8 Steps to Successfully Train Your Employees

One of the most important assets to any company or business is well trained employees. A company or business that does not invest in their employees will fail to thrive and is not likely to run smoothly or efficiently. When employees are properly trained and possess the necessary skill set and knowledge to perform their jobs competently, the company or business will grow and prosper.

When it comes to training your employees, a solid training program is key. The following 8 steps below will help you develop a strong and efficient plan to create versatile, efficient and well-rounded employees.

Construct A Program

The first step in creating a great training program is to decide what you want your employees to learn and master. Make a list of everything that an employee should know in order to perform his or her job satisfactorily and well.

Begin by sharing basic information first, in order to build a foundation. There is a reason that addition is taught before multiplication in school; in order to understand the concept of grouping required to solve a multiplication problem, you must first know the basic addition facts. Once those basic facts are mastered, then the grouping concept can be applied to teach multiplication. A student who has mastered the fact that 3+3+3=9 can see that 3 groups of 3 equals nine, and that translates to 3×3=9. This is a spiral curriculum concept and is the type of learning that should be used with your employees; each concept learned should build upon previous concepts that have been mastered.

As training is progressing, stop and evaluate whether there are any training gaps in your training program. It is ok if retraining of some concepts is needed. Each employee is an individual and will require different learning strategies in order to succeed. Ongoing assessment will be necessary in order to determine the need for re-training or coaching as the employee continues his or her journey with the company.

Hold Mini Training Sessions Regularly

In order to keep your employees sharp, it is a great idea to hold regular training meetings with your staff. Not only do these mini sessions keep your employees’ skills up to date, but you can utilize this time to inform employees of changes occurring within the company or industry and introduce advanced skills that are needed for day to day routines. This information will increase the employees’ knowledge about the company and industry, thus making them more efficient and competent in their positions.

To make these sessions as beneficial as possible, it is best to have staff attendees organized by department, shift or team. Not all departments, shifts or teams need the same information in order to complete their job. For example, the mailroom staff do not necessarily need to know about tax changes being made by the government; but, your accounting staff definitely needs to know that information in order to perform their job competently and keep the company finances in order. Giving employees non-essential information will cause confusion and may overwhelm some staff.

Don’t Overlook Tenured Employees As Trainers

It is unrealistic, in today’s high-paced business world, to expect that all bosses know every aspect of every employee’s job. The reality is that today’s bosses know what is on each employee job description (maybe), but that’s about it. Years ago, before all the technological advances, it was necessary for bosses to be much more knowledgeable and hands on with their employees and business. This is not as true today and many bosses now have administrative or Human Resources staff to handle the bigger tasks.

Bosses: Don’t overlook the valuable resource that may be hidden in your office this very moment; your current staff! Employees who are highly skilled can prove to be your very best trainers. They know the ins and outs of their position (and maybe other positions as well) and are most likely friendly and outgoing. If you are wondering who these individuals could be in your office, look for those employees who do not miss deadlines, are accurate, efficient and are competent in their current positions.

These employees can be tasked with leading training seminars and creating new training materials for their department. Be sure to communicate often with these trainers to ensure that they are clear on your expectations for the training process, program and materials to save issues down the road.

Cross Training, For the Win (It’s not just for sports.)

Although it may seem to be a waste of time and resources (especially if you are low on both at the moment), cross training can actually improve an employee’s competency in their current position. Employees who are given an opportunity to cross train between departments will not only gain new skills that can then be applied to their current role, but will also be able to fill staffing shortages further down the road.

Knowing how to work together with other departments is a crucial piece of the corporate puzzle in today’s industry. It is very important for employees to be able to connect the links between departments and understand how their job affects other departments. For example, a Physical Therapist needs to understand that an error in recording a diagnosis code in the paperwork of a patient will result in the incorrect billing of the patient’s insurance company. Although the error was not necessarily done on purpose, this error will cause the claim to be billed and paid incorrectly. If the insurance pays too much money, the company could be accused of fraudulent billing. If the insurance pays too little and the mistake is not caught by the billing office, the company will lose money (especially if the claim is past the time limit for timely filing). The patient could also be billed incorrectly for money that should have been collected from the insurance company. Employees need to understand how their actions and/or mistakes can trickle down through the departments of the company.

