Whether you’re responsible for training new and/or existing members of your team, here are some top tips to making it as meaningful and effective as possible.
1. Create milestones. It’s essential that before any on-the-job training begins that the manager and team member set objectives, targets and milestones, so that progress can be easily measured. Ensure that objectives are clear and specific, and that they are reviewed regularly—a crucial part of the process. You might also identify any particular concerns that the person has, thus allowing you to adapt the training accordingly.
2. Be adaptable. You may have a certain way that you always run training, or an order that you always follow. However, it’s important to remember that people learn in different ways and at different speeds, so don’t make them adapt to your chosen method—instead, adapt to them. For example, if you’re walking someone through a procedure on the computer, ask yourself, “Would they like to try it for themselves?” They may not feel comfortable asking you themselves, so you may have to try and spot this as you go along, and remain flexible.
3. Make the most of their ‘fresh’ eyes. One of the best things about a new team member is just that—they’re new! Listen to what they have to say about your procedures, and don’t dismiss them with a, “This is the way we do it here,” statement. Instead, consider this: why do you do it that way? How could you possibly know, with certainty, that there isn’t a better way? The first few weeks of a new person on the job are crucial for realising areas for improvement. What questions are they asking? Are you creating an environment where they feel comfortable giving suggestions? The same goes for an existing colleague who is learning a new area or procedure. What could their fresh perspective bring to the role or situation?
4. Foster an inclusive atmosphere. For new starters, the environment, the team interactions, and the culture have an enormous impact on the way that they come to think about their role and place within the team. In the same way that you determine whether or not a customer feels welcomed, you must also help to create a welcoming place for all team members to work. They need to feel that theirs is a team that ‘works and plays’ together. Make sure that you have space for people to interact, whether it’s team talks or social events, and work to build a friendly, professional atmosphere.
5. Remember the impact of non-verbal communication. I remember being trained by a colleague who did a ‘knowing eye-roll’ every time she finished dealing with a ‘difficult’ guest. She didn’t say anything, but I knew what she was communicating—and she was meant to act as an example to new starters! There is more to communication than words, and humans are instinctively trained to pick up on this. Remember to ask yourself: Am I ‘saying’ anything that I’m not meaning to?
6. Always act with integrity. If you train a team member to do a certain task in a certain way, but you fail to do the same, you’ve not only lost your integrity, but you’ve lost the right to complain when your team member inevitably starts following your lead. Make sure you are always a shining example of all your standards!
7. Have passion for what you do. What makes learning truly exciting? Do you remember ever being enthusiastic about learning something new in school? I remember that, when I loved a subject, when I really wanted to learn, it was usually because the teacher had an effect on me through his or her own passion and enthusiasm. Why should on-the-job training be different? There’s nothing worse than learning from someone who clearly doesn’t enjoy what they do, or hasn’t got any enthusiasm for it. Be sure to find your passion and bring the topic to life!
8. Just keep learning. Training isn’t only for new starters! Find ways to make learning a continuous thing for your whole team—whether or not you’re a manager. If you’ve heard of an initiative that could be of use, ask if someone from the team can get involved and then train the rest of the team. Do you have a technology wiz in your team who could run some workshops? Are there any new projects that a team member could research and share with the team?
Remember, learning only stops if you let it, so don’t let it! You never know where it might take you…
By Ana Canabarro, Senior Operations Manager at Mitie Client Services. Follow Ana on Twitter.