7 Ways to Keep Your Tools Sharp and Get The Most Out of Employee Training
Training is expensive.
Let me rephrase that. Training is expensive if it doesn’t stick.
There is a lot of great training out there but it usually comes with a price. Let’s break that investment into your valued employee down a little more specifically: There is the cost of the tuition, in many cases, for the training event they are attending. There is the cost of travel, transportation, meals and lodging. There is the labor cost for the employee while they are at training, and there is the lost revenue that the employee would have generated if they were working. There may be more, but it adds up to a sizeable investment.
If the training received is effectively deployed by your employee, this cost becomes an investment. Sometimes we get that result organically, but that is rare in my experience. It’s not that your employee doesn’t want to use it, but this thing called “human nature” gets in the way. We tend to gravitate back to the process we are familiar with because change is often difficult. There are some actions we can take post training to help our people get the most out of the information they received and get that power to the ground. Here are some tips:
1. Review the training with them immediately after they complete it.
Get an understanding of the content and their understanding of the content. There are typically unanswered questions that could benefit from more clarity. Your job is to flush those out. This serves two purposes: It gives you an avenue to clarify anything there may be confusion on, and it gives them a chance to teach what they have learned. Learning happens when the student becomes the trainer. It may also give you a better idea of what they learned and how to reinforce it. You must create the environment that helps this new process grow instead of wither.
2. Set clear expectations about what results you expect to see from this investment.
It’s not enough to expect it, you must require the change. As the leader of the organization, the outcome you expect must be clear. This must be done in a positive way, but it should be concise. This can be established with the participant before attending the training event by setting goals together and defining the results.
3. Make a training plan.
Have an intentional approach, so your weekly meetings have a predetermined direction. By building a plan, you become less reactive and more proactive when delivering the information. Identify what training needs to happen, and set a course for how and when that knowledge is passed on.
4. Reinforce the training in weekly meetings for the whole team.
Our process needs to be heard consistently and the tools and phrases from the training should be top of mind. Training isn’t “one and done.” Like anything that is to be mastered, it needs practice, drill, and rehearsal until it becomes a habit. By continuing to train every week, our teams hear the same key phrases consistently until they click and become part of their vocabulary. We don’t often understand something new on the first pass. Sometimes it takes a few exposures before the light goes on.
5. Spend time on weekly coaching.
Weekly coaching is one of the highest return activities I see, yet many leaders can’t seem to make the time for it. It has such a dramatic effect on the culture of your company and the performance of your team. I think of weekly coaching like steering a ship; every week you can correct the course and help your teammate get back on track, so at the end of the month they arrive at their destination. If you wait until the month is done, you end up way off course. The reasons our employees get off course are many. The reason may not even be their fault, and weekly coaching can give you the feedback you may need to correct course elsewhere in the business. By speaking with your teammates every week, the lines of communication grow stronger and more effective. This also gives you the valuable time with your employee to really focus on some developmental opportunities that can’t be tackled in group training. Weekly coaching provides the safe zone where learning happens.
6. Build processes to support new concepts learned in training, to provide the accountability piece that is often missed after training.
t is not enough to ask your employees to do something. Our company processes must support those activities so they can take root. If the critical pieces aren’t in place, the process will fall apart. Worse yet, we allow it to fall apart because we haven’t developed the solution to the problem. Measurement and tracking are often key pieces to determining if a process is effective.
For example: If our new process is to give the customer options on every visit, and we are requiring the technicians to fill a sheet like that out, then we should have a process that measures how many calls they ran and how many of those options sheets were turned in to the office. This gives us the data to determine if the activities are happening that will drive the result we are looking for. It’s not enough to wait for the results. The activities need to happen before we can truly measure the result. Then we can determine the result of our training by looking at the results.
7. Ride along with your employees.
This is another high return activity, where the rubber meets the road and you can see the results of your training investment right before your very eyes. It is often a big eye-opener when you get to watch your employees at work. Ride-alongs give you a great view of how effective your training is and what opportunities for improvement you may have. It is also an invaluable way to learn the challenges your employees may be facing because of a failed process or other roadblocks you weren’t aware of. When you do find a solution to one of these problems, not only will your performance improve, but your team will be less stressed.
Ride-alongs also give you the time and focus to train your employee while they are working their craft. This is real-world feedback in their own environment. It’s not just theory. I have often had technicians and salespeople tell me, “You really brought me luck today.” It’s not luck. When a proven process is followed great things happen, like happy customers and greater revenue. By riding with your field employees, you can help them identify behaviors they may not be aware of and help them get back on track.
I titled this article “Keeping the Tools Sharp,” because training really is like sharpening your tools. Every time you help your employees get better at their jobs they become sharper and more effective. This can help them make more money in some cases, depending on your incentive or bonus plans. Helping them boost their income as a result of training and accountability is a win. Training also helps them avoid many bad customer encounters and endure less frustration as they do their job. Most of our customer complaints are self- inflicted because we didn’t follow the process. By training your techs to identify needs, give options, and get customers involved in the right solutions, everybody wins. Stress gives way to job satisfaction and happier customers.