Properly training staff is one of the most common problems that companies face. It is often pushed to the side in order to focus on more “important” issues. But staff training couldn’t be more important. People impact every aspect of your company. And you must train them accordingly.
Employee training and skill development is an ongoing responsibility for you as the CEO. You need to understand, and communicate, the importance of staff training. The goal is to help your staff improve their ability to perform well. This will in turn reduce frustration and help them enjoy what they do. You need to make sure that everyone takes those goals seriously.
Training tends to be the first line item cut when things get tight, but that can be a huge mistake for your company.
There are many downsides when your company doesn’t take training seriously.
High turnover: When employees aren’t trained properly they can’t perform at their best. The business demands that employees follow certain processes. If they don’t, fingers get pointed at people more often than a broken training program. This in turn leads to frustration with managers and employees. If not resolved, good people leave.
Inefficiencies: In a manufacturing environment, this can lead to waste. Improperly maintained equipment leads to overruns or safety issues and ultimately an impact on customers. If you’re in a service environment, project scopes grow out of control and get confusing or cloudy. Projects get executed poorly or aren’t delivered to the satisfaction of the client.
Culture impact: In an environment where training is non-existent or poorly executed, it can erode a culture. If people see others with poor skills getting by with no consequences, it impacts morale. Soon people just don’t see the need to go above and beyond and the entire company loses traction.
There is a financial impact to all three of these downsides. When your staff isn’t properly trained, mistakes happen more frequently. And often with greater consequences. Each mistake brings a corresponding hit to your bottom line. Paying attention to how well prepared your people are will pay off in spades.
You can either pay upfront for a solid, ongoing training program or pay later in the poor results that will come to pass.
In order to avoid that later cost, take the time to outline exactly what each position needs to know. Both in terms of generic workplace knowledge as well as specific technical training. Then create an onboarding, or reboarding, plan for each position.
Make sure to include information about the company itself as well. Company history, company values, company goals. This is an opportune time to make sure everyone is on the same page about what you do, how you do it, and where you’re going. Don’t assume that people will learn this information by osmosis. Because they won’t. They’ll get bits and pieces and maybe even some incorrect information. Be intentional and proactive about sharing this information. If you do, you’ll guarantee that everyone is learning from the same textbook.
A good way to ensure that everyone at the company is continually kept up to date on this type of company information is to hold regular, no less than quarterly, company-wide meetings. These meetings should be fun, engaging, and informative. And not too detailed or in-depth. They are more rah-rah type meetings. Celebrate successes, shout out hardworking employees, reinforce the core values, and set a clear vision for the next month or quarter. Use these meetings to reengage and reenergize your staff.
In terms of job specific training, you can’t just apply a one-size-fits-all approach.
Each position will need unique skills for success. And each individual is bringing a unique set of pre-developed skills with them. Work with each employee on an individual basis to understand their personal strengths and weaknesses.
In order to better understand what training your employees (at all levels) need to help improve their job performance, have your managers ask some of the following questions:
- What exactly do you do every day to perform your job?
- Which tasks frustrate you the most?
- Do you find yourself having to redo any tasks or processes daily?
- Where are the bottlenecks? People, Processes, Profit/Revenue challenges?
- Name three tasks that you perform every day that you do very well.
- Give me three tasks that you perform every day that you struggle with.
- Define the most critical tasks you perform every day.
- When you encounter a problem, do you know where to go to get answers?
- Can you identify where your responsibility lies in the overall workflow?
- If you knew more about _____________ would you feel more confident in your performance?
Have these conversations on a regular and ongoing basis. Doing so will keep you up-to-date on training needs as well as further emphasize the importance of training and development.
Employees may be reluctant to tell leadership what they don’t know.
It’s human nature to avoid discussing weaknesses. Being asked to articulate something they do not know about their job can feel uncomfortable and awkward. They may fear that admitting they don’t know something will lead to their dismissal.
To counteract those fears, you have to build a culture of feedback at your company. A culture where everyone asks for feedback and how they can improve. Help your people understand that not knowing something isn’t a weakness. And help them feel comfortable sharing where they need help. Make sure to emphasize the value you place on continuous improvement.
The most effective way for you to ease their fears is by helping each employee see the impact their performance has on the bottom line. And that this training will help to improve that impact. When people understand that what they do every day increases the company’s chance for continued success, they become engaged in their own self-directed learning approach.
It is vital that you don’t overlook staff training.
Without properly trained staff, your company will be continually moving in the wrong direction. It’s your job to make sure that every single one of your employees is able to perform at their best every day. Ongoing training is a critical aspect of that ability to perform.
You don’t have to do all the work yourself. Engage your staff in creating their own development plans. This will not only make the plans more applicable to the individual employee, but it will also get more buy-in from the employee. They will be in charge of their own learning journey which means they will be more likely to actually learn.
Remember that everyone wants to learn and grow. It’s your duty as a manager and a leader to help them do that. Doing so will make your staff more engaged and more effective and your company will be more profitable. A win-win.
Written in part by Laurie Taylor of Flashpoint! LLC with edits and additions by Clay Eure.