By Beth Borrego
Let’s face it, many small business owners are overwhelmed with getting work done and getting paid. Their focus is on the job at hand and their attention is on those tasks pertaining to just that job. Many small business owners just show the employees what they need to do briefly, then send them on their way with little to no explanation as to why they need to perform certain tasks, and little more about what they are actually doing or why it’s important. Some of these employees are just helpers with no clear explanation of their job duties and no clear path toward any kind of future. These employees are laborers, a means to an end, and many don’t have any kind of opportunities for advancement. In this article, we’re going to explore opportunities to enrich your employees in an effort to help them become more valuable to you than you may have thought possible. Employee training is a vital part in educating and retaining your employees, and should be an important part of how you cultivate your staff. Let’s look at some of the possibilities for offering training.
Some companies will offer to pay a percentage of their employees’ tuition costs for the successful completion of a college course in a particular field of study. An example of this might be, 100 percent reimbursement for an A, 80 percent for a B, and 70 percent for a C. The employee would have to show a copy of the transcript at the end of the semester stating the grade along with the receipt for registering.
Some trade associations offer multi-day certification training courses at their national conventions. This type of training class provides the opportunity to earn certification on specific skills. This is especially nice if the classes test the students before awarding a certificate, and then awards the certificate only if a certain minimum score is achieved. Enriching your staff at such an event is both motivational and educational. Many conventions also have shorter seminars on a variety of topics that are not multi-day classes. These seminars tend to last an hour or so, and provide a nice overview or refresher on a variety of topics.
You might consider purchasing books and videos specific to the skills you wish to teach. You can then teach the topic in sections, and provide a test or quiz if necessary. This is a great way to train in house at a pace that is geared toward the individuals on your staff.
Develop a manual specific to your company and what’s considered to be critical knowledge that your employees absolutely must learn in specific positions. Again, you might want to test or quiz the employees to ensure retention. Make studying and testing on the manual part of the employee training, then refresh as needed.
It might be once a week, every couple of weeks, or once a month, but conducting training meetings every so often is a great way to teach employees about a new topic. If you break down the topics you want to teach into sections, you may find it easier to do. You might also have a suggestion sheet where employees can suggest job related topics that they are interested in learning about, or feel they need more depth on.
This doesn’t have to be fancy, but you could give your staff trade journals and magazines to read and tell each of them to pick a topic and a date. Next, have them write it down on a sign-up sheet or calendar. On the appropriate day, that staff member will have to speak to their team and present to them what he or she learned about the topic they read. This is a great way to make sure they are studying and retaining what they read, and it also gets them communicating with their teammates. It can be made to be fun too. For example, hold the presentations first thing in the morning and serve coffee and donuts or bagels.
It’s important to cross train your employees so that if someone is sick, on vacation, or leaves the company, another employee can perform their function without a problem. This works very well where multiple people work together on a crew. It’s also a great way to see if there are any natural leaders in the group.
Once they are able, empower your employees to train new staff. This adds depth and responsibility to the employee who is doing the training, it frees up the manager’s time, and it shows the new employee that they are working in a team environment. These are all good things. Have you got a rising star on your team?
Every so often, you will come across a situation that is perfect for teaching. Always keep in mind, that what might be routine to you, is not routine for your employee. If an opportunity presents itself, talk through a hands-on scenario. Remember that there are those who learn best by doing. Teach-able moments are great forms of enrichment via hands on learning.
Take the time to explain products and how they work, don’t just tell them what they are. Extra explanation provides more depth to their knowledge. You might learn that they are really interested in some cases. Many people want to learn and grow on the job. Help them to do it!
At some point, all employees begin to look for opportunities to advance. Investing in training and education enriches the value of the employee by ensuring that they are learning new and valuable skills. Providing feedback and carving out opportunities for growth whenever possible helps to increase the longevity of the employee. Education helps to build loyalty, and loyalty helps to fuel productivity, perhaps because it can also be said that a loyal employee is happier at work. When you spend time and effort training and educating your workers, they’ll see that you care about them and about their ability to develop as employees and as individuals as they amass new skills.
You might also consider reward-ing your staff with employee of the month or something similar. When an employee performs with excellence and demonstrates a level of knowledge that is above average, recognize it. It’s not always easy learning new things, and your staff will appreciate that you noticed how much they have learned and how they have applied it. Excellence in job performance and customer service are tied to how well you train your employees. No two employers are completely alike, and while you may hire someone who has some of the skills you need, they have not been tailored to fit your business specifically. Employees are often eager to please and to learn new things, especially when they are new to your organization. Training your hires helps to solidify company policy and work practices and best methods of task execution. Rewarding learned behaviors helps to ensure that the desired behavior becomes a repeated pattern throughout their employment.
Occasionally, an employee may need some fine tuning in a specific area, or may be slower to learn. If the employee is otherwise a good worker, then taking the time to help the worker to become a better and more successful employee will not only benefit them and your business, but will look favorably upon you by other co-workers as well. Having a seasoned co-worker assist with retraining an area may be helpful, or you might need to consider having another person help with retraining. Sometimes a person simply needs someone else to explain or demonstrate something a little differently for the proverbial light bulb to go off over their head.
Empower your employees. Encourage them to bring suggestions and ideas to you, and reward them accordingly. Allow them the freedom to grow and to add value to your company apart from their normal daily routine. Give them face-to-face time with you, and talk to them about what’s going on in their jobs. Look for opportunities to gather feedback from them that may help you with their job and the company overall.
Make sure to take the time to thank your staff for their efforts, and be sincere about it. It can be as simple as saying thank you, or perhaps be a reward, such as a note with a gift card. For example if a blockbuster movie is about to be released, consider buying a gift card worth the admission for two to the theater where it is playing. On their anniversary you might write a thank you note recognizing their anniversary, and perhaps award them a one year of service award of some kind. Occasionally you might take your employees out for a bit of fun, such as a company picnic. These kinds of efforts might not seem like training, but team building goes a long way in maintaining positive morale in the workplace, and positive morale often drives people to want to do more, and to do it better.