Employee Training Methods

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe employee training methods

Two men are sitting on opposite sides of a desk and both have laptops in front of them. One man is in in foreground with his back turned to the camera and the other man is in the background with his face turned toward the camera.As is true with almost every other aspect of human resources (indeed, business), employee training methods are on the verge of transformation. However, new methods have not yet been documented, so articles on the topic are dated and, in some cases, underlying learning concepts are disputed. For example, one of the articles recommended in a recent article titled “The Most Effective Training Methods”[1] is a review and analysis of training methods published in February 2013[2].  The article reviews 13 training methods based on seven criteria: learning modality, learning environment, trainer presence, proximity, interaction level, cost considerations, and time demands.

Learn More

If those criteria are driving your choice of training, here’s the link: Training Methods: A Review & Analysis.

What is perhaps more valuable than the analysis is the prompt to look beyond the usual employee training method “suspects,” which generally include apprenticeships, internships, on-the-job training, lectures, job rotation, simulations and e-learning. To those, author Tony Lam adds: case study, games-based training, job shadowing, mentoring, programmed instruction, role-modeling, role play, stimulus-based training, and team training. The methods are defined, as in Lam’s review, briefly below:

  • Case Study: Provides the participants an opportunity to develop skills by presenting a problem, without a solution, for them to solve, or with a solution, as an example of how to solve it.
  • Games-Based Training: Trainees compete in a series of decision-making tasks which allows them to explore a variety of strategic alternatives and experience the consequences which affect the other players, but with without risk to the individuals or the organization.
  • Internship: Involves supervised, practical training while on the job where the trainee is permitted to work in the position for which they are training, but with some restrictions and with substantially less pay or no pay.
  • Job Rotation: Involves training for a job by working in the job for a limited duration, while still maintaining the original job.
  • Job Shadowing: Involves a trainee closely observing someone perform a specific job in the natural job environment for the purpose of witnessing first-hand the details of the job.
  • Lecture: Involves the dissemination of training material by a trainer to a group of trainees, by means of verbal instruction.
  • Mentoring & Apprenticeship: Involves a one-on-one partnership between a novice employee with a senior employee. Mentorship aims to provide support and guidance to less experienced employees whereas apprenticeship is for the development of job skills.
  • Programmed Instruction: Involves the delivery of training through instruction that is delivered by a program via some electronic device without the presence of an instructor (think: language training).
  • Role-Modeling: Involves the live presentation of skill(s) to an audience of trainees.
  • Role Play: Requires trainees to assume a character and act out the role in a make-believe scenario or series of scenarios; learning comes by way of reflection on the play.
  • Simulation: Involves the use of a simulator where specific skills are developed through repeated practice with a multisensory experience of imitated conditions. A special form of simulation training is Virtual Reality Training which entails total sensory immersion.
  • Stimulus-Based Training: Using some type of stimulus (i.e., music, works of art, narratives, etc.) to motivate the learner to learn. The training induces a state of being (e.g., relaxation or awareness) in the participants to achieve learning.
  • Team Training: Intended exclusively for groups of individuals that behave interactively, to either improve mutual knowledge within a team or to train the team on a team-specific skill.

Should You Use The Learning Pyramid?

To the disputed learning theory point: one of the frameworks that is often cited and, in fact, used as the basis for training method/program design or selection is referred to as the Learning Pyramid or “cone of learning,” which purports to reflect the rate of learning retention after a 24-hour period based on 7 different types of learning ranging in effectiveness from lecture (5%) at the top of the pyramid to teaching others (90%) at the base. Specifically, the model states that “We do better as teachers and trainers if we let learners see, hear, experience, try and teach it to others.”[3]

In a WorkSMART blog post titled The Myth and Mystique of the Learning Pyramid, the author notes that “the model could never be substantiated by research findings” and cites research commissioned by Cisco that concluded “ the optimum design depends on the content, context, and the learner [and that] most effective designs for learning adapt to include a variety of media, combinations of modalities, levels of interactivity, learner characteristics, and pedagogy.”[4] Further research published in Education concluded that “for successful learning experiences, students need to experience a variety of instructional methods and that direct instruction needs to be accompanied by methods that further student understanding and recognize why what they are learning is useful.”[5]

Key takeaway: check your assumptions—and evaluate learning results—to arrive at your own conclusions about what works for different learners, learning retention and, ultimately, employee performance.

Training with Technology

Photograph of five people sitting around a table in a meeting room. At the front of the room is a large TV with a virtual participant joining the meeting.Technology and AI is not only changing the way we live and experience the world, it will change the way we learn, including employee training. In a HRTechologist article[6], staff writer Chiradeep BasuMalick observes that

AI will have three powerful impacts on learning and development:

  1. Personalizing the learning experience—AI allows organizations to leverage employee data for insights and develop customized learning experiences. These insights and user data can also be used to develop predictive capabilities and create content that “adaptive, intuitive, and responsive to a learner’s personal journey.”
  2. Virtual mentoring—Intelligent mentors utilize AI techniques to evaluate and track learner progress, estimating subject matter understanding and retooling the program as necessary. These systems can offer feedback and guidance to support learning and recommend targeted training to continue the learning process. In addition, virtual tutors can be used in conjunction with face-to-face mentoring, allowing for greater personal and strategic impact at a lower cost.
  3. Advanced analytics—Providing human resource management with insights into learner progress, retention and related metrics, and allowing for effective evaluation, identification or any gaps and redesign is/as needed.

Coming full circle, BasuMalick invites the reader to “imagine a future where AI instructional designers are taking charge of virtual classrooms, powered by real-time case studies and simulations.”

PRactice Question


  1. Raynolds, Jeremy. "The Most Effective Training Methods." HR Daily Advisor. May 22, 2019. Accessed July 18, 2019.
  2. Ostrowski Martin, Barbara & Kolomitro, Klodiana & Lam, Tony. "Training Methods: A Review and Analysis. Human Resource Development Review." 2013. Accessed July 18, 2019.
  3. "The Myth and Mystique of the Learning Pyramid." WorkSMART. Accessed July 18, 2019.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Basumallick, Chiradeep. "3 Incredible Ways AI Will Transform Learning and Development." HR Technologist. November 20, 2018. Accessed July 18, 2019.