Hiring new employees can be stressful enough. Once they show up on that first day of work you may feel like your job is over – but it’s just beginning. Making sure you provide appropriate training, from the “get go,” can make the difference between a long-term, loyal and effective employee and an ineffective slacker! Following are “7 Essentials” of effective staff training, simple techniques that can be easily implemented for maximum results.
1) Focus on Individual Staff Needs
Not every new – or existing – employee has the same training needs. A new employee with extensive experience doing the same type of work that will be done in their new job will obviously need less formal training than a new employee who has never specifically done this type of work before.
Too often training is designed to be “one size fits all.” Generic training can either be too basic for a new staff member causing them to wonder “is this job going to be challenging enough?” or too advanced causing them to worry “will I be able to succeed in this position?
The first step in any training process is to evaluate the individual needs of the trainee – where are they at in terms of their knowledge, skills and abilities related to this job? Where do they need to be? Training should focus on filling that gap.
2) Create a “Desire to Learn”
The most effective training is delivered to trainees who are motivated and interested – who have a “desire to learn.” In most cases, new employees do come to you with that desire. They’re fresh. They’re motivated. They want to succeed in their new position. But what if you’re re-training an employee for a different position? One that he/she may not necessarily be interested in? Or what if you’re training an employee on technology that he/she is intimated by? These situations can create anxiety and hamper the effectiveness of training.
How can you create a desire to learn? Here are some tips:
- Listen to the employee’s concerns. If you can understand – and address – the employees’ worries and insecurities about training, you can remove a significant barrier to learning.
- Provide examples of specific, tangible ways that the training will help the employee.
- Involve the employee in establishing training objectives, timeframes and methods (more on these later).
- Focus on “development” not “remediation.” Nobody likes to feel that they’re inadequate or lacking in critical skills and knowledge needed to perform in their jobs. But many people can be motivated by the prospect of developing new skills and abilities. Do whatever you can to avoid making trainees feel “incompetent” or “stupid.”
3) Make Learning “Fun”
Learning doesn’t have to be tedious. Professional trainers speak of “creating a learning environment.” This means many things, including the need to remove trainees from their day to day responsibilities so they can focus on the training and making sure there is enough variety built into the training that trainees will remain engaged. For example, a straight lecture for six hours isn’t “fun” for anybody – including the trainer. But lecture, combined with exercises, small group discussion, hands-on application of things learned, etc., will help to break up the monotony and ensure more effective outcomes.
4) Develop an Evaluation Plan
Training should never be done simply for the sake of training. Make sure that you have some method in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the training. Maybe this is a pre and post-test to determine whether specific concepts have been learned. Maybe it’s a post-evaluation done three to six months after the training to determine whether the training has “stuck.” Maybe it’s an evaluation of performance by supervisors and peers. In any event, make sure that you build in some means of measuring training effectiveness. And, if you find that the training has not been effective, take the time to reevaluate the methods and processes used and to make necessary adjustments.
5) Help Employees Apply Learning to the Job
Just learning concepts without understanding how those concepts apply to the “real job” is a waste of training time and money. Employees need to understand how what they’re learning applies to what they will be doing. One way of ensuring that this transfer will take place is to involve supervisors and coworkers in the training process. They should understand what is being done in training and should be “partners” in ensuring that the value of the training is supported and reinforced in the work setting. When supervisors “scoff” at the training or consider it a waste of time, never reinforcing to employees how what they learned applies to their jobs, it sends a signal that the training was useless – and undermines your investment (in time and dollars) in that employee.
6) Choose the “Right” Training Method
People have different learning styles and preferences. Some people read the instructions first, others refer to the instructions only after they’ve tried to “figure it out” on their own. Some prefer theory; others hands-on application. To the extent that you can (obviously it can get expensive to design individual programs for every employee…) make an effort to match training methods to learning preferences of employees.
7) Follow up and Evaluation
How many employees (and business owners!) have 3-ring binders from training sessions that they’ve never looked at after the training ended? Training is an ongoing process, not a discrete event that occurs once and is then forgotten. Make sure that you’re building in methods of following up on what was learned, evaluating the effectiveness of that learning, modifying future training, etc.
And, don’t assume that once you’ve “trained” an employee your job is done. You should be continually assessing your employees’ knowledge, skills and abilities and providing training, as necessary, throughout their employment.