Training Day: 3 Key Insights to Employee Training

The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.  

— Henry Ford, Founder of the Ford Motor Company

We’ve all been there, at the counter; watching helplessly as that poor cashier struggles and fumbles around with the system. They’re embarrassed, they don’t know what buttons to press and they see the impatience mounting as the line attracts more and more congregants. You know it’s not their fault, and you feel bad for them… but then again, you also don’t want to stand there for 20 minutes while they figure it out.

It’s the kind of experience that makes you think twice before going back, especially if that turns into a pattern. Businesses who stick around are usually the ones who don’t let this happen. Training is the key to an efficient, confident, reliable employee. The problem is it’s rarely up to the employees as to what sort of training they receive.

A trained employee is someone who knows their role inside and out. They know what to do in just about every possible situation that arises. They are intimately familiar with the company policies and procedures and are empowered to act. 

By contrast, an untrained employee is someone who isn’t sure what all their tools actually do. They’re not sure how to do anything outside their job description, and they’d have to check with a supervisor to know anything for certain.

One employee will be a powerful tool to help the business run smoothly and seamlessly. The other employee will be a burden to others and drag down the productivity of the enterprise as a whole. As a manager, the employee you get is almost entirely up to you. 

Here are insights all of us at Shopventory would like to share with you to help make the most of every employee.

1. Trained employees act quickly and confidently - Untrained employees hesitate and are forced to rely on others.

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Don’t you just love it when you’re working with someone who obviously knows what they’re doing? You don’t have to wait for an answer, they know it and they can explain it confidently. If they don’t know the answer, they know exactly where to find it and can quickly access the proper answer.

It’s the exact opposite of the exasperated worker who is really unsure how the equipment works and who needs a manager to do things for them. They don’t know the answers, and have no idea where they might be able to find them. It ends up being miserable for all involved. 

The employee is embarrassed but really doesn’t have much choice but to ask for help (better than bluffing and making a major mistake). The manager is interrupted in their task (they can’t just leave their employee dangling in the wind). And the customer has to stand by and wait until everything gets sorted out.

Pro Tip: 

If an employee asks a question during training, write down the answer. Classify those answers and make them easily accessible from the employee’s workstation.

2. Trained employees are loyal employees. -

Untrained employees are far more likely to jump ship.

It’s the classic strategy; building a relationship with your customers and turning walk-ins into regulars. The problem is that building any sort of relationship takes time and continuity. In other words, I’m not going to form a bond with a person whom I’ve only met once. But if I see that same person over and over every time I walk in, we’ll start to recognize each other. That’s tough to do when it’s a different person every time. Not only am I being served by a competent person, but that person clearly has a relationship with other customers. They’ve been around. I’m in good hands.

That employee also gains confidence. They know how to do the job and do it well. They get comfortable in that role and form bonds with their co-workers and customers. Other opportunities may arise, but it’s tough to just jump ship and start over. 

Untrained employees, on the other hand, feel like they’ve been thrown into the deep end with no lifesaver. They don’t feel supported or like you’ve invested in them. They usually want to be helpful, but just don’t know how. That’s a frustrating feeling, and it’s one that will grind down one’s enthusiasm until any other option looks palatable. 

Pro Tip: 

Insist on mastery. Quiz your employees. Do test runs. Enlist people you trust to come in and evaluate their performance until you’re certain they can to the job better than you can.

Make it easy to manage inventory (simplicity speeds up training)

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3. Trained employees are a time-sink … at first. -

Untrained employees are a time-sink … period.

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No one is born with skills. Talent maybe, but not skills. Skills are learned. They have to be developed, critiqued, and refined over time. Here at Shopventory, we assume a minimum of 30 days will be required to get a new hire up to speed. 

We have already planned for this person to be a positive burden on the time of everyone around them. But we know after that initial phase they know the product inside and out. If there is anything they don’t know, the employee knows exactly where to find out.

Not every business has a product quite so complex as software, but there are policies, procedures, and best practices to everything. Maybe you don’t have 30 days to invest in a new hire, but you should set the expectation that this person will need time to adjust, even if it’s a job they’ve done before. The same job can look vastly different between companies, and stamping out a bad habit should be done early. It will require more of your time, but as they gain confidence, you will start to see very generous returns on the time you invested.

Contrast this with an employee who gets minimal instruction and starts to do things their way instead of the right way. Sooner or later, it becomes everyone else’s job to keep an eye on them and even redo their work or have several of those uncomfortable talks to address what they should be doing. In the long run, that adds up to a frustrated workforce, a manager having to double-check everyone’s work and a lot of lost productivity.

Patience and diligence at the start will lead to a smoother outcome for everyone involved. It also bears repeating to write everything down. It will come in handy the next time you have to hire someone. 

Pro Tip: 

Invest the time to train someone correctly right from the start. Stamp out the bad habits before they come back to bite.

Conclusion

Any athlete will tell you their contest is usually decided long before they step into the arena. It’s decided in the gym. Training determines outcomes.

The dream employee exists, but they didn’t get that way on their own. They had education, help, and someone to show them how things are done. In other words, they’ve been trained.

Training is a time-consuming process. Someone who is being trained is an investment that may not pay off for a while. But that investment results in a more confident, capable employee who feels empowered to do their work and do it well. They know how things should be done and don’t feel like they have to “wing it”. They can be relied upon to meet your standards and are more likely to stick around. Untrained employees… well, you know. If I was your customer, I know which one I’d prefer to do business with.

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