Staff training is absolutely vital to the success of a small business. Some small business owners throw a new employee into the deep end of the pool to see if he can swim. This produces a ineffective employee. How formal should you be in your training?
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Small Business Success Tips - Training

A well-trained staff is more efficient and more productive and produces higher quality than a haphazardly or inconsistently trained staff. An untrained staff that is supposed to figure it all out on their own is a nightmare on the way to a disaster. In short, staff training is absolutely vital to the success of a small business. Some small business owners or managers throw a new employee into the deep end of the pool to see if he can swim. This is a lazy and ineffective way to produce a capable, smoothly functioning employee. He will learn parts of his job incorrectly or not at all, or have to make up his own procedures.

The best results come from an established training regimen, intermingled with actually doing the job (under the guidance of another) in order to apply the training in real life. A training regimen has to include an instruction manual to be efficient. You can't take the time, or pay for someone else to take the time, to verbally transmit the same information over and over again on a one-to-one basis with every new hire.There will still be a lot of one-on-one training, but the amount will be cut way down.

How formal should you be in your training? Initially, very formal, with assignments and schedules, until the employee learns and can demonstrate the use of basic, necessary information. Ongoing? That's up to you. Training never really ends, because there is always more to learn. As a small business owner, part of your job is to make sure your staff are constantly becoming more capable. Some will do so on their own. Others might need a push. Recognize and reward improvement, and provide a way to achieve it for everyone.

Without laying out a whole training method, certain basic principles apply.

First, quality is far more important than speed. Instill the principles of quality in the trainee's actions at whatever cost in time. Taking too little time to train, or demanding more production at the expense of quality, will destroy any business. Speed will come naturally with practice and repetition. Quality will not. The quality of results will depend on whether the trainee is trained well or not. It is senseless to let speed develop without the benefits of excellent results.

Initially, the products the trainee produces will be imperfect and take a long time. He may not even produce any products for a while, but merely help and observe. This is okay. You don't pay a trainee very much, because you are not yet paying him to make you money; you are paying him to learn how to make you money. When he starts producing good products, you pay him more.

"Products" in the above paragraph means whatever the trainee is supposed to produce, not just the finished product that your company sells. It means balanced books, or good leads produced, or telephones answered pleasantly and competently, or a website kept up to date, or any of the hundreds of functions needed to make a business succeed.

Second, never train to mechanical competence only. Explain the reasons behind the procedures, so the staff member will be able to handle variations from the normal by applying the same reasoning. Even a fast-food checkout clerk has to know more than which button to press when, unless you want your franchise to plateau at the limits of staff inability.

Third, when training someone, Never, Ever make them feel stupid. If you do, they will start to agree, and stop trying to learn. There is always a way to get someone to understand what you are teaching them, unless they are deliberately refusing to get it. Those people you throw away, but fast. People have an incredible ability to learn. Anyone who is not drug-riddled can learn. The truth is, almost anyone can learn almost anything.

The return on investment in training is the faster, greater success of your small business.


Don Dewsnap is the author of Small Business Magic, published by Oak Wand Publishing. Small Business Magic details the principles of quality necessary to business success, applying to all aspects of business from production to sales. The principles of quality are not well known, and almost never applied to their full potential.

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