Cross training also allows for more scheduling flexibility during busy and peak vacation time periods. If a stock person has been trained on cash register and a cashier is called off, it is handy to be able to utilize that stock person to cover the cashier shift. This is a huge benefit to cross training; you have just saved the company some money by not needing to call in another cashier. Stocking the shelves can more than likely wait, but the front end of a grocery store can be a fairly busy place. Filling the need there is key.

Know Your Training Goals

Setting training goals is absolutely necessary in order for a training program to be successful. Without goals and a set program, any training that a new employee receives is likely to be disorganized, frustrating, and unsuccessful. In fact, poor training is a major factor in why employees leave a company within their 90 day probationary period. Your training program and trainers say a lot about you, as a boss, and your company. An employee who does not receive solid and consistent training may feel that they are not valued, and let’s face it- would you want to stay with a company where you don’t feel valued?

One of the first things to be determined, when considering a training program, is to think about what the employee needs to know first in order to complete his or her job competently. Bosses should also consider if training will be an individual, department, or a company wide experience.

Once the training items have been identified, a checklist should be made to ensure that the employee receives the proper training on those components. Ideally, there should be a spot for the trainer and employee to initial, as items are covered, and a column for the employee to rate his or her comfort level on the subject (on a scale from 1-5) at training; 30, 60 and 90 day intervals. There should also be a space for the employee to record comments and questions, so that the trainer and boss can follow up with the employee to ensure that all questions have been answered and issues are resolved. All training components should have a timeline for mastery so employees know when they will be expected to complete the task independently. Management, trainer and employee should all sign off on the checklist so that there are no issues later in regards to what was covered in training. This checklist can be reassessed at each training interval (30, 60 & 90 days) and can serve as part of a 90 day probationary evaluation, if desired.

As management, be sure to check in with new employees frequently. Discuss the training program and ask for honest feedback: Was it useful and helpful? What did the employee find difficult to understand? Ask the employee where he or she is struggling and what he or she likes to learn. This information can help management and the trainer repair training gaps in the program and improve it for the next new employee. The employee will also feel valued with this one-on-one time and will know that his or her opinions are heard; this will develop a good business relationship with you and your employee. Employees who feel valued are some of the hardest workers you’ll ever employ.

Do not take an employee’s criticism personally; instead, use the information to revamp some of the areas in your training program so it is ready for the next new employee. Training programs are like recipes; they take some tweaking, but with the right combination of ingredients they can be pretty amazing!

Small Business Training for Today’s Industry

In today’s competitive industry, it is not enough to just hire “good people.” In order for an employee to be successful, they need to be well trained too. Providing solid training for employees is tough; many small businesses are on tight budgets and do not view an excellent training plan as a solid investment. New employees are trained as job duties come up and they are mostly trained only for the position in which they were hired.

But, training is extremely important for many notable reasons. Most importantly, solid training will lead to better productivity. Employees who are well trained in their job duties are much more likely to work independently, efficiently and communicate well. These employees know the tasks to be completed and can go about their daily routine with little prompting and few questions. Well trained employees are the well-oiled machines within a company and can make everything run much more smoothly.

Perhaps one of the biggest motivators for management to train employees well, is the happiness factor. Employees who are well trained and actively engaged in learning are proven to be happier staff; these staff members feel valued and believe that their opinions matter. When employees are contributing personally to a company, they are more likely to invest in the company long term.

There seems to be a direct correlation between happy staff and low turnover numbers. A major reason why people quit their jobs within the first year is that they do not feel valued or involved with the company. Replacing staff regularly can become quite costly; there is wasted time with any training that was given and lost knowledge that leaves with each employee who quits. Do yourself a favor and design an amazing training program with patient and knowledgeable mentors and add in opportunities for employees to offer their opinions and suggestions. I guarantee that you will see positive results in your staff’s mood and your company’s productivity.

