Back-to-school time is not just for kids

Here are 7 Steps for creating and implementing employee training and continuing education.

Typically creating employee training has a lot to do with the “how-to’s” of the business. You have either gained a new employee or are retraining an existing employee for a new position.

But…

Employee training is something that often gets placed to the side in the day to day life of the small business world. Training takes time and money, so it is easy for small businesses to become reliant upon our employees to carry forth their job without much guidance. But even the best employee is still not a business owner and may have a difficulty seeing the big picture on how they are interlinked within the company.

And…

Because of the personal nature between the small business owners and their employees, sometimes the lines can get blurred on how autonomous an employee’s job really is. This is an unfortunate occurrence that always leads to disaster. Because we hire people who are right for the position not because they are necessarily the best for running our company. That’s our job. And without frequent interactions between employees and management about the long-term plans for our businesses, it is too easy for an employee to go rogue right under our noses.  Thus when your employees are confronted with the possibility they have moved away from company policy, it can feel like a reprimand instead of guidance.  Information should proceed their need for action so they are better equipped in decision making.

Or…

If you feel creating materials is going to be a monumental waste of your time you should probably look into who you have hired. Employees who are not very concerned for their company will not be a long-term asset. Create your materials. And if they are unreceptive, find new employees who are interested in maintaining better standards.

Plus…

Creating a companywide training policy and standards are essential to defining your company name and brand well into the future. Whether you are a two-man lawn care team or a 75 employee printing company, everyone needs to be on the same page about how business is conducted.

On a side note…

It is essential that this training be made available to all employees upon first getting their job AND throughout their employment. Hard copies such as training manuals, posters, and online materials are of great benefit to those who work for you. My experience in the past is that most of my employees cared a great deal about doing an excellent job. And the only way to raise their standards to mine (or vice versa) was to be able to discuss the job over “hard copy”. And honestly, most of my best training materials have come from the hands of employees as they were deciphering the best way to get their job completed.  If time had never been taken to “train” them I would not have benefitted from their inputs.

Ready for a working plan? Here are the key points to building your employee knowledge base.

7 Steps to creating employee training materials

  1. Identify your non-self-explanatory areas of employee contribution.

This is what you offer to your clients that sets you apart from your competition. So what you’re looking for in this area of information is how you want your employees to be different from others in your market. And how you want them to behave with your clientele. It may be how something is assembled, how customer service employees are to interact, or how double whipped hot fudge Sunday cone is made.  For example: a lawn care service could have a standard way new clients are approached, jobs are estimated, and billed.  Or, there can be a set order of how the job is to be completed of mowers, trim, hedges, and leaf blower.

Clarifying important details for employees is the key to an exceptional business. It is your job as the small business owner to be the expert. Outlining those important areas for your employees is essential to quality control. Hard copy training materials are a great way of keeping those details clear.

  1. Identify areas your employees will need to use rote memorization.

Are they to say something specific when they pick up the phone? Will they need to know in exact layout of the office for delivering the mail? These are the items that you will just expect them to know what to do when the moment arises. Many of the small details get left out of training leading to frustration down the road. By not utilizing rote memorization in your employees for all the tiny details it can lead to new employees coming up with their own systems not understanding the foundations the older systems were built upon.

Many of the checks and balances we layout within our companies get lost through the overturn of employees. And it may go unnoticed that these checks and balances have been disregarded until something goes wrong. Keeping your company’s standards and identity at the forefront of the employees mind when they are at work will head off many problems before they begin.

One thing I will add here is customer service standards. The people who are face-to-face with your customers and those speaking on your behalf should be continuously monitored to ensure your ideals are continuing. Customer interface is by far one of the most difficult parts of business and requires the most management.

  1. Determine the best ways to get the information to the key employees

This can be the simplest part of the whole process.  The possibilities are endless will from where employees can get access to their training and job standards. You can create manuals, online documentation, posters, or even simple reminders strategically placed. I once stuck a yellow smiley face Walmart sticker on our desk phone to remind our secretary at the time to smile when she spoke to customers. This sticker referenced a “hot-list” sheet she needed to complete every time there was a customer interaction: smile while talking, be diligent in collecting the important information, arrange a specific re-contact time and method, make no assumptions or offer solutions outside of your directive, always “pass the buck”, maintain a professional relationship with the clientele, hard copy the customer’s needs to me that business day, and follow-up with me to be certain the customer’s needs were addressed by me.

Just having a simple list of what was expected during a phone conversation with the customer helped her to know exactly how to complete her job. She knew as long as she did all the things on the list to assist the customer I would be thrilled with her regardless of whether or not the customer was thrilled. This made her job much easier for her because she had only one person to keep happy and that was me. My desire was for her to be a pleasant first stop for my clients to get in touch with me where I in turn could meet their needs in a non-reactionary way.

The key to succeeding here is being certain the information is readily available when needed for reference.  Not requiring employees to run on assumption.   And simpler is usually always better.

On a side note, the people who face the public on a day-to-day basis typically have one of the harder jobs in a company.

  1. Create your new training materials and schedule a time to train employees

Easy: Keep it simple, keep it smart, and keep it convenient.

  1. After a predetermined amount of time, evaluate the employee training to see if it was sufficient for your needs.
  2. Re-address any areas of training that were lacking and celebrate this leap forward as a company

Not sure where to start?

Start with your weakest link.

What areas do you get the most complaints on? Or, the most customer turnover/noncommittal?

It is always better to plug the hole in the boat bottom rather than to be continuously bucketing out the water.