As a small business owner, you may never see the need to grow your company so that you have more than a few employees. Or maybe you never plan to hire even one employee. So, does this mean that you will never have to develop a training plan? Probably not.
Even if you never hire a single employee, at some point you may need to hire a contractor to take over a few tasks or to help with a project. More than likely, you will need to train him or her in some aspect of your business. For instance, if you hire a student to help you design and print materials for a large marketing campaign, you may need to train him or her on how to collaborate with you, how to send final projects to your online printing company, and how to distribute the materials.
If you do plan to hire employees, the fact of the matter is that you will probably have to train them more than once, on more than one process or topic. No matter your industry, training is just a part of life for any growing company.
A plan for training an employee or contractor is a necessary part of successfully integrating the person or agency into your workflow. Even if you only plan to train once, a plan will ensure a much smoother training session with less time involved.
It’s important to take a step back and evaluate the goals of the “program” before jumping into the actual training plan or outline. Once you know your goals, you can put in place the controls you need to make sure you’re actually getting the job done. If you jump straight into training, you may find that your training program ends up leaving certain trainees behind or missing critical steps, which will then require more training and more valuable time that you could be using to keep the money flowing in.
Define the Trainee Level of Knowledge
First off, define your trainees. Are these new employees who may need a thorough orientation or seasoned veterans who simply need a refresher course or a bullet point version? Once you know the level of knowledge of the trainees, you are going to be much better prepared to build or revamp the training.
Next, classify your topic. This means coming up with a broad description of the topic to be covered. Is this legal training, a technical topic, new employee orientation, or something else? The topic classification helps you determine how you might want to approach the training. You may need to provide extensive support materials, or even pre-test participants to determine who is qualified to take the training.
Train the Trainers
If you have a broad set of training programs that are going to be administered by several people, you will likely need to train your trainers on how you want them to train. Getting in front of a classroom full of peers is not necessarily something that everyone will be good at doing right away. So giving your trainers some instruction on how to lead a program is a critical step in the process.
Based up on the type of training you intend to conduct, there are a number of methodologies for performing the training tasks:
- Prerequisites – providing a list of reading or other resources trainees need to review before attending the meeting.
- Lectures – standing in front of a classroom and walking the group through a presentation.
- Simulation – putting the trainees in a situation similar to one they will experience.
- Discussion – often part of a lecture process to engage trainees in question/answer dialogue.
- Demonstration – trainer shows the trainees how to perform a task.
Once you know how you will deliver the content, you can then develop the in-class and out-of-class resources. These can include:
- A video of the training for later review.
- How-to guides for quick review by trainees.
- Resource links to further study.
- Infographics for fast visual reminders of key topics.
- PowerPoint slides for later review.
- Measuring the program.
Ideally, you can test participants both before and after training to see how well they absorbed the material. This process can also help the trainees get an idea of the topics you will be covering. As they stumble through the test prior to training they’ll realize what areas they need to focus on as they go.
Most important is the test at the end of the training. This does not have to be complicated. Even multi-day courses can be tested with a consolidated, focused set of questions. While you may need to test comprehensive knowledge, likely you just need to make sure they got the main points. Of course, if you are training a single person, this test may just be a simple “Now you walk through the process on your own” with you guiding where they stumble or have questions.
Evaluate the final tests to see if there is a pattern where trainees consistently did not grasp the important issues. This is where your training will need to be revamped as it indicates an area where either the training wasn’t appropriate or the trainees simply needed more information (which means the training wasn’t as comprehensive as you intended).
A final point to make about training is that it does not always have to be conducted in person. When building a training program, identify what parts of training may be able to be completed by trainees on their own. More and more companies are shifting towards pre-built training programs for day-to-day word processing and other tasks that are not company-dependent. This frees your staff up to handle their normal activities and lets the trainees engage directly with their training.
You could always write up a list of documents that trainees can read through on their own. These instructions should be clearly written so that trainees can walk through the process easily using the document to guide them. As with other training programs, you can evaluate the effectiveness of your instructions based on how well trainees were able to complete the task without your help.
Training can be time-consuming but is very often necessary for companies of all sizes. With a proper program in place, you can measure the effectiveness of your training and look for ways to make it more efficient and effective. The key is to take the time to measure the results. Too many small businesses do not perform a quick test of their training programs to evaluate how well they’ve trained their new staff. A little effort in the testing arena can go a long way to a dramatically improved, more efficient training program.
Training image courtesy of Shutterstock