When a manager sits down to "train" a new employee, the main focus is almost always on how to use the system.
But that approach leaves everybody frustrated. The employee doesn't actually know the context of when she should be doing those actions, NOR can she remember everything the manager showed her. And the manager is frustrated because he notices that the employee seems to constantly interrupt him with questions.
It's a lose-lose-lose (the system loses in this case, too) situation.
Instead of only focusing on showing employees how a system works, I recommend focusing on all 3 of these elements:
- Help the employee recognize inputs.
- Show the employee how to make the right decisions based on the inputs.
- Let the employee perform the right actions based on their decisions.
The technology supports the business process, and you should explain it to your employees that way.
Start by Categorizing Information...
When I bring this idea up, many clients aren't quite sure how to move forward. Most day-to-day actions are done automatically, without thinking.
So, I recommend you make a table like the one below, and start identifying the related inputs, decisions, and actions.
|You are sick.||Should I take the day off? Or can I work from home?||Fill out a sick day.|
|Customer requests a refund.||Do I give the customer a refund?||Process a refund (or kindly tell the customer a refund is not available).|
|Person shows interest in purchasing a product.||Do I create a contact record for this person?||Create a contact record for the person showing interest.|
|Person wants to buy the product.||Do I have enough information to process the sale?||Process the sale.|
|Friend wants me to go on a week-long trip to Aruba.||Can I take off a week of work?||Check vacation days and request time off.|
|Manager emails me, saying she'd like to put on a webinar next week.||Should we schedule a webinar next week?||Set up a webinar.|
|You realize you need to make a purchase.||Do you have the permission to make a purchase?||Check the budget and submit a purchase order.|
We could go on forever...but we won't.
I recommend focusing on one job position at a time. And only start off with the major inputs/decisions/actions (we don't want to overwhelm ourselves right now). Down the road, we can add more. But for now, try to capture the 10 most frequently performed actions.
...Then Create Resources for Decisions and Actions...
What do employees currently do to make correct decisions and perform the actions correctly?
If your answer is along the lines of, "They ask me..." then you're never going to be able to scale efficiently. Dealing with employee turnover or growing your workforce will always be a hassle because you will be the bottleneck. Every situation will require you to give your two cents, show others what to do, on top of reviewing the process to make sure nothing slipped through the cracks (which you'll be doing anyways).
Instead, create these types of resources:
- Policies (to help employees make decisions)
- Checklists (to help employees perform the procedure)
- One-off tasks (to help employees do small tasks like export a CSV file)
These resources will come in handy during and after training–especially if you use the ScreenSteps Chrome Extension.
Don't worry if your policies don't meet the internationally approved policy standards. Just make sure that you give guidance on how to proceed when presented with an input. For example, your refund policy could be as simple as,
"We do not give refunds for transactions that happened over 30 days ago. If it happened 30 days ago, you can give a refund. If it happened 31 days ago, you cannot.
"To process a refund, follow this checklist [link to checklist]. If the customer does not qualify for a refund, here is a response you can use to let them know [link to checklist]."
Boom! Policy done.
If you start getting questions from employees that you hadn't thought about, then update your policy accordingly. These things don't have to be set in stone (nor should they be!). Your business is evolving and things change. Remember, the purpose of the policy isn't to be completely rigid and never adapt–it's to help your employees make good decisions.
When it comes to creating checklists and one-off tasks, you can use something as simple as Word or Google docs, or something as amazing as ScreenSteps (I'm a little biased). I also hosted a webinar on how to make your checklists and one-off tasks easier to read >> How to get employees to read your docs.
...Finally, Work Through Activities to Put it Together
Now that you know the inputs, you have resources to help employees make decisions and perform the correct actions, you're going to create activities that help employees practice.
If you're doing a live training in a conference room or a classroom, show a slide that demonstrates the input.
Your employees now have to make a decision. Instead of telling them what to do, show them where they can find your policies, and ask them to make a decision based on the policy.
Once employees have made a decision, show them where to find the checklist/response to perform the action.
What will employees remember?
The reason you want to approach training like this is because your employees will not remember much. I repeat–employees will forget most of what you tell them during your onboard training session.
So you want to be intentional about what knowledge/skill they walk away with.
By introducing inputs, asking employees to use your resources to make decisions and execute the actions, you are teaching them how to find answers and do their job. True, they may not have all of your policies memorized when they leave training–but they won't have those memorized after 3 hours of lecturing either.
So wouldn't it be better if they at least walked away knowing how to find, interpret, and then apply your policies?
And it's also true that after training this way, employees won't have memorized how to use all of the features in your system–but they won't have memorized that after watching you click through a bunch of screens, either.
So wouldn't it be better if they at least walked away knowing how to use your checklists and one-off articles to perform actions?
Eventually, as employees use the system and reference your training materials to do their jobs, they will have more questions about how the system works or why things are done a certain way. When that happens, you can certainly dive into more details. But when doing your onboard training, focusing on these 3 elements will give you much better results.