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Management: The importance of training

Learning is based on experience and education.

I know this but I still can't seem to accept it. For example, I get so frustrated when my young children don't know something that seems like basic knowledge to me. I've been known to ask my children, "Why don't you know things?"

Of course I should understand that kids haven't been taught everything, and it's my job to teach them. The same is true of management.

Don't expect your employees to know how to do things if you didn't teach them how to do those things. Don't get angry — you have no one to blame but yourself.

When you are hired or promoted as a manager of any type, the job is not merely about directing employees or barking orders. Whether you like it or not, a big part of management is about training. You are their coach.

"These people should already know what to do," you say. But that's just not always the case, and it’s not a realistic view. Let's face it, not everybody knows what to do. Some employees are not even sure what's expected of them. Besides, you should not be satisfied with the abilities of your team members remaining stationary. Your personnel should always be polishing their skills, learning and improving. In addition, they should always be challenged by their work.

Your team won’t be successful, and it won’t improve and thrive unless you, as a manager, take a proactive approach that involves constant training to upgrade your team’s skills.

Training sessions should be contained to no more than 30 minutes at a time.

While it’s important to think about what you are going to say and how you are going to present your training, you don’t have to write out each word. Yes, you can type out a sheet or two of instructions as a handout. But for your instructional presentation, just type yourself a brief outline, which you can use. The outline should have the basics of what you want to cover, in the correct order. You will be better off just speaking to your employees without much prompting. Use your outline as a reminder of what you want to cover during your presentation — use it to keep yourself on track.

Here is a 10-step program for on-going training:

1. First of all, you need to explain what is expected of each employee. This includes deadlines, daily goals, long- and short-term goals, individual goals and team goals.

You should have a job description that outlines their responsibilities and requirements. You should really have this before you begin the recruitment process, and you should refer to it often during the interview process. If you don’t have one, take it upon yourself to create one. This will help you down the road in case the employee ever claims that a certain task is not their responsibility or if they argue that they didn’t know something was part of their job. The job candidates should be made aware of and understand the requirements of the job before they are hired. Furthermore, you should refer to the job description while you are making your hiring decision.

Once an employee has been hired, go over their job description with them, and make sure they are given a hard copy.

Update each employee’s job description as each position evolves.

2. Create a team mission statement and make sure each member of your staff understands it. This is a sentence that describes the main purpose of your team. Don’t get caught up debating the ins and outs of the mission statement, just create a simple statement that portrays the nature of your team’s goals and purpose in general.

3. The next step — which goes hand-in-hand with the mission statement — is to make sure each member of your staff knows and understands your department's overall long- and short-term objectives. These are the goals you are reaching for as a team, for the immediate future, and for the next year or so. Then, make sure each person understands their individual part in reaching these objectives. It’s important that they know they each play an important role in the plan, and that without their help, the team cannot succeed. Employees need to know that they are important in the overall scheme. This, believe it or not, is one of the factors that motivate employees just as much as their pay.

4. Set standards: show them what a good job looks like. Make sure your team members understand the standard of quality you are expecting of them. Write it down; be descriptive. Show examples of the quality of work that you are expecting, whether it is examples from some of your own staff members or from a competitor or from a similar company. This is all part of ensuring your people are striving for excellence.

5. Initiate on-going training. This is a must.

You will, of course, have an orientation session and a few basic training sessions for new employees as they become part of your staff. Create a simple training program that includes a section explaining each aspect of each person’s job. This can include everything form basic office procedures and etiquette to deadlines to reporting techniques to presentation to story filing procedures to fact checking.

But without additional on-going training, your people will stagnate and the work quality will nose dive. You are, after all, the coach of your team.

Create training sessions focusing on specific areas that might need improvement. Work on improving your staff’s weaknesses.

In addition, you can hold brief training sessions to introduce new and advanced techniques as you come across them.

Another good idea is to ask your staff members to help you research and present new techniques. Involvement equals empowerment. Ideally, you can get to the point where your senior staff members become part of the training process, helping the newer members of your team along the way.

6. Cross-train your staff in case there is an absence on any given day. Take the time to help your employees know and understand one another’s daily tasks. You shouldn’t be at the mercy of any one employee who is the only one who knows how to do a particular task. If you don’t cross-train your employees, you will be placed in a tough spot, and it’s likely you become the person who has to do their work. There’s nothing wrong with rolling up your sleeves and filling in on occasion, but you don’t want to be stuck in that role all the time, a slave to your employees’ absences.

7. Gauge overall team performance. Every so often, maybe monthly or four times a year, take some time to evaluate your team’s progress. Is your staff achieving their basic goals and is it heading toward achieving your longer-term goals? Or is everyone standing still or even heading backwards? Take time to discuss your perception of their progress, and try to quantify your findings.

Prepare and present instructions for your team to help them overcome any specific problems that you have identified.

If they are making progress, be sure to point this out. Celebrate success when appropriate. There is nothing quite as motivating as being part of a winning team.

8. Listen to suggestions and use good ideas. During the aforementioned periodic team evaluations, ask your employees for their suggestions and advice about specific obstacles. Involve your team. Make them part of the solution.

Warning: Contain the topic of suggestions to a specific item. Do not ask for overall suggestions because this often opens the door to a royal gripe session.

The important thing is to make sure you capture any good suggestions and incorporate them into an overall solution. If you ask your employees for suggestions, you better make sure they know you listened to them, and use their good ideas. Don’t ignore them. Let people know that all the ideas don’t have to be your ideas. Leave your ego at the door. Any good ideas are welcome.

9. Make adjustments as needed. Take action. Don’t sit on your solutions. Formulate a plan to correct any problems or the implementation of new techniques or procedures. Explain the plan for improvements to your employees and tell each of them what part they will play in the execution of that plan. Give it some time to take shape, then go back to step 7 and gauge the progress of that particular plan.

10. Evaluate each individual staff member on a yearly basis. Ideally, your company should have a blanket policy regarding yearly evaluations. Normally this is done on the anniversary of each individual’s hiring date. The company’s policy might even include the possibility of a performance raise attached to the yearly evaluation. Regardless, you should hold a yearly formal evaluation with each of your employees.

More important, take the time to sit down privately with each individual more often and review their work. Prepare mini training sessions to help them improve as needed. Make sure you are continually gauging their work — demonstrating that you care about their progress and the quality of their work — and that you are available and willing to help them succeed.

Manage by walking around: say hello to each worker daily and visit their work stations as often as possible to offer encouragement and check on progress.

Once again, you will be surprised by how motivating it can be for employees to have a boss who cares about them and their work. The relationships built on trust between you and your employees create a more enjoyable work atmosphere. It’s worth the effort.

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