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April 2015

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5 Important Things To Help Employees Learn Better

Written by , Posted in Business

New employees will learn differently.

5 Important Things To Help Employees Learn Better

“Okay, you have to put your shoes on.”

My son decided yesterday that crawling was passé. Until then, walking was fun, but not a priority. Now however, there’s no question what he wants.

“Put me down, daddy. I want to walk.”

It’s an interesting feeling watching your child take his first unaided steps. You’re overwhelmed with mixed feelings of joy and sadness. You’re proud of the accomplishment, but sad that he’ll no longer want you to carry him.

To him, after he starts walking, there are so many things to do and learn. The doors of possibility are thrown wide open; feeding one’s self, dressing one’s self, even opening the door for the dog to come in. The world is his playground.

If you’re like any other parent you want to help them. You don’t want to see them literally fall on their face. Walking was easy. They watched you walk for months and the challenge was laid down. Talking was the same. They listened and learned. In neither case could you force them to learn, jumping in to do it for them.

So too, is it for your employees. As a new or even mature business, hiring employees means growth. Each new hand will translate into new dollars earned from the people coming to your door step. But rushing in every time you see your employees failing or not doing it as perfectly as you wish it isn’t a viable option. You run the risk of alienating them, or embarrassing them if there’s an audience.

What do you do now? Do you have a best practice? A surefire way to help employees learn?

5 things to do when teaching new employees.

1. Learn how your employees learn

Everyone will learn differently. Some people are auditory, others visual, while others yet,
learn mechanically also know as kinesthetic learning. It’s great for a visual person to watch a movie, but what if you don’t learn that way? What if you learn by doing? Some people can be thrown into the job and retain more the first day they do it themselves than they did the previous ten days learning it online or through videos.

Your job as the business owner is to learn how your people learn and then appropriately teach them how to do the job. You can outright ask them, “Hey, how do you learn best?”

If they don’t know, which happens more often than not, watch them. Rather, watch them as they shadow you or your other employees. See what they excel at and what they are more attentive to. Eventually you’ll become more adept at picking up the cues your employees are giving off.

Your time is best spent making sure they retain the most information in the best possible way. Understanding body language is a great way to accomplish this. Something as simple as the location people look when they’re trying to remember something can tell you a lot. For instance, when accessing memory, looking up signifies visual, looking to the side means auditory and looking down is kinesthetic.

2. Put a system of best practices in place

Even though people learn differently, there are similarities. You can use the same process from one auditory learner to another. That system can be codified into a book of best practices that you can update for each large job. The banks and large franchises have these already, but you may not. You may have to get help to put your thoughts on paper so it comes out coherently.

The best thing about a book like this is the buy in you gain by having input from your employees. They first tell you how they learn in general and then how to do a specific job. You can accumulate the different processes into separate sections.

Having access to this on an ongoing basis can be very powerful tool to learn from. I even go back to things I learned ten years ago. In a system established per job you can refresh, especially for those jobs you don’t do as often. The bank published job aids for every process and made them searchable. While yours may not be as expansive, the digital world has cleared the path like this to make things far easier for today’s business.

3. Don’t ask your employees to do what you wouldn’t.

Have you ever been hip deep in liquid manure? Well, thankfully I can ask my future employees to do so. That’s just a little note to the wise. Wink Wink. Seriously though, asking your employees to do the dirty jobs you refuse to won’t instill the trust your hoping for.

On the other hand, showing your employees that you aren’t singling them out to do the crap jobs will go a long way to earning their trust. Earning that trust will make it easier to teach them as they won’t question your authority or your word as you impart your knowledge. The learning curve will increase as your trust increases.

4. Walk away, but be ready when they ask for help

Micromanaging your employees, pointing out their shortfalls, reminding them what they missed can only end in heartache. Humans are emotional beings and having someone stand over them like a medieval overlord can be stressful.

As the business owner, you are inclined to stick around to ensure everything is done perfectly, however at some point you have to learn to trust your employees. By walking away, you are not only trusting them, but your system. You’re telling your people that you’ve established a system that they can trust and learn from.

By walking away, you can get to other things that are important and you can be available to your employees if they need help. That element of trust will go a long way.

5. Establish an environment of forgiveness and not anger

Letting your employees get to their own work as they see fit only works if you don’t destroy that trust you’ve established by blowing your stack every time something doesn’t go right. Too many times I’ve seen owners belittle their employees behind their backs and even to their faces, calling them inept or stupid when they miss a small nuance that causes damage to a machine or system. That’s a perfect example of the saying that by pointing a finger at someone you end up pointing three at yourself. When your people fail, more often it’s because you have
failed them. You failed to teach them or offer them the proper support.

Much like the support you offer your child when they’re dressing themselves or learning to use the potty, you can’t afford to degrade your employees. Alienating them, even with a backhanded comment, will only serve to push them away. You must embrace them with support, offering them what they need when they need it. You will have to accept that until they are comfortable, mistakes will be made.

 

You’ve seen people with trainee tags. While it may not be a get out of jail free card, it is recognition that there may be a reason for any mistakes being made. Your customers for the most part will understand when they are being served by a trainee.

With systems in place and an environment of trust, your employees will excel. You will be able to teach them the way they need to learn. They will feel comfortable enough to work knowing you won’t tear into them if they make a mistake. Teach them like children, just don’t treat them that way. Children throw themselves into what they enjoy, devouring information as they learn.

Do you have another item to add to the list? Are you prepared to change your system?
The best way to make change is to use a checklist. Start small, but question everything. A checklist starts by throwing all your questions down on a piece of paper and then removing the ones that are duplicates or don’t make sense. Your checklist will need to include questions like what cues people give when they are auditory or visual learners and how to take advantage of those cues. It will need to include questions about how your employees will feel when they are taught the wrong way. Will they just be bored or will they quit?

The more questions you ask, the better you will get at recognizing the small nuances of keeping your employees engaged and that engagement from day one will go a long way to ensuring they learn their jobs well and commit fewer mistakes.

Not ready to create your own checklist? Click here and let me help.