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New Hire Training – A Business Requirement

Company profitability can be predicted by training program quality. The more formalized the training process and the more committed the company to continuous improvement of its people via training, the more profitable the company.

In retail operations, we can be even more specific. The more formalized and qualitative the new hire, assistant manager and manager training, the more profitable the chain. Whether profits are a direct result of training, or are simply a by-product of the process required to develop and implement formal training, all we know is that it works. It shows at the bottom line.

If you have yet to develop a formalized training program, and want to seriously boost profits, don’t delay another day. It’s not as tough as it may first seem. Start now by using these steps:

1) Designate a responsible person. This person doesn’t need to be from HR or be in charge of the training. Their sole duty is to make sure your training project gets the right people participating and is constantly moving forward until completion.

The person above enlists a five-person oversight team consisting of individuals from various departments and then gets each level of the organization involved in the training. This team will identify and set training goals aligned with corporate mission and culture. For instance, if your focus is to develop

1)  a store clerk training program, the oversight team should consist of a clerk, a manager, a unit supervisor, a home office auditor, and your HR person, with one serving as team leader. (Most frequently, it’s the HR person only because they’ve had training in leading teams.)

2) The oversight team then appoints a five-person work team. This team should consist of four people who currently perform the tasks targeted for training, plus one higher-level company person. For instance, with our example of clerk training, this team would have four exceptionally good clerks and one great store manager. Ideally, each team member would be from a different store with none of the clerks reporting to the manager selected.

With the responsible person in charge and the two teams in place, the mission is very specific.

  • Identify all of the competencies required for the job.
  • Prioritize the competencies into a sequenced training order.
  • Create a fair, qualitative evaluation.

The work team will begin with skills and duties, but eventually you must get beyond mere job duties to core competencies based upon a company’s values. This is often the input of the oversight team. For instance, if one of your company’s stated values is teamwork, the oversight team needs to be sure the training plan teaches, models and rates teamwork.

Now, back to the work team. A good way for the work team to hone in on necessary duties and skills is to use flowcharting, identifying step by step a typical day’s duties.   To begin flowcharting, use 3” x 3” sticky notes (Post-Its) to record each duty or step starting from the first hour of the day through the last hour. Write only one step per page.   After identifying all the daily duties, record the weekly, monthly and occasional but critical job requirements.

Next, using a one to five scale, rate the criticalness of competency in that duty to company success.    A score of five is an extremely critical item (such as accurate cashiering). A score of one is a non-critical task. Each team member should rate each item individually. Afterwards, the work team should come to a consensus rating for each item.

The work team’s next challenge is to decide the logical training sequence for all the steps, bearing in mind the rating along with a time frame for completion. By adding up the expected training times of all the steps, you’ll identify the length of the training with reasonable accurateness (it’s always much more that you ever would have guessed when you started this process) and that time can be budgeted.

Now comes the hard part — developing a way to test competency and definitively rate a trainee’s performance for each training step. Ideally, the performance rating system should be completely quantitative and not subjective. Think in terms of how many times a task is done, or percentage of correct tasks to total times attempted. Any trainee should be able to easily comprehend the rating system, which means your work team should develop the performance criteria, with review by the oversight team.

The most common stumbling block in developing a comprehensive company-wide training program is variance in procedures at different locations. Stores may be in different stages of automation, equipment or offerings. Don’t allow these differences to sabotage your progress. Identify the core training that applies to all sites and then develop modules to deal with the differences. For instance, you might have a “Car Wash Module” that would only be required at locations with a car wash or a “POS Module,” etc.

It’s also common for companies to discover a lack of standard operating procedures in their organization. If so, step back from your training efforts to take the most efficient processes from various sites and then develop a set of standard procedures to be incorporated into your training program.

You may also find certain aspects of training are not position-specific. They apply to anyone hired into the company regardless of position. These core competencies such as communication skills, conflict resolution, product knowledge, etc. can be expedited through the use of a standardized orientation process. And remember that training is not a one-time thing for only new hires. An effective training program should encompass career development and skill enhancement of loyal long-term employees as well.

Finally, no matter how thorough your initial training program, be prepared to revise and improve your process. Solicit regular feedback and monitor your turnover rates. A good training program will more than pay for the design time in reduced turnover.

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