Training picks up where procedures leave off, and they should work together to make sure employees are doing the job the way you want it done. Much training can be done on the job, but sometimes it is worth putting together materials to make the process go more smoothly. Training materials might be a good idea if:
- High turnover makes consistent training hard.
- You keep demonstrating the same skill.
- You want everyone to do things the same way.
- You want to minimize training time for your skilled employees who act as mentors.
The goal is to figure out how you want tasks done once and get it down on paper or electrons so that every employee will get the same training – and have a better chance of doing the task the same way. Not every task needs training materials; some are better taught on the job, or maybe it just needs a checklist to remind someone which steps come in which order. Complicated tasks which have lots of explanation involved are obvious candidates for training materials.
Once you have decided on a task to focus on, don’t automatically reach for paper (or PowerPoint). Sometimes that is a good method, but often videos work better for demonstrating the hands-on details. (PowerPoint in particular is easy to click through without thinking.) Think about what you need to convey and who you are teaching it to, and choose the best method for both. Or it might be a combination of methods, with a video augmented by a written chart or checklist.
As with procedures, think through the task carefully. What does an employee need to know before they start? Maybe something about how the task fits into the overall process would be helpful; maybe it is a reminder to wear safety gear. How do you want the task done? (If you have written a procedure, this step is easy.) Is there any new vocabulary that should be explained? Any warnings of common mistakes that could be mentioned? All of this should be included so that new employees can benefit from your experience.
Don’t assume that training will always take. Test people on what they have learned, ideally on the job rather than with a paper test. Check them every so often until you are positive that they are reliably doing it right. Drift can occur over time, so watch employees occasionally to make sure they are doing it the way you trained them to do it, not the way they have decided is better (and if their way is better, update your training materials).
Creating good training materials takes time but it is an effective and efficient way to train your employees in certain tasks and can save you a lot of time and frustration down the road.