, each of those situations imply that success in the role is important to your company. An existing staffer who steps up deserves to be well-prepared for the role.

What happens if someone who “steps up” to take on a new role is “thrown to the wolves”? The natural response is that other employees will be less likely to step up when the opportunities present themselves. Eventually, the perceived lack of opportunity will provoke them to leave your company.

They reflect what we teach.

The lack of role-specific training teaches the employee what “normal” is. As their career continues, they’re likely to manage others – and will likely do so as they have been managed. There will be exceptions, of course, but our own experience tends to be our teacher. Consider the long-time employee who becomes one of your senior leaders. Would you want them based role-specific training decisions based on the training they received? Anything you do is everything you do. It all ties together.

Employees who join other companies in your industry send a message. Not because they left you, but by reflection. Their skill set, experience and how they work reflects upon your company. Your peers and your customers will eventually figure out that your team is “making it up as they go along”, if that’s how things work. Poorly trained people are easy to notice.

What about seasoned staffers?

You might expect them to step in and “hit the ground running” since you selected them because of their background & experience (among other things). Even so, experience & background aren’t everything. New team members joining from “the outside” should take part in discussions about your company’s culture, resources, role expectations, etc before a hiring decision is made. Culture is a critical piece for experienced people. Behaviors expected / tolerated elsewhere can cause failure of a new team member as if they never had a chance.

Avoiding the blank sheet    

While the specifics of role specific training will vary, some topics likely occur across industries.

Examples to get you started:

1.         What is the title of your job?

2.         To whom are you responsible?

3.         Who is responsible to you? (An organization chart is helpful.)

4.         What is the main purpose of your job, ie in overall terms, what are you expected to do?

5.         What are the key activities you have to carry out in your role? Try to group them under no more than ten headings.

6.         What are the results you are expected to achieve in each of those key activities?

7.         What are you expected to know to be able to carry out your job?

8.         What skills should you have to carry out your job?

  • Specific duties of this role on a daily / weekly / quarterly / annual basis.
  • Process-specific training required to succeed.
  • Where / how do the duties in this role fit into its department?
  • How does this role’s work fit into and contribute to the company’s big picture / mission?
  • Information / data received regularly.
  • Events to be concerned about.
  • Events to expect.
  • Events to be concerned about if they don’t happen.
  • Data the company creates and/or collects that’s related to this role.
  • Expected deliverables & their due dates.
  • Sources of industry info that should be monitored.
  • Industry influencers to interact with / follow.
  • Available ongoing training / certifications needed.
  • Company’s policy on getting initial & advanced training. Time out of office, travel, tuition, reimbursement, etc.
  • Time normally required in this role before going to advanced role specific training.
  • Company experts (in this role’s context) and the person whose job requirements include mentoring the person in this role.
  • Internal company groups related to this role / department. When / where they meet. What to gain from them. Insight they need.

What ideas / suggestions do you have?

Role-based training provides employees with the tools and resources they need to not just do their job, but to perform it accurately.

Rob Liano once said: “Knowledge is power? No. Knowledge on its own is nothing, but the application of useful knowledge, now that is powerful.” Adapting a role-based training curriculum produces training that can be consistently applied to an employee’s job.

Oftentimes, employee feedback reveals that they feel over-trained in various functions such as soft skills, and under-trained in other core competencies that directly pertain to their day-to-day role. Middlesex University conducted a study on work-based learning and discovered that 74 percent of the 4,300 workers felt that they weren’t achieving their full potential at work. The creation of training appropriate to the role ensures that employees are receiving training that will be applicable to them and in return will help them meet their full potential.

Employees possess a desire and a need for training that is pertinent to what they actually do. They want to be able to learn more about their jobs. A 2016 study by Udemy revealed that 44 percent of respondents cite a lack of learning opportunities as a reason they left their last job. That is a significant number of employees looking for opportunities outside of their current role. It is the role of the learning developer to create training appropriate to the employee’s role. Here are a few steps to developing role-based training.


While general training provides a basic understanding, the trick is to design and deliver training content in a digestible manner so that employees can apply it to their roles. When designing role-based training, it is wise to start with getting to know the audience. The learning developers should have a basic understanding of what the audience’s roles and responsibilities are within the organization. This will help to establish the appropriate areas to cover as well as the desired outcome from the training.

Learning about the audience can be done through reviewing internal documents and procedures, conducting interviews, performing on-the-job observation, or even spending time in the employee’s shoes. The learning developer should gather and document the knowledge gained from these observations. The next step is analyzing this information and pulling from it everything that can and should be used for developing the training regimen. This knowledge will help ensure that the training is significant and impactful.


A 24X7 learning survey revealed that only 12 percent of learners say they apply the skills from the training they receive to their job. This is where learning developers need to not just know their audience, but understand their role within the organization. Establish a specific action for the audience to take with them to establish employee accountability and ownership.

When employees see how they can apply their knowledge they continue to be engaged. Training should not just cover the “what’s in it for me,” but also educate employees on how this impacts them and what to do next. This leaves them with a better understanding of how they can apply what they learned to their jobs.

Employees possess a desire and a need for training that is pertinent to what they actually do.


One out of three employees say that “uninspiring content” is a barrier to learning. Training is most optimal when the content is customized to what the employee does on a day-to-day basis.

For example, is the training for a customer service employee who handles general customer inquiries the same training given to a collections employee making outbound calls to collect on a debt? Both employees are speaking to their company’s customers, but they each have their own procedures as their roles are different. Should an employee who works with welding equipment receive the same training as a machine operator? Both need to know about safety procedures and requirements, but more specifically, they should be trained on what could happen during their shift and what to do in that scenario.

Similar job positions are often combined from a training perspective, but might not be the best approach. Role-based training should not be one-size-fits-all. Training needs to be tailored to the employee’s role so that it can be wholly applied on the job.


When developing the training content, the material may change depending on the direction and overall tone of the training. This delivery execution is critical to how employees will retain and apply the material. In a growing age of e-learning, a virtual course may have the same (or greater) impact than a meeting that lasts for an hour.

According to eLearning Industry, corporate e-learning has increased by an astonishing 900 percent over the last 16 years. When working through scenarios, an interactive virtual classroom or live cohort may be the best choice. In a primarily Gen-X workforce, ATD reports that social learning approaches have a 75-to-1 ROI ratio over web-based training.

In addition to knowing the roles and responsibilities of the audience, take into consideration factors such as classroom size and participants’ location. These factors will also have an impact on deciding how to best conduct training.

Strong training content alone does not make a training session impactful. While the content is good, the delivery and presentation materials should have an equal impact. To tie the training content to the overall session, supporting training materials and activities keep the audience engaged. When generating the supporting training materials, consider how the employee performs his or her job.

Aligning training materials with the employee’s role will in return help the employee apply what they have learned back on the job. If the employee’s role is primarily working independently at a desk performing a specific task, self-paced e-learning may align best with how the employee prefers to learn. Taking employees out of their comfort zone may be helpful in some situations, but if the audience changes their focus or becomes distracted then the training will be less beneficial to them. On the flip side, employees who work in sales and often interact with groups of people would benefit more from a classroom and/or group setting. This training could include activities and interactions that promote group interaction and mirror their daily atmosphere. Having an instructor lead the training session will help to drive conversation and interactivity.

Providing applicable case studies are great reference materials on real-life examples. Working through scenarios and simulations often have a greater impact on professionals who are specialized in a specific skill, such as a heart surgeon, machine operator, manager or bank teller. These learning scenarios could be conducted individually or as a group, depending on the employee’s role. This is a great time to be innovative. With growing technology, virtual simulations could put the trainee “in the moment.” The training should speak as specifically as possible to that employee and his or her day-to-day tasks.


The next step is to monitor and ensure that employees are applying what they have learned. Reinforcement helps to close any gaps and ensures that employees are knowledgeable and applying what they have learned. Again, this assessment should be tailored to the employee’s role. During the “getting to know your audience” phase, it is important to determine how the audience is evaluated. The training reinforcement should equate to the employee’s normal evaluation. As employees are evaluated on their performance after training, it should mirror how they are evaluated on their day-to-day performance.


The average employee only devotes 1 percent of their work week to training. That equates to 4.8 minutes a day and 24 minutes a week. As learning professionals, it is critical to help employees make the most of that 1 percent. Role-based training provides employees with the tools and resources they need to not just do their job, but to perform it accurately. Role-applicable training can optimize an employee’s skill set and set them up for long-term success in their role.

6 Key Ways Role-Based Training Benefits Your Organization


January 21, 2019


Requiring learners to sit through redundant or irrelevant training is a surefire way to lose their attention. While many companies mistakenly view “one-size-fits-all” training force-fed to large numbers of employees as efficient, role-based training may be a better approach.

Each role in a company demands a different set of skills and knowledge. While there is some eLearning that may be applicable to the entire company, much skills-based training or eLearning focused on specific knowledge is applicable only to a single department or smaller subset of employees. For example, while some safety training should be company-wide—evacuation procedures in an emergency—other safety training is not. In a warehouse, forklift safety training is necessary for anyone working with or near the equipment, but not for administrative employees who rarely venture beyond their cubicles.

Attempting to make all content serve all employees, regardless of role, often ends up serving no one. It’s too broad to really teach people the role-specific skills they need, yet it still covers areas that are irrelevant to large numbers of learners. Winnowing down the all-company eLearning to barest minimum and creating role-based eLearning that targets learners more narrowly offers these benefits:

  1. Solve real problems: The cardinal rule of creating eLearning is to know your audience. By examining each role and talking to people in that role—and their managers—eLearning designers can create focused training that meets real needs rather than trying to cover everything in overly broad strokes.
  2. Personalize training: Each employee is recommended or assigned training based on the skills and knowledge needed for her role. Adding in a mechanism to test what learners already know takes personalization to another level by enabling individual learners to test out of role-appropriate training that covers material they already know. An LMS or an LXP can automate the process, pulling together job metrics, data from previous training, and results of pretests to create tailored learning paths.
  3. Anticipate and fill skills gaps: By focusing narrowly on the needs of a role, managers and L&D teams can examine the skills needed in the moment, as well as how the role is changing. They can then identify existing skills gaps and anticipate—and train for—skills that will be needed, whether due to attrition, changing technology, or shifts in the role.
  4. Prepare high performers for advancement: Tailoring training to a role allows for preparing star employees to take on new roles by creating an individual learning path that fills any gaps in their skills and experience.
  5. Save money: It might be less costly to create short, narrowly-focused training for each role than to have to constantly update massive eLearning courses each time one element changes. And less employee time is spent on redundant or irrelevant training, saving money and reducing frustration.
  6. Improve engagement: Over and over, eLearning experts emphasize that in order to be engaging, training has to be relevant to the learners. Offering learners focused training that is directly applicable on the job, and, even better, creating personalized learning paths, will increase learner engagement. They will spend more time on the training, pay closer attention—and potentially improve their performance as a result.

Explore the Possibilities

Explore ways to offer role-specific and personalized learning at the Learning Solutions 2019 Conference and Expo, March 26–28, 2019, in Orlando, Florida. Join the Workflow Learning Summit, dig into sessions on management, learning platforms, and more—and discover new ways to target eLearning to specific roles or skills gaps, and drive results.