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.


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.