Hiring and retaining good employees are essential to small business growth. Many small businesses lack the resources to hire top talent and find themselves fighting for scraps in the employee gene pool. Small businesses tend to be the entry point for the unemployed and underemployed. On the rare occasion that a good employee is hired, they tend to leave for greener pastures.
Many small business owners are reluctant to train employees for fear that they will steal their “secrets” and start a new business or worse go to the competition. But this fear, although grounded in reality, is what prevents a business from truly thriving and retaining good employees. Instituting a good training program based on a solid training plan will help you to weed out the bad employees and keep the good ones.
Start with an Employee Manual
Even if you only have one employee, you should have an employee manual. This manual should serve to provide a minimum set of expectations between the company and the employee. It is a guideline on how an employee should act inside the workplace. It is also a set of expectations of benefits and opportunities for the employee.
If an employee is acting inappropriately, you may use the employee manual to remind the employee of certain expectations. Employee promotions and disciplinary actions can be addressed in the manual as well. You can also set guidelines for employee evaluations. Good employee training starts with a well written set of expectations.
Understand What You Want and Need Your Employees to Do
One complaint that small business owners have about employees is the lack of initiative. However, the term initiative is really code for taking on more work without being instructed. I guess in some ways that is something every business owner faces, big or small. But it is really significant in a small business where wages are lower. Therefore, it is important to know what you actually need your employees to do.
There is nothing wrong with wanting your employee to take some initiative, but you cannot be mad at him/her if they do not. More importantly, if there are things that are integral to their job (i.e., answering phones and setting appointments), specify, how you want things to be handled. However, if the employee has a “better” system, allow the employee to try new things. This allows those who want to take initiative to do so.
Make the Training Interactive
Depending on the type of business, you may need to have very specific and formal training. If your industry is highly regulated, then videos and manuals may be necessary to complete useful and accurate training. However, you can also add opportunities for “show and tell.” Provide a half day training that allows employees to do their jobs and ask questions. During this time, employees should have your undivided attention. If you train during normal work hours, schedule your time so that you are available and not distracted by other business.
You have to expect a learning curve. Just because something is easy for you does not mean it is easy for everyone else. If you cannot provide clear instructions on how to do a particular task, you cannot be angry when the employee doesn’t do something the way you would. The more guidance you can give in the beginning, the better it will be in the long run.
Schedule a Training at Least Once a Year
Preferably, training should be done more than once a year, but if you are small with one or two employees, training can be less frequent. Allow employees to explain how they do their job, what issues they are having, and what changes they would make. Set a date for the training each year and schedule it during the off season. This way, it is sure to get done and it is not arbitrarily skipped due to other matters.
If you have employees or are thinking about adding them to your business, start the training process early. Setting the tone from the beginning is essential to a good long-term working relationship.