Derek Bok, Former President, Harvard University
Training is a lost art. Even in this era of 'on-boarding' and talk of return on investment (ROI), too often job training consists of supervisors handing new employees a manual and telling them to read it. A week later, the newbie is expected to know the job.
In some cases the only training new hires get is first hand experience, through 'trial by fire' or 'sink or swim'.
In one Oregon company, employees have to take a test to qualify for a job upgrade. There is no training manual, required reading, or suggested coursework to prepare them. They take the test and either pass or fail. Eighty percent fail.
And passing the test is no guarantee that employees will be able to do the job once they get it.
"I was on the job six months before I got any training," said Stacy. "I was expected to talk to customers and answer questions about our services. It was incredibly stressful. I never knew the answers and customers got really frustrated. But when I asked co-workers for help they got annoyed and told me to just look it up in the manual."Lack of Training Kills Enthusiasm and Creates Conflict
"Everyone was too worried about looking good, and too busy to help me," she said. "Besides, no one helped them learn their jobs, so why should they help me?"
As the economy slowly recovers, more companies are hiring. But in an effort to save money, some companies are skimping on the training their people need to be successful in the job.
Failure to provide on-the-job training wastes time and money. It creates unnecessary stress for new employees--killing whatever enthusiasm and confidence they brought to the job. Seasoned employees are left with the work, leading to burnout and conflict between employees.
Well Trained Employees Get More Done in Less Time
A solid training program requires a short-term commitment of time and money, but it saves time and money in the long-run. A well-trained employee knows how to get more done in less time--making it easier to help other employees sooner.
Solid job training includes a variety of experiences--including interacting with other staff, participating in on-line training, watching others perform the job, and doing the job while getting immediate feedback.
Training manuals or on-line programs are helpful aids to new employees, but only if new hires are also shown how to apply and practice the knowledge and skills presented. Most people learn best through doing and interacting, not through reading or listening.
Train New Employees in Less Time Through Interactive, 'Show, Don't Tell'
To train new employees in less time, have newcomers actively engage in the learning process by compiling a list of questions they need clarified as they learn the job. Assign an in-house coach to act as their point-person to answer questions, direct on-the-job learning experiences, and provide immediate feedback.
A 'show, don't tell' approach works best for most learning styles. Show new employees how you handle the client or perform the job, then let them do it and provide feedback on their performance. It helps newcomers see how you interpret the rules and regulations, and navigate the internal system. And you'll help that novice get over the 'I don't know how to do it' hump when you provide her immediate feedback.
Newcomers view the job through different eyes than trained workers. Through their untrained eyes they see most new tasks as anything but easy. This makes it easier for them to see the details that need to be added to a training guide or the orientation experience.
You can position the trainees to coach the next set of new hires by having them follow up their daily training with a quick summary of what they learned, what they still need to learn, and suggestions for how they would improve the training for others.
It's the Little Things that Make Newbies Feel Inept
Starting a new job is stressful. Even if newbies know how to do the big stuff in the job, all those little details-- like which computer screen to pull up to access a form, or how to transfer a phone call--can be killers. As a result, even the most competent professional can feel inept.
As a result of the stress, people just starting a job are on overload and approach training manuals as if they can't understand them, and approach new tasks as if they can't do them. When they're trying to look competent and put their best foot forward, they can be embarrassed to speak up and ask questions. Make their questions a natural and integral part of the training program.
Help Newcomers Feel Competent Faster
Help your new employees feel competent faster. Calm their fears by walking them through training materials and showing them how the job is done. Watch them do the job and provide immediate feedback on how they're doing.
Your training efforts will be rewarded with more competent, confident help sooner, and better working relationships between new and old employees. There are no stupid employees--only untrained ones.
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