Training new employees is intensive work, and often in the service industry it is time sensitive; employees are often part-time and/or seasonal so they may only be hired a short time before the busy season. The work environment is intensive as well, which means training needs to echo that intensity.
The most common approach to service training is a continuous progressive series of days with a schedule of tasks and knowledge sessions (usually from 5-10 days in total). Employees learn the technical background of their job (product knowledge, company or site history, equipment operating procedures) as well as getting the lay of the land and meeting the rest of the team. In this way, they get the Big Picture, and know how they fit in it.
This Big Picture method is akin to a baseball player’s trip to second base. It is crucial to staying in the game and making a run for home, but it’s important to remember there is much strategy involved to get there.
Second base offers a great view of the field. With initial team training, employees can get there easily when a colleague makes a good hit, advancing each player. The key to staying in the game is to keep momentum. All employees need to have their heads in the game to make the most of opportunities.
The best way to train your team so they are “All In” is to continue with training exercises beyond an introduction to the operation. Orientation is great in a perfect world, but in the real world unexpected things happen on a regular basis.
Practice with a purpose, play with a passion.
To succeed, a team needs to be able to troubleshoot. Role play scenarios are a very effective way to learn how to prepare for the unexpected, and improve on automatic reactions.
Advanced training also offers employees additional motivation, like the view to that third base. Giving them bigger challenges can show them they have more potential than they might realize. Following up on principles they learn in orientation reaffirms their importance, and your attention as a leader shows them you care.
A great coach, not in baseball but in life as much as for his players, John Wooden gave great advice for leaders which applies to that second base visit. Follow-ups on training are crucial to ensuring your team’s success.
You haven’t taught until they’ve learned.
The next installment will be that last stop before rounding the corner to home plate – third base.