Even at companies with great products and technologies, employees are invaluable. After all, someone needs to develop those new innovations and maintain your technology. It's no secret that a company is only as strong as its weakest link. But even though employers know workers are a business's most valuable asset, most employees don't feel particularly valued in the workplace.
Take a look at this article, from the Harvard Business Review. Kevin Ryan, CEO of Gilt Groupe, argues that businesses succeed not because of ideas, but because of people. Mr. Ryan is of the opinion that CEOs should spend most of their time recruiting and managing people.
No argument there, but I would also argue that most companies have a fundamental hiring and training flaw. This lack of post hiring skill is especially problematic for small businesses. In larger businesses, a few employees not operating at peak performance is not a major issue. At a small businesses, it is imperative for every employee to be top notch.
What does the first week – and the first month – look like for an employee in your business? Most businesses provide a good cultural introduction on the first few days. The job responsibilities of the employee are explained, and maybe the new employee someone who will closely supervise them for the first couple weeks. My experience in small businesses is that shortly after a new employee is hired, they are on the front line, doing the job they were hired to do.
This can be done better. How? My experience is that hiring managers do a great job focusing on the WHAT. But they do a poor job focusing on the WHY and the HOW.
In time, a new employee will learn the WHY from doing their job and interacting managers and with their peers. But, they would do a better job initially if they learned the WHY right from day one.
Explaining the HOW is what I see as the true missed opportunity in new employee training. In fact, my experience is that hiring managers are reluctant to teach the HOW because they are afraid of offending the employee. They picked the new hire because of their experience, right? If the employee has been working on a helpdesk for the last 3 years, they should know how to do it; and could be legitimately offended if their hiring manager gets too basic.
I understand this concern, but there's a workaround. Establish an upfront agreement with the new employee. This agreement would be done on the new worker's first day, and would go something like this:
Ann, I'm so happy that you are finally part of the team. You are going to be a great asset to our organization, and I am hopeful that you will have a long and successful career here.
We will undertake a comprehensive training program over the next two weeks. The goal of this program is for you to be fully prepared to be as successful as possible.
I've hired you because of your significant experience in this area, but we also have some best practices that we've developed. I want to be sure you are fully prepared to execute our company developed practices.
During this training period, I'm asking your permission to explain things to you very carefully; these explanations will probably include many things that you already know. I'm also asking your permission to accept feedback from me on each task as we go through them.
Again, the goal is to prepare you to be as successful as possible in your new role. I also expect to learn many things through this training period, and will commit to be open minded regarding your feedback.
In my experience, all employees want to do a great job. Moreover, most employees think that they are doing a good job – even if their managers do not. Yet, without being introduced to the WHY and the HOW from day 1 – they are not fully meeting the owner's expectations.
By establishing an upfront contract like that outlined above, you will have permission to cover the WHY, WHAT & HOW of the new position; and at the end of the training period, you will have an employee fully ready to be rock star for your business.