How to get the most out of one-to-one on the job training

If you’re responsible for training new and existing members of your team, here are some of my secrets 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 sets objectives, targets and milestones, so that progress can be easily measured.  Ensure that they are clear and specific, and crucially regularly reviewed.  As part of this process you might also identify concerns that the person has and be able to adapt the training accordingly.

2. Adaptability – you may have a ‘way’ that you always run training, and an order that you always follow.  That would be fine if everyone were the same, but they are not.  People learn in different ways, and at different speeds.  Don’t make them adapt to your chosen method, adapt to them.  For example, if you’re talking them through a procedure at the computer screen, do they want to try it for themselves?  They aren’t always going to tell you, so you may have to spot this as you go along, and adapt accordingly.

3. Make the most of their ‘fresh’ eyes – one of the best things about a new team member is that they’re new!  Listen to what they have to say about your procedures, and don’t shoot them down with the ‘this is the way we do it here’ statement.  Consider: 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 this.  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 they bring to it?

4. Atmosphere – especially for new starters, the environment, the team interactions, and the culture has more impact that people think.  The same way that a customer ‘feels’ welcomed or not, so will new team members.  They also need to feel that this 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 foster a friendly atmosphere.

5. Non-verbal communication – I remember being trained by a colleague who did a ‘knowing eye-roll’ every time a ‘difficult’ guest left.  She didn’t say anything, but I knew what she was communicating – that the guest has been a ‘pain’.  I was a new starter and she was my example.  I could have picked up this bad habit.  I didn’t, and instead respected her less, every time she did it.  There is more to communication than words and humans are instinctively trained to pick up on this.  No matter how much you say something, what other ways are you ‘saying’ the opposite?

6. Integrity – as highlighted in the point above, you are the example.  You tell them to fill ‘that’ form every time ‘this’ happens, but if you don’t do it yourself, what right do you have to complain if they don’t?

7. Passion – consider, what makes learning really 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 their passion and enthusiasm.  Why should on-the-job training be different?  There is nothing worse than learning from someone who clearly doesn’t enjoy what they do, and hasn’t any enthusiasm for it.  So find your passion and bring the subject to life!

8. Keep learning – training isn’t just for new starters.  Find ways to keep the whole team developing whether you’re a leader or not.  If you’ve heard of an initiative that could be of use, could someone in the team get involved, and come back and train the rest of the team?  Is there a subject that someone is an expert in that they whole team could benefit from?  Is there a new project that one team member could research and then train the rest of the team?

Never stop learning… you don’t know where it might take you.

By Ana Canabarro, Senior Operations Manager, MITIE Client Services

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