As unemployment dips lower and lower, attracting the right employees to your organization may get trickier, and the skill levels that you are looking for in a new employees may not be as attainable as before. So, what’s a business owner to do? Well, when I owned my cleaning company, hiring and keeping people was critical to the success of the business. And yet, as you know the cleaning industry turnover is high, and the skill levels of new recruits were generally not what you would like. So, a key part of my solution was…to hire for attitude, and train everything else.
Why is good training so important? Because the skill level that an employee reaches through training is the best performance that you can expect from that employee in the future. That means that if an employee only learns to clean to a below satisfactory level through training, then they will likely always clean at a below satisfactory level, and you will spend a lot of money to solve the related problems of poor customer satisfaction, low trouble-shooting skills, and lack of knowledge of company standards.
Here are some key things in creating effective training programs.
1. Gear your training program to all learning styles. See it, hear it, observe it, do it, and then test it. If your training program hits all of those areas you will have a hit. According to Edgar Dale’s “Cone of Experience” people only retain 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear together, 70% of what they say and write, and 90% or more of what they perform. These statistics are why video training cleaning is only 50% effective.
2. Be sure that your training program covers more than just technical skills. For example, if you own a restaurant, don’t just train on the location of tables, etc., but also customer service, professionalism, company policies, sales, and all elements of the company. In my cleaning company my new employees were shocked to find out that I expected them to read the whole handbook and then pass a short quiz on our policies before moving onto the next phase, but it really set the tone for the professional expectations of our staff.
3. Set a schedule for the entire timeline for the training program. At what point during their employment will people receive this training? How long are they expected to take on each section, and what resources are required? At what points will there be checks to see that the learning is happening as expected.
4. Keep your training inexpensive and flexible. When creating the first training program for my cleaning business the first that I wanted to do was run right out and have a video made. I spoke with an organizational and training consultant and was advised to hold off for two reasons. (1) Videos were expensive, and I would want to solidify my program before investing the money, and (2) Videos are not flexible, and it would lock me in from future changes. Now, in the world of computer based training programs you can use video segments and rework them, so its much more flexible, but it still may be too big a project for starting a training program. Some alternatives to video/dvd are audio, workbooks, evaluations, tests, oral role plays, check-lists, self-evaluations, etc.
5. Try to create on-going training, not just training at the beginning of the job. Continued learning environments, where new skills are taught throughout a person’s employment, can be a great asset to a company, not only with improved skills, but also satisfied employees. Brown bag lunch lessons, quarterly trainings, or a schedule for educational speakers. I had weekly 20 minute training sessions that kept everyone always learning something new.
6. Get your staff to help create the training programs. Your trainees that are learning the material can tell you best how well you are describing the information. So, when you are short on time have the new trainee create a memo about the task that they just learned following each lesson. The trainee will learn the task quicker by describing it to someone else, you will be able to see what they did not pick up, and when finished all you have to do is polish up their memos into pieces for a training program.
7. To add audio in our training program, get a digital recorder. Digital recorders have great quality and are relatively inexpensive. You can have one on when you are going through a training process with someone, so that you may later use sound bites or transcripts from your instruction. Of course, be sure to get everyone’s approval before recording.
8. Don’t just teach the “how”, but also teach the “why”. Everyone has had the experience of either working with or being a new computer user that memorizes the sequence of steps to perform a task, and then when he/she accidentally hits the minimize button panics that they have “lost” their document. This is the kind of thing that happens when the training is missing the “why” part. People that understand “why” you do things, will be able to store information and skills longer, as well as trouble shoot problems when they arise.
9. Save time by using commercially available materials. Where a lot of companies fail when they buy a book , video, computer tutorial or other technical resource guide and expect that to suffice as their training program. How about using these products but only as part of the training program. For example, maybe utilize a video about cleaning, but create a training program to make that video a more effective training program. A schedule of assignments, study guides, tests, safety checklists, planned practice and other materials that turn the raw information into a great program.
10. Train some trainers. If you have a number of employees, it can take a big bite out of your schedule to be continually training each new recruit. It’s a good idea to train others on how to effectively train. With your new training program, it should be a lot easier to delegate this task.