- Online Exclusives
- Contact Us
Most businesses in this industry start small.
An owner/operator learns the skills, opens the business and attracts enough customers to earn a salary and a profit.
Soon the owner starts bumping up against a capacity ceiling — you can only grow until you are fully booked, at least in the busy season. If you want to grow beyond the amount of sales volume you can do with your own physical effort, the road to a larger, more profitable business can only be built by hiring.
Employees can get your business more capacity. It can also get you more problems. The goal is to get new employees to deliver high quality work and become productive as quickly as possible.
The need to train
In my last article (November 2012 Cleanfax), I discussed the issue of hiring the best possible employees. But no matter how good those people are when they are hired, you still need to get them to excel at the tasks you need them for because, just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, your company is only as good as your worst employee.
It is up to you to train them to learn not only the technical skills you require, but also the “soft” skills — the manner they treat your customers, the way they work with others in your company and the way they can add more sales capacity to your company.
If you are hiring a tech (or techs), they need to learn how to use and maintain the equipment you own and the supplies your company uses.
If you are hiring people who will be selling your services to customers and prospects, they need to learn your sales methods, your pricing and competitive advantages and the way you want them to represent your company.
If you are hiring people for office work, they need to learn your procedures, software, filing and scheduling systems so your office works efficiently and in an orderly manner.
In other words, you need to train your employees.
Standardize your training
I have observed that many businesses with less than 25 employees have no standardized training system in place. When I ask about the reasons why, the answers usually amount to “we’ve never had (or taken) the time.”
Right now, one of my clients is training a new part-time employee to do the tasks done previously by a person who will be leaving soon, after a number of years doing these tasks.
There are a number of tasks to be learned, none of them difficult or very technical, but accuracy and timeliness are critical. So the owner of the company is describing the task of training the new hire as his “black hole” of time — the new employee has some experience but needs to be trained to do tasks the way the owner wants them done and, while the owner is in training mode, he is less productive.
I had the following dialogue with my client:
“Do you have a written job description and method for each of these tasks?”
“No, I’ve never taken the time to do it.”
“If you had a written method for each of these tasks, would it be easier?”
“It would, but I never have the time to do it.”
“Yes, but you are spending the time right now. Why not write out the instructions for each of these tasks as you are showing the new employee, and the next time you have someone to train, make this a part of your new, written training manual? And as you hire people for other tasks, add those tasks to your training manual.”
“OK, I’ll do it, but how do I write it?”
A four-step training manual
Step One: Overview
Describe what we are doing, why we are doing it, what a good job looks like when finished.
Step Two: Understand the task yourself first
Go through the task the way it is currently being performed. This is a great time to see if there are ways you can improve the accuracy, speed or outcomes of the task.
Step Three: The method
Describe how to do what we are doing.
List the steps in sequence. A chart often helps someone see the sequence of events. Describe the difference between different levels of quality completion
Step Four: Quality control/metrics/reinforcement
It is important, once the trainee has started performing certain tasks on his own, to frequently monitor the quality of the work, measure success, progress and failures and reinforce the mission of the job.
Once the level of work is at the expected level for quality, accuracy and speed, it will still need to be regularly reviewed. Part of the reinforcement is asking the person for input to see if they have thought of ways to improve the process.
Now that you have a training manual for this one task, don’t just throw it at the new hire with a suggestion to “give it a try.”
Give it to the trainee while going through all the steps with him. Answer his questions carefully and completely.
When he is ready to do it alone, ask to see the results the first few times. Reinforce your availability to answer questions.
Set a review/follow-up date to insure the task is being done to your standards.
Ask for suggestions to improve the method, and perhaps revise the manual.
Do it in steps
Writing a training manual can be a daunting task, but if you approach it from a long-term prospective and build it task by task, you can eliminate that “black hole of time” and replace it with a training system that gets people up to speed quickly, producing quality work, while minimizing the time and effort required to properly train your employees.
This training manual system works for tasks as simple as taking out the trash or as complex as installing an electrical system in an airliner — just a different degree of complexity.
Do it, and that “black hole of time” will be gone, replaced by more productive time spent training, as it becomes easier and faster.
Your new employees will quickly become productive, effective workers, and the quality of what you offer your customers will improve.
To help you get started with writing your training manual, I have a template I can e-mail to you, free of charge. To get a copy, send an e-mail to Larry@LarryGaller.com with “Training Template” in the subject line.
Larry Galler specializes in coaching owners of small businesses to grow their business through effective marketing, customer retention programs and systemizing their business practices. Explore how he can help you during a free coaching session by calling (219) 464-9463 or e-mail Larry@LarryGaller.com. Visit his website at www.OneYearToGreatness.com.