Training is a paradox. If you train your staff, they are not just more valuable to you, they are also more valuable to your competitors. Once they have your training, maybe they will simply leave.
• Hire those who learn fast
• Use just-in-time training
For years consultants have told me to train my employees, that training makes them more productive. But when I do, the employees often walk out the door and some other company gets the benefit of all the money and time I spent!
Like a lot of businesspeople, this advice bugged me and confused me. I knew it was true: better-trained people performed better. Then I started implementing just-in-time training.
This approach is much better, and your competitors don’t get a freebie. Create valuable bundles of tasks and responsibilities for new employees—meaningful roles—as soon as they join you. Creating doable, real roles early on requires unbundling the elements of more complex existing roles and creating new, narrower jobs that people learn quickly to start contributing immediately.
This approach gives your employees a great sense of ownership in their work. It also leads to a greater quality commitment, since their reputations are tied directly to observable results within their control. As a person gets up to speed on each set of tasks and begins performing them ably, your goal is to keep adding new responsibilities. Train them in stages for each new work bundle.
The good news is that you can give pieces of important work to people who don’t yet have the depth and wisdom for the whole job. However, you can’t just do it and walk away. This requires a high degree of engagement—ongoing negotiation, coaching, and measuring—from you and your managers.
The real challenge for your company is to create an environment in which all your employees are, to some extent, knowledge workers. That means training everybody, but not for the long haul. Train one hour, one day, and one week at a time.
Most people today want to learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it—and not because they are lazy or have short attention spans. Learning just-in-time is the only way to learn given the tidal waves of information we all deal with. We must be strategic about learning. “Will this be useful today or tomorrow?” becomes the key question.
There are hundreds of corporate universities in the U.S., including a high percentage at Fortune 500 companies. They range from bad to excellent, just like “real” universities. But this is the future—specific skills to do specific jobs in your company now.
Yes, put new employees through boot camps. But if you used to do a ten-day camp, make it three days and get them out working faster. Then follow up regularly with half-day, specific training.
If you want real talent in your new hires, focus on their ability to learn quickly and reduce your focus on the skills they bring now.
Once hired, employees are matched with an initial relatively simple job or task. Deliver training to get them exactly what they need to know so they can be job-ready tomorrow or next week. Then an experienced employee spends the minimum time necessary to teach the new worker how to accomplish the first task.
The new person does not shadow the more experienced person, taking notes, watching and expecting to learn by osmosis. Rather it is a low-cost, one-on-one boot camp for maximum impact fast.
Whenever fresh responsibilities are added to the new person’s job, somebody with more experience provides hands-on instruction—always the minimum amount to ensure that new responsibilities are learned.
Will your employees lose the big picture with this ‘piecemeal’ training? Potentially they could. The low cost way to avoid it (and also build teamwork) is regular team meetings to keep everyone informed of your strategy.
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Toby Marshall is an active speaker on the international conference circuit. His mission: To give all companies, no matter how few employees they have, the information and expert help they need to do their own recruitment and selection and find great new staff. You can get more resources at www.abacusrecruit.com.au