As we look back at 2020 and all the unprecedented circumstances that have come our way, many of us have had to make hard decisions within our businesses. Some have been forced to downsize and cut their teams down to the ‘essential’ members, whereas others have had to reorganize or pivot their operations to keep everyone onboard despite a downturn in business.
If we learned one thing last year, it’s that a stable and productive team is the backbone of a successful company—they keep our businesses running like a well-oiled machine and it’s important to show them how much they are valued and appreciated.
Yet, a team that is disorganized and without a system in place can end up being more of a burden than a blessing. That’s why it’s essential to implement a detailed staff training program that ensures each team member is meeting expectations and contributing to the company’s success.
Here’s what you need to know about training a team of employees so you can confidently call each of them a valuable asset.
Get crystal clear on expectations.
If you’re working with a new hire, they likely already have a good idea of your expectations from the original job description and the subsequent hiring process. It’s still worthwhile setting up an introductory onboarding meeting to help them ramp up and learn the processes that will help them reach their goals.
Beyond the hiring process, it’s important to keep your expectations top-of-mind with your team to ensure they continue measuring up. This is especially critical if you’ve adjusted your operations due to the pandemic; if your employees are taking on responsibilities that are new to them, give them some grace as they learn and engage with them to help them catch up-to-speed.
A great way to continue the discussion of expectations (and ensuring they are met) is to set regular check-ins with your team members to assess their performance. Try weekly meetings for newer hires and, if you’re comfortable, you can likely stretch it out to biweekly or even monthly check-ins with established employees. This isn’t meant to be a time for criticism or negative evaluation, but rather an opportunity to see how your staff are performing and provide them with additional solutions to enhance productivity if needed.
Develop a comprehensive training manual.
A great training manual is the single best thing you can do for your team and yourself. On one hand, your employees will have a useful resource to consult and learn on their own. This simple act helps to empower them to make decisions and take ownership of their responsibilities, without feeling like they need to check in with you every step of the way.
On the other hand, you surely have plenty of work to do outside of overseeing and micro-managing every detail of your staff’s performance. With your regular check-ins set, you should feel comfortable taking a step back and letting them run with it.
When creating your manual, ask your employees to contribute and share feedback about their roles. After all, they’re the ones who are in-the-trenches and will likely provide insight into a position or task that you may not know from your oversight role.
Think of your employee manual as a living document that can be adjusted and updated as needed; things change and this handbook needs to be able to adapt with the times. Consider keeping it saved on Google Drive, Dropbox, or another cloud storage program that allows you to edit it in real-time, so your team can always access the most updated version.
Keep it fun.
The term “training” doesn’t sound interesting and it might even make some team members feel nervous to take on new duties. Try spicing up the process by incorporating games or competitions into the training program for tasks like sales calls, inventory management, or design production. Offer up a small little prize, like a $10 gift card, to the employee that performs best and let them have some fun with the competition.
Or, consider incorporating role-playing exercises to get your staff comfortable training in a group setting. This will help them to open up and provide feedback to one another, which will enhance your company culture in addition to each employees’ performance. It’s also a smart way to allow new hires to learn from the seasoned veterans of the company, which can introduce an environment that encourages mentorship.
Make yourself readily available.
With all of these techniques in place, you might feel like you brush your hands off and get back to your work. If done properly, you probably can—a combination of your employee manual and a collaborative culture can mean your employees have the tools to work self-sufficiently.
However, it’s important to remember that you are still the leader of this team and that means you need to be ready to consult at any given notice. Institute an open-door policy and let your team know that you’re always prepared to answer questions, give advice, or simply provide some inspiration and ideas.
If you’re on-the-go more than you are in the office (or, if you’re fully remote due to the pandemic), stay connected through regular calls, texts, or messenger platforms like Slack or WhatsApp. Try to carve out at least an hour or two each day for ‘office hours’ so your team knows they will be able to reach you to discuss any questions or concerns.
Counter to popular belief, staff training isn’t just for newly-hired employees. Instead, it should be an ongoing process that is designed to help your team members grow and improve their skills, while becoming more productive in their day-to-day responsibilities. While micro-managing is damaging to morale, being present and engaged is essential for a leader to keep employees motivated.
In this way, you can build and train a team that will help your company weather the hard times and, in better times, increase profitability and grow to new heights. It all starts with your most valuable asset: your staff.