It comes as no surprise that the success of a business lies on the abilities of its employees. A crucial step towards that is training newly hired employees. In most types of companies, people are the most valuable asset. Often a lot of time and effort will go in to the recruiting and interview process in order to pick out the most suitable talent for the job; but unfortunately the investment in people sometimes ends there.
The first problem is that most employers don’t understand the value of training employees. Let’s take the impact training has on productivity as an example: most companies may keep track of statistics showing the rate at which employees are hired, but fail to compare those statistics to the productivity output over time. In Andrew Grove’s book entitled High Output Management, he explains how training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manger can perform. Consider for a moment the possibility of your putting on a series of four lectures for members of your department. Let’s count on three hours preparation for each hour of course time—twelve hours of work in total. Say that you have ten students in your class. Next year they will work a total of about twenty thousand hours for your organization. If your training efforts result in a 1 percent improvement in your subordinates’ performance, your company will gain the equivalent of two hundred hours of work as the result of the expenditure of your twelve hours.
Training new employees effectively will also set out clear parameters of what expectations will be made of them while working for you. Without training, you establish no basis for performance management, making it difficult to point out what they’re doing well to deserve a reward/promotion, or what they’re doing wrong to justify terminating their employment.
The next big question is “how?”. The best place to start would be with the topic or area that is most relevant to the employees that need training. This will be the knowledge and skill they need to do their job. It can be as simple as training the employee on what is to be expected of them, or as complex as a several-week long session teaching the employee details of the product/technology/clientele that he or she will be working with.
Another key component of this program is management training. This is the best way to start setting expectations of your management team. For example, this will be where you ask them to hold regular one-on-one sessions with members of their teams; ask them to give performance feedback and the method for doing so; ask them to agree upon objectives or periodic goals with their teams; and so on. Without such training, there will be no consistency in how groups of employees are trained and large disparities in their progress. Also, this method will allow for the consistency of employee training to outlast the duration of one manager’s term at his job, so that the quality of training is not dependent on specific people. For smaller businesses that are managed by the founder himself/herself, this step would mean putting the training policies on paper to track your own consistency, and for ease of transferring the training task once your business expands.
For start-ups in particular, time is of the essence and it is difficult to enforce something optional. This can be remedied by making all training mandatory for managers and for newly hired employees. Another few pointers to remember is that training can and should be a social as well as professional way to acclimate to the new work environment. The trainer should become aware that a non-threatening environment for learning and working is the most yielding of positive results. A professional work environment is, after all, comprised of human beings. Also, documentation can be highly useful here: training manuals, issued policies and the likes help streamline the process.
It is paramount as a business owner to remember that the training of your employees is one of the best investments of your time into your company. In the words of Ben Horowitz (President and CEO of Opsware and co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz) “there is no investment that you can make that will do more to improve productivity in your company. Therefore, being too busy to train is the moral equivalent of being too hungry to eat.”