What Type of Training Is Right for My Company?

There are so many different types of training available in the industry today. Each comes with a list of pros and cons, as well as a price tag. You want to offer a supportive and thorough training program for your employees, but definitely need to stay within the budget allotted. So, how do you choose which option is right for your staff, your company’s future and your budget? Perhaps the training 4-1-1 below can help.

In-House Training:

This option is, by far, the most budget friendly (aka- the cheapest). This type of training utilizes current tenured employees and pairs them with new employees with the goal of preparing the new employee to enter his or her position ready to take on tasks competently.

In-house training is very easy to arrange and is relatively hands off for management. Trust your tenured employees, or mentors, to set up training times with new staff and ask them to keep you informed of the progress being made as the program is followed. This informal one-on-one training is typically well liked by new employees, as it is a more focused and less overwhelming experience.

The number one concern with this type of training is that there are no new skills being introduced into the company. Chances are that your mentors will train new employees to complete tasks in the same manner as they do. This is a factor that you will want to take into consideration when choosing mentors for the training program you wish to implement.

Online Training:

Online training offers a variety of topics and is relatively low-cost for companies. Video courses are just one option available to companies today to meet training needs. These videos come in a vast variety of training topics and lengths and can introduce a multitude of new skills to your company.

Webinars are also a great way for your employees to receive quality training on various topics. Some webinars are viewing/listening only and some of them are interactive. You need to have a strong internet connection and an up to date computer for these kinds of trainings to run smoothly; but they can be extremely beneficial and enlightening.

One great reason to utilize online training courses is that the scheduling component is very flexible; you can set the training schedule you desire for your employees. Always be sure to discuss the training schedule with those employees involved so that everyone is clear on when trainings will occur and what is expected of the employees. This way, there are no misunderstandings and everyone is on the same page.

Another great reason to utilize online training is that there is no need to leave the office; training can happen in the conference room, at the employee’s cubicle or in a small office. This lowers expenses and eliminates travel time; employees are able to get back to their daily routines and tasks almost immediately. Employees must be self-motivated in order for these types of trainings to be beneficial; so be sure that this is the case for your staff before scheduling this type of training. Otherwise, it will be wasted time and money for the company.

External Training Programs and Trainings:

This type of training is, by far, the more expensive choice; however, don’t write this option off until you have read a little bit further. External trainings include seminars, conferences and other specially designed training programs that are focused on delivering a very specific set of skills to your staff. These programs and training sessions can be game changing for your company; and here’s why.

Seminars, conferences and specially designed training programs are often held out of house at different venues and are hosted by professional trainers who have had experience practicing the specific set of skills on which they are presenting. This means that they have had hands-on experience doing what they are teaching, and this is extremely important. Presenters who have experience on the material they are speaking about are able to motivate and teach your staff far more than any online video ever could. They are able to offer first-hand knowledge, tips and tricks, and can answer questions much more in depth than a presenter who is simply teaching from a book or brochure that has been memorized. Think about it- would you rather learn to sky dive from someone who actually has experience doing so, or would you rather learn from the person who read about it in the manual and “has a good idea” of what they are doing?

Conferences and seminars also offer many networking opportunities that your staff would not have experienced with an online video training in the office. The connections that your staff makes at these events have the potential to help your company and their careers! Providing this type of training and experience for your staff shows them that you value them and truly care about their professional development. Your employees will work harder for you when they feel valued and that there is room to advance.

Although this type of training can come with a hefty price tag (cost of conference, travel/lodging/dining expenses) and loss of productivity while your staff is out, the experience and knowledge that your employees will bring back to the office makes this investment well worth the cost. Your staff is the future of your company and every company should invest in its future well.

College Credits and Other Formal Education Programs:

Many schools pay for their staff to return to college to further their education. In fact, in the education field, it is mandatory that all teachers upgrade to a Master’s Degree in a specialized field within 6 years of obtaining their Level 1 teaching certificate.

