Competency and productivity depend on every team member knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to get timely answers to questions along the way. Whether you have adopted formal ways to train your employees, or it’s more of a train-as-you go process, it’s only effective when done properly.
Even if you believe that an informal training process is working for you, you need to take a critical look at that process to ensure that vital information is not falling through the cracks. Remember: even when the shutdown becomes a distant memory, you’re likely to continue having more remote employees than ever before, and they will be more effective if they know the details needed to work independently.
The Past Year Saw Many Changes in Training Needs
Since the pandemic began, your business probably didn’t hire many new employees. Still, even if you managed to retain your existing workforce, their jobs – or the processes required to perform them — likely changed. They undoubtedly needed additional training during a time when traditional classroom or face-to-face instruction became virtually impossible.
In many cases, training became a haphazard method that involved phone calls, emails, or possibly online training, just to learn new methods to accomplish basic tasks within your company. A steeper learning curve was involved if your business started selling new, unfamiliar pandemic-related products or services.
It’s now time to look back at how well everything worked for you. Have you noticed more errors or general confusion? Or, are your employees performing better than ever before? The answers to questions like these will be invaluable in identifying how to train your employees as the business climate improves.
First, Identify What Has or Has Not Worked
Chances are that some of your training methods worked well, and you should retain them. For those that have not been effective, you first have to figure out why because there are ways to fix many issues.
Here are a few examples:
- Employees are taking too many security risks: There is no such thing as too much security training. Each member of your team needs to become expert at recognizing potential email threats, navigating the Internet safely and, of course, avoiding sending insecure information. You can hire a cybersecurity expert to help develop targeted training, or check out some of many online training options. Make sure that you refresh your employees’ training regularly.
- Many people are misusing certain important forms: You can offer better training to teach them to use the forms properly, of course. But, if their errors are all similar, have you considered changing the form? Maybe some fields need better labels, or a one-line explanation might help clarify their use.
- Productivity is going down: If this happens for only a few employees, then perhaps a serious conversation is in order. If you discover that they are expressing difficulties with certain tools, then offer some one-on-one training sessions to help them improve. On the other hand, when productivity goes down across the board, then an online search for “productivity training” might offer some time management and other good options. Introducing software that monitors employees’ online activities might help, too.
Consider Investing in New Solutions Where You Need Them
You don’t always have to spend big bucks to create a better training process. In my technical writing days, my company paid for my membership in a technical writing group that kept me informed about new methods and techniques. That membership more than paid for itself by keeping my skills on the cutting edge.
Unless your business is within a highly-technical industry, you do not have to spend a fortune to ensure that your employees know what they need to know. There are many ways to invest in low-cost training that continues to hone their skills and knowledge in many areas, such as the following:
- To create better subject knowledge: New and existing employees can benefit by learning about your industry and their specific role within it. For example, Purchasing Department employees can learn a great deal by searching for “how purchasing works in businesses”. Of course, full courseware is available for this and more complex subject matter.
- To meet regulatory requirements: It is critical that employees meet all regulations issued by local, state, and federal governments. Online courseware is generally available at low cost, or even for free. For example, a search for “safety training for factories” reveals numerous training options. Some focus on setting up safety training programs, while others provide direct worker instruction.
- To resolve training issues on the fly: Unanticipated issues can arise that were not covered during training. For example, if a top-level customer stops paying its bills, your employees should be trained to recognize when that customer deserves kid-glove handling from a senior-level employee. Of course, the senior-level employee should stay current on collections best practices by reading a few articles. A search for “handling collections from high-value employees” can teach a lot without the need for formal training.
- To remind trainees of critical details: Employees who use complicated equipment might do their jobs better if cheat sheets were posted near the equipment. Plus, if that equipment is dangerous, prominent safety reminders about the use of protective equipment can help them avoid serious injuries.
Stay Informed, and Training Can Come Naturally
In some cases, employees will request specific types of training, but the true responsibility for continued training necessarily comes from the top. As a top gun in your company, you are in an excellent position to spot areas of weakness and find the best ways to correct them.
More than that, however, you are obligated to keep yourself informed about changes within your industry — or within the entire business community. Many of the changes caused by the shut-down are likely to be permanent; telecommuting is just one example, but you need to conduct regular research to learn about other impending changes.
When you remain informed about how business is evolving, you can more easily monitor your own operations to identify your team’s training needs. Your own training naturally affects your company’s progress moving forward.