How to train new employees the right way

Finding top talent is just one step of building a solid team—you also have to train them properly on the specific goals of your business. This means an effective training program is a critical component of your onboarding process

Many business owners (especially those getting started for the first time) rely on a learn-as-you-go policy instead of establishing a new-hire training program. While there is plenty of room for learning the ropes on the job, a solid training plan will help increase retention and employee happiness.

A study from management consulting firm the Wyndhurst Group found that new hires are 58% more likely to stay with a business for at least three years when the business has an effective onboarding and training program.

Ensuring retention means you won’t have to spend the time and money it costs to hire new team members. Additionally, an impactful training program with clear steps (like the process listed below) sets your team up for success at a faster rate, which is a win for everyone. 

Note: This article is a general look at how to train employees in an any industry. For a more specific take, you can check out our articles on how to train restaurant employees, retail staff members, and beauty/wellness new hires.

1. Identify your training needs 

Before you lay out the content of your training program, assess your business needs and determine what employees need to accomplish to achieve those goals. Break this process down into four steps: 

  • Set a clear goal: Your goals could include increasing revenue, growing your customer base, and more, depending on your industry and the role you’re training for.
  • Determine necessary tasks and knowledge: What do employees need to do and what knowledge do they need to have to help your business thrive?
  • Determine the training activities: How can you best teach your team those tasks or impart that knowledge?
  • Understand your team’s learning characteristics: Understand how your team members learn best so you can optimize your program for each individual. 

2. Keep adult learning principles in mind

Educating adults is very different from teaching children, and you must use different techniques in order for the training to be effective. Adult trainees come with a different set of characteristics you should keep in mind when building your training program. 

According to research from West Governors University, adult learners: 

  • Are self-directed
  • Come to training with existing knowledge, experience, and opinions
  • Are goal-oriented
  • Want task-oriented, relevant training
  • Learn through a “what’s in it for me” approach
  • Want training that is task-oriented
  • Want to be respected 

There are several tactics you can utilize to recognize these characteristics. For example, as you set goals, help new employees understand why and how the process is helping them achieve those goals. Additionally, provide hands-on learning experiences to give them a firmer grasp of what they’re learning. 

Since adult brains aren’t as “spongey” as those of children, be sure to review each area of training regularly to make them stick. 

3. Stick to your learning objectives

Create a list of learning objectives you can implement into your program. This list should include tasks, knowledge, and responsibilities your team members must be able to do after they complete the training. 

A training program is put in place to ensure your employees are qualified for the job they have today. While teaching your team skills they need for future roles is important, you should save that for a separate development training program. 

All aspects of your training should revolve around these objectives. Once your list is set, focus your content on topics that cover all your bases without adding any extraneous topics. If you stray from your list, you’ll lose control of the training and your team could get distracted. 

To help set your focus, make your objective SMART: 

  • Specific: It’s clearly stated and understood by everyone. 
  • Measurable: There is a clear path where everyone can agree if a trainee satisfies the training requirements.
  • Achievable: The trainee has a chance to succeed in the training. 
  • Relevant: The lessons are important for the employee’s role. 
  • Time-bound: It will be clear when the trainee must satisfy the objective (typically after training). 

Your learning objective should also include the ABCD acronym: 

  • An Actor who will perform the objective, which is your employee. 
  • A Behavior the employee must perform. State the behavior as a verb, like “serve” or “manage.” 
  • A Condition under which the employee must perform the behavior. For example, if there is a special at your restaurant, the team member must promote it. 
  • The Degree to which the employee must perform the behavior. For example, the employee must complete the task three times a week. 

4. Create training materials

Take some time and put some thought into your materials so they can be thorough and comprehensive. You can use the following checklist when creating them: 

  • Does the material focus solely on the learning needs of your team? 
  • Did you remember the adult learning principles? 
  • Are there enough hands-on activities? 
  • Do the employees have enough control of the learning process? 
  • Is there enough opportunity for feedback? 
  • Are the materials broken up into small chunks that are easier to understand? 
  • Did you order the components of your training in steps that build on each other? 
  • Is there a “blended learning” approach that includes different formats like computer-based, instructor-led, and group-learning activities?

Once you’ve planned out your materials, it’s time to actually create them. First, build training outlines for both the instructor and your team members to lay out the process and make it clear. 

Then you can get creative with the elements of the materials to satisfy different learning styles. These include visual presentations, materials for hands-on training, and e-learning tools employees can use to teach themselves. 

There are many platforms you can use to build your materials: 

5. Implement the training

Once you set your content, you’re ready to actually deliver the training to your new hires. A great way to provide a clear, communicative training path is to use a learning management system (LMS). 

An LMS is a tool you can use to assign, deliver, track, and report on each step of the process. They make it easy for your employees to log in and see their list of training materials and assignments. An LMS can automate the process by sending notifications to your team about new tasks or due dates, taking some of the clerical burdens off of you and your trainers. 

Here are some LMS platforms you can consider: 

When your employees reach the hands-on segment of training, define in advance exactly what your employees must do to show they have learned the skill. If you conduct a classroom-style segment, make it more productive by letting employees be active participants instead of simply taking notes. 

6. Evaluate your program 

Your goal is to provide an effective learning process, and accomplishing this requires confirmation that your team benefited from the training. A good confirmation strategy is Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation

  • Employees’ reaction: Did the employees like the training? You can find out by observing their behavior during the training and using a tool like Survey Monkey to conduct an anonymous poll. 
  • Employees’ learning: Did your team learn from the training? Your process should include incremental assessments that could include simple tests, simulations, and hands-on exercises.
  • Employees’ post-training job behavior: Is your team performing the tasks you trained them on? Observe their on-the-job behavior to get a sense of how well the training worked and set performance-based metrics to keep a pulse on their skill level. 
  • Quantifiable business results: Did the training reach your desired business goal? 

After performing each level of evaluation, you may find your program was very effective. However, you may discover that you need to revise certain segments to bring the process up to the level you need for success. 

The effectiveness of your training program depends on how you develop and implement it. Following the process laid out above will increase the thoroughness and productivity of how you teach your employees and will likely lead to the accomplishment of your business goals and a happier team. 

If you need help finding new team members to train and onboard, Homebase is the perfect solution. We’ll not only make hiring a breeze, but we’ll also automate the onboarding process so you can focus on starting the training process on their first day. 

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