Training your Team? Keep it Simple.

Be honest! How much time do you invest in training your team? And I mean properly training them – showing them the one right way to do a task, letting them ask questions and practise, sharing what’s important and why it is.

I hear so many managers rant in frustration about how their team ‘just don’t get it’; how they ‘never show any initiative’; how they ‘showed him how to do the task only two weeks ago!’.

When I challenge them about what ‘showing him’ looked like, it often turns out that the training was a brief and cursory run through of the task, before the manager rushed off to do something else. I’ve experienced this sort of training myself. Trainers who sit you down, tell you to watch what they do, rattle through an explanation at 100mph, then get up and leave you to it with an ‘Ok, got it?’ … err, no, not really!

During my time with McDonald’s, I was taught that it was my responsibility as a manager to train the employee (in the skills they need to do their job), and develop the person (helping them to grow in confidence and fulfil their potential) from day one, until the day they left and moved on to pastures new. 

The best managers recognise that they have a responsibility to help their team members to fulfil their potential, and to do that, they have to develop them as people and potentially as future leaders.

So how do you do that? How do you take raw talent, an unearthed gem, and hone it into something remarkable?

Well, the first step of course, is to hire people who share your values; people who are enthusiastic about working with you and your business; people who maybe even see it as a privilege to have a place in your team.

Then you give them the training they need to perform well

How to train effectively.

If you’ve invested in creating How To guides then these will be a great back up for the 1:1 training you carry out. A good How To shares all the steps to follow to complete the task and explains why it’s important that your team member follows your one right way! 

BUT, your How To guide will only be effective as a back up if your initial 1:1 training has been thorough – if you have left your team member to practise only when you are confident that they have fully understood how to complete the task, and the standards that are expected.

So how do you make that initial training thorough and effective…

1. Prepare. 

Read through your How To guide, or watch your How To video to remind yourself of all the key points, making notes if you need to. Double check that you have everything you need, that the equipment is working, that you’ve allowed enough time, and so on. Be prepared to get this right.

2. Make sure that you have their full attention.

If you want your team member to be listening to what you have to say, concentrating so that they understand, and focused so that they are able to act on what they’ve learned, then you need to get their attention, and keep it. There are plenty of ways you can do this, but if you’re struggling, try one of these:

  • Find out what their existing knowledge is by asking questions – you don’t want to be going into detail with stuff they already know
  • Tell them something interesting about the task they’re going to learn; a key fact, a funny anecdote, or a tale of disaster (the short version)
  • Tell them what the benefit of learning this task is for them
  • Let them know how this task fits into the big picture of your operation and their role.
  • Make sure that you’re not distracted either, and that you won’t be disturbed until you’re finished training.

3. Break down the task.

Decide in advance if the task can be taught in steps (for a simple task) or if it needs to be broken down into bigger chunks of several steps – like building blocks.

Walk your team member through one chunk at a time, being really clear about what you are doing and why. Think about your pace – too fast and they’ll flounder, too slow and their minds will wander.

Get interactive where you can, to keep them engaged. For example, ‘When you get to this point you do this. Why do you think that is?’ This can also be a good indicator of how well they are following what you’re saying and if they’re making links between one part of the task and another.

4. Check that your learning is hitting home.

After every bite-size chunk and also after teaching the whole task, check that your team member has learned the key elements by asking them a few testing, open-ended questions, starting with What, Why, How or When. [Remember to build in these checks in your online process too]

If they can’t answer the questions, go back to the breakdown and re-train each section until both you, and they are confident that they’ve nailed it.

5. Practice.

Remember when you learned to drive, how important practice was? When you’ve finished your training, give your team member time to practise, and make it ok to ask questions, even make mistakes until they get it.

Whether it’s online training or face to face, recognise that they need both practice and feedback until they can do the task automatically, following your ‘one right way’, and achieving the standard you expect.

Set your team up for success with effective training, and make your life and theirs a whole lot easier!

Do one thing:

Identify a task that isn’t being done as you want it to be and then invest time in training the team member who currently does the task, to do it the way you want it to be done, and to your standard.

NB Team Development is step 4 of a 9 step roadmap that we lead our clients along, to build the business-critical systems that will make their business sale-ready, and free them from their day to day operation.


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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