Train – Engager Dynamic #2

I can lay out clear expectations, be consistent with them and get all that right, but if my people don’t know the skills or how to perform the work they will never meet those expectations. So, the next Engager Dynamic is Training people how to meet your expectations.

An Example

Let’s use an acute care Hospital Environmental Services (housekeeping) department as an example. One of the responsibilities in this department is to clean the patient room after the patient has gone home to prepare it for the next patient. This is called a “Discharge Clean.” Now, I can explain the expectations; the room will look a certain way (even show a picture) when it’s done, it will pass a 14 point cleanliness inspection, and be completed within 30 minutes. Those are pretty clear, specific expectations. Everyone in the department would have to meet the same expectations so they are consistent. But, if I just communicate the expectations and walk away the employee will never be able to meet them. They don’t know how to perform the tasks and processes necessary to meet those expectations. I have to train them.

Step by Step

Early in my career I learned a 5-step training process that has served this dynamic well. The steps are as follows.

1. Tell Them – In this step you verbally explain everything needed to do the job. This will include the names of equipment, the tools necessary, how to operate them. Also important in this step is to explain why each step in this job is necessary and how this task contributes to the overall success of the company. You verbally walk the employee through each step in the process explaining tasks along the way.

2. Show Them – In this step you demonstrate what you have explained verbally. This can be done with training videos or in person. I prefer to do it in person in the environment where the employee will actually perform the work. You can have a skilled employee demonstrate the process and steps while you narrate or you can demonstrate yourself providing narration as you go.

3. Do it With Them – Here you will perform the job while the employee mimics you alongside. As you go through this step be sure to reinforce not only what needs to be done but also why and how it fits into the overall success of the company. This will provide memory pegs that will aid in learning and is also part of another Engager Dynamic called “Inspire” that we’ll discuss later.

4. Watch Them – In this step the employee performs the job by themselves while you observe. During this step ask questions to guide the employee if they are struggling and/or to continue reinforcing the whole learning process. It’s particularly helpful to ask questions about why each step is done

5. Have Them Teach You – In this step you switch roles. You have the employee pretend you are a new employee and they are the trainer. Have them teach you what they have learned. They should be able to go through the same process with you that you have gone through with them.

This is a basic training outline. Depending upon the complexity of the job, the prerequisite education or skills for the job, the learning pace of each employee, the amount of autonomy in the job, and other factors, this process could take hours, days, or weeks. You may need to go through the process more than once or repeat certain steps. It’s sometimes a good idea to break the steps up over a few days in order to help entrench the learning. Training is never a one-and-done proposition. In fact, one of the definitions of “Train” is,

“To teach (a person or animal) a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over a period of time.”

Once this outlined process has been completed, competence should be tested by you, the leader and cross-checked by another leader or skilled employee within two weeks and again at 30 days to assure the employee has learned the job.

Mistakes to Avoid

Leaders often make two critical mistakes when it comes to this Engager Dynamic. One of those mistakes is to rush the training process. Often we need the person up and running immediately so the temptation is to run them through some form of training, assume they’ve got it and send them on their way. Training is what Steven Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, called a Quadrant 2 activity. It is extremely important but not urgent in the same way as a ringing phone or getting to a meeting on time or someone stopping by to ask a question seems urgent. Do not let anything distract you from investing the necessary time and effort into training. It will pay dividends in the long run by preventing errors that could cost a lot of time and money.

A second critical mistake is to delegate the teaching entirely to someone else. This dynamic is listed on the Connector axis of the Leadership matrix. That is for a couple of reasons. First, when a company invests the time, money, and effort into a robust training program for both new hires and for continuing growth (see Engager Dynamic “Cultivate” –  coming soon) of existing employees, the message is “This is a great company; we believe in you and are glad you’re here.” This goes a long way in helping employees feel connected to the company and it’s values and purpose. The second reason Teaching is listed under Connection is that the time invested directly by the leader is the first real opportunity to develop a connection with the new employee. Leaders who are Engagers recognize the value of that connection and devote the necessary time to their people.

Think of It This Way

Another definition of “Train” is “To point or aim something (typically a gun or camera) at.” Think of it this way, when you take the time to properly train someone, you’re aiming them (and your organization) at success.

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