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0209 PD: Training new employees

Bernard L. Erven Published on 14 January 2009

No matter how carefully a manager recruits and selects employees, they will not come to their new jobs with all the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities. Training is essential if employees are to reach their potential.

Training should help them feel like they are creating better opportunities for themselves and, at the same time, helping the business accomplish its goals. Training is anything an employer does to help employees learn to do their work the way the employer wants them to do it.

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Training is an investment in people benefiting both the employer and employee. In an ideal employer-employee situation, the investment in teaching allows an employee to do the job better. Doing the job better benefits both the employee and the business. Trainers (teachers) are challenged to understand what the employees (learners) know from previous training and experience. Trainers need to see the job through the eyes of the employees. Good training makes complicated and complex tasks seem simple.

Note how complicated riding a bicycle seems until one knows how. Finding “pneumonia” in the dictionary happens only after one knows that it begins with a “p” rather than an “n”. Conditions that facilitate learning Each business should have a plan for training. The plan should include creation of a positive environment for learning.

Reinforcing the following assumptions in each trainer and employee helps create an ideal learning situation:
1. All employees can learn.
2. Learning should be made an active process.
3. Learners need and want guidance and direction.
4. Learning should be sequential.
5. Learners need time to practice new skills.
6. Learning should be varied to avoid boredom.
7. Learners gain satisfaction from their learning.
8. Correct learner behavior should be reinforced.
9. Learning does not occur at a steady rate.

Principles of job instruction
Job instruction can be divided into getting ready to train and training. Trainers are often so experienced in what they are teaching that taking time to prepare for training seems like a waste of time. “I don’t have time to prepare” or “I know this job so well I don’t need to think about how to teach it” may be foolish attitudes. Muddled and confused instruction increases the time spent on training and causes frustration for both trainer and employee.

Two important questions guide preparation for training:
1. What is the objective of the training?
Define specifically what the learners are to know or be able to do at the conclusion of the training. An acceptable level of performance and timetable for the training should be established.

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2. What are the principal steps in the task and in what sequence should they be done?
Analyzing each task can be helpful. Develop tips on how the job can be made easier, done more quickly or done with less frustration for the employee. Having answered these two questions, the trainer is ready to prepare equipment, materials, learning aids and the work place for the actual training. Looking for equipment or supplies during training leaves the learner suspicious that the teacher is careless or incompetent or both.

The actual instruction can be aided by a five-step teaching method:
1. Prepare the learner.
Learners are prepared when they are at ease, understand why they need to learn the task, are interested in learning, have the confidence that they can learn and the trainer can teach. The most important part of learner preparation is creating a need to know or desire to learn on the part of the trainee.

It helps to show enthusiasm for the task, relate the task to what the learner already knows, help the learner envision being an expert in the task, have the learner explain how the task will relate to success in the business, add fun and prestige to the task when possible, and associate the task with respected co-workers.

2. Tell the learner about each step or part of the task.

3. Show the learner how to do each step or part of the task.
In demonstrating the task, explain each step, emphasizing the key points and more difficult steps. Remember the little and seemingly simple parts of the task. Get the learner involved by asking questions about what is being shown.

4. Have the learner do each step of the task while being observed by the trainer and then without the trainer observing. Ask the learner to explain each step as it is performed. If steps or parts of the task are omitted, re-explain the steps and have the learner repeat them.

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5. Review each step or part of the task with the learner, offering encouragement, constructive criticism and additional pointers on how to do the job. Be frank in the appraisal. Encourage the learner toward self- appraisal.

Getting started
Training new and current employees offers managers a way to increase employee success. Training programs rarely change quickly and easily. Start by deciding what can be accomplished through better training.

Create a good environment for learning. Prepare before jumping into major changes in training. Separate orientation and other “first-day” activities from training on how to do the job.

Learn and use the five-step method to steer both trainers and employees toward greater success.

—Excerpts from Ohio State University Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics website

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