Training and retaining your team members

 In Blog, Business Success, business systems and procedures, Educational Issues, employee retention, employee training

Training new team members and keeping existing team members training up-to-date is an ongoing challenge for every company.  It’s an even bigger challenge for small businesses who are more financially challenged or can’t afford for their personnel to be out of the office.  But in this day and age of the Internet, luckily there are options out there for you.

Many companies have said that the money they put into training comes back to them ten times over in increased performance and job retention. But in recent hard times some companies have cut back on training programs, particularly those done with local community colleges or outside trainers. The Wall Street Journal recently concluded that many companies are now recommitting to training.  In a survey by Lloyd’s of London, US executives considered a lack of skilled workers the second greatest risk their companies faced in 2012.  (Loss of customers was number one.)  Despite the tough job market, many companies are having trouble finding specific types of employees.  Training your own may be the simplest answer.  You know that your own trainees will have the knowledge they need as long as you make sure they are trained properly.

One of the biggest demographic trends that will affect us all over the next decades is the transition from baby boomers to Generation Y (or Millennials).  Baby boomers are those born after World War II. They were the biggest and most influential generation from the ’60s on. Exact parameters vary, but now those from about 16 to 34 make up the largest generation in history. They’re tech savvy, less committed to working at one job, and want to do something meaningful. In fact, statistics show that they change jobs approximately every three years.  You need to keep them engaged, challenged, and excited about their future with your company.

And, as Boomers age and retire they take with them your “knowledge capital.”  In some firms it’s said that their main assets walk out the door every night. When you hire new or younger people they may have tech skills that old timers don’t have, but don’t know many things about your specific organization.  Normally they learn by being around your experienced people.  If you have knowledgeable people retiring or leaving – and every firm of any size does – you should have a knowledge transfer or training plan.

Most companies would like to have new hires come pre-trained with five years of experience. (That’s what accounting firms want.) One of the common objections to investing in training has always been “What if I spend the money to train them and then they go somewhere else?” The answer to that has always been “Isn’t it more expensive to have a group of untrained employees?” Westinghouse Electric started a corporate university for training in 2010. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) says US employers spent 36% more on training recently.  Big companies calculate that spending about 3% of their budget on training is about right.   Almost every school spends a couple of hours every week on teacher in-service trainings.

The first step in making sure all your employees are trained properly and in the same way is to have an up-to-date policy and procedures manual.  Every task in your company should be documented step-by-step in your procedures manual so there are no question on how to proceed when something comes up or someone new takes over.

The next step is to have your new team members shadowing your experienced team members as they demonstrate the correct way to do their job, and then have them reverse roles — the new team members doing the work with the experienced team member overseeing.

Another step you could add in here, especially if you have only one person doing specific tasks, is to cross-train your employees.  For instance, your accounts receivable clerk would also train as your front desk receptionist.  You never want the same person doing both accounts receivable and payable.  That invites an opportunity to embezzle funds.

Then the next step is to update their training as technology changes.  You may not have a specific training budget but there are lots of inexpensive training options for small companies. With a combination of internal seminars, internships, apprenticeships, and mentoring many smaller companies can provide hands-on training without much expense.  One great example of leveraging external training programs is to have one attendee teach the rest of the team what they learned at the off-site training when they get back.  Another way would be to pay for for a webinar that everyone can sit in on and be trained all at the same time from your business location.  With the advent of webinars and live video-chats, it should be very easy to find online trainings.

The important thing is to realize that training your employees in some way will always pay off for you. So get started soon on training your entire team can benefit from and don’t forget to create a knowledge transfer plan!

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