Higher education poses a vast cost for a company (or district). However, the education and training that your staff is receiving by going back to school will benefit your company in many ways. Employees who are better educated have skills and qualifications that allow them to take on more responsibility. The skills they learned in classes can also help to make daily processes more efficient and more cost effective. If processes are made more efficient and employees are taking on more responsibility, you may be able to reduce the amount of full time positions needed to carry out daily tasks in the future. This will ultimately save the company money.

Employees who are well educated are more likely to be promoted to higher positions in the company. This alleviates the need to recruit from outside the company for more crucial positions. An employee who has been promoted has proven to be loyal, hardworking, resourceful and responsible. The company already knows the characteristics and work ethic of the employee they are putting in that position and this lessens the unknowns of hiring an outside recruit for such vital roles within the company.

Orientation Programs Are Important:

Starting a new job can be a daunting and difficult task for many people. As management, it is your job to make sure that all new employees receive the information they need in order to be successful and happy in the company. This includes more than just training on the duties of the job that the employee will be performing. Some orientation material will be the same for everyone and other material will be specific to job title. It is also a good idea to find out how the employee learns best. Are they a visual learner that will need to read the manual before training starts? Do they learn best with kinesthetic (hands-on) training and like to jump right in with guidance? Do they prefer to learn by listening (auditory) and taking notes first before getting hands-on? Remember, everyone learns differently; it is important to know how your employees learn so that you can tailor the training program to fit his or her needs.

Start with the most important information that everyone wants to know, but is too afraid to ask. When going over first day paperwork, be sure to discuss the employee’s health benefits, vacation time, personal time accruals (and how to use that personal time), attendance expectations, pay and pay schedules, etc. Be sure that the employee understands who to call in the event that there is severe weather, an emergency or if he or she is ill and won’t be in that day. All of these items seem fairly basic, but they are crucial to everyday performance and should be covered accordingly so there is no confusion or misunderstanding.

Give the employee a full overview of the company. Discuss the history of the company, what your department does and why, how your department fits into the grand scheme of things within the whole company, and the company’s philosophy. If employees are given this information ahead of time, training will be much easier and more connections will be made between what is being learned and how that ties in with the rest of the company. An employee who knows the “why” behind the “how” will always be a much stronger and more diligent employee. They will become problem solvers and will be far more resourceful than an employee who is simply shown to perform a task without questioning or an explanation.

People are social beings and will flourish when paired with other employees of a common goal. Always be sure to introduce new employees to his or her team and other relevant employees within your department. When introducing employees, be sure to give each person’s name and a short explanation of how that employee fits within the department and company. It can be helpful to point out tenures for each employee as well and which employees can be utilized as resources. But, be careful not to overwhelm the new employee with too many names in one day. You may want to start with his or her immediate team and introduce some new faces each day.

During orientation, be sure to discuss the main functions of the company and your target clients; who are they and what do they expect from your company? This will help the employee to better understand his or her job and position within the company. It is very important for the new employee to understand your clients/customers, even if they will never meet.

Be up front with the new employee about your expectations for his or her position. Be sure to cover any special trainings or skills that the employee should have or will be expected to obtain while working for the company. You may want to have a checklist of these items with established time lines ready for the employee so he or she knows what is expected.

It All Comes Down To Planning and Coaching

In order for any training program to be successful, it must be well thought out and thoroughly planned. Be very specific about what you and the company want to achieve. Once you have training goals in mind, create a training checklist to help ensure that all concepts and skills are taught and covered.

Always be sure to update training materials as trends and processes change. You certainly don’t want employees to be trained incorrectly because manuals weren’t updated. Refreshing and reviewing training materials each year will help to keep them up to date and in line with the current trends.

Someone once said that, when it comes to training employees, you should strive to train them to surpass you on the career ladder. Always keep in mind the direction of a person’s career and their ambition to achieve and that not everyone you train will stay with your department or company forever.

Follow the steps and suggestions above and you will be well on your way to training your office dream team! Employees want to do their best and advance up the corporate ladder. It is up to you to make sure they have the tools and training to be successful! So, what are you waiting for? Start creating your own amazing training program today!