For so many businesses, training has been considered a double-edged sword. Although we all consider training to be important, so many executives avoid or neglect the training needed to ensure that the newly hired or promoted employee will be successful. Instead of implementing a training program, what I often hear is frustration about employees who aren’t up to speed or who just “don’t get it” with respect to their job responsibilities.
It seems that the biggest problem is that we assume that employees should just know how to do their jobs or they should know what we need and want from them. We also assume that the way we are doing something is the right way or at least an acceptable way to carry out the functions of our jobs. This applies equally to the owner, manager or newly hired employee.
Unfortunately, many managers and business owners assume the problem is hiring. Although part of the difficulty with getting employees to produce is hiring, it is often the simple lack of a training plan. Because the hiring process is often long and tedious, by the time we finally hire someone, we want them to know everything about doing the job.
Another issue is the perception that training is expensive.Although I don’t disagree with the fact that training can be expensive, I suggest that you look at the expense of not properly training your staff. Those expenses include the cost of losing potentially good employees, the additional costs in terms of time and money of continually hiring and firing, and the costs associated with having to correct the errors made by untrained staff.
Another objection I hear is that “if I train them, they will leave and go elsewhere for more money.” Although that can happen, it is also true that if you establish a program to reward those who do well, your employees will be less inclined to leave.
To implement your training program it is best to start with a list of the various skills and tools that are required for the position. The more detailed the lists, the better your training will be. Please keep in mind that it is not realistic to expect your new lower-level employee to be able to do everything that you or a senior staff member can do. In fact, your unrealistic expectations may be the reason for employee failure. .
Creating your skills and tools lists is critical for the success of your training program. The more thorough these lists are, the easier it will be to train your employees. Once you have created complete lists, order them by difficulty, listing the simplest skills and tools first. In creating your lists, include everything, even such things as loading and unloading trucks, clean up, etc. Although you may decide some of these tasks are too simple to require training, at least you will have a complete list of what is expected of your employees. By organizing the skills and tools in order of difficulty, you will also have the basis for determining employee levels, such as junior carpenter, carpenter and so forth.
Once you know what you want from your employee in a particular position, it is important to find out what your employee knows and what he/she needs to learn. I’d like to caution you here, that it is not enough to ask an employee if he/she can do something—have that person show you how do it or at least tell you how he/she would accomplish the task. By doing this, you will avoid the costly incident reported to me by a client who asked his employee if he could install a countertop, then let him do it—and it was all wrong.
The next part of the training program is to show the employee how to do those tasks or functions that they haven’t yet learned. This is where it may seem tedious—this is also where you stand to win big. As your employees learn more, they become more valuable, not only in their ability to better do their jobs, but in their ability to eventually train others.
In the Hubbard Management System, author L Ron Hubbard refers to two phases of management – “Phase I …An executive single-hands while he trains his staff, Phase II … An executive gets people to get the work done.” He then describes Phase I more fully as, “essentially an executive is a working individual who can competently handle any post or machine or plan under him. He is a training officer as well. He designates who is to do what and sees that a training action is done by himself or others to be sure the post will be competently held. … Thus an executive accepts help conditionally until it is demonstrated to be help and meanwhile does not relax his control of a sector below him until he is sure it is functioning.”
Although your training program does not need to be complicated, it is essential to a successful organization. Recognizing and following the two phases described above will ultimately lead to a successful training program—then to a successful, productive staff and ultimately a more successful business. —Lorraine Hart
Lorraine Hart is the president of Ideal Consulting Services, a business consulting firm. Lorraine is a past president of the NYC/LI Chapter of NARI. Lorraine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.