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6 ways to improve employee training

You can't expect to have stellar employees without training them up to your standards. Here are six steps to hone your employee training techniques.

Mark Mulcahy, Human Resources Team

February 11, 2014

3 Min Read
6 ways to improve employee training

What aspect of store operations is not given enough time or resources, yet can have the greatest impact on your staff's efficiency and attitude? If you guessed training, you’re correct.

At every seminar we present or team meeting we attend, we hear staff members and managers lamenting the lack of time allowed for training and lack of good materials for new employees.

Yet experience shows it’s less expensive to train correctly and keep current employees than to continually train new people.

Here’s our advice:

1. Allow enough time to understand and learn the job. The more uninterrupted, hands-on time you allow the trainer to spend with the trainee, the better the learning--even if this means adding extra hours to your labor budget. If training is done consistently, your sales per labor hour will increase. Spend time now and reap rewards later.

2. Design a written program. Decide how you want things done and document them. Write a description for each job and shift. This will clarify your expectations for new folks and solidify the current crew. Documenting your procedures ensures consistent training and takes some of the burden from the manager’s shoulders by providing a guide for others to be trainers—and grow into more ownership of the department.

3. Tell 'em, show 'em, ask 'em. Ask trainees to repeat back to you how and why the job is done a certain way. If you just ask, "Do you understand?" you’ll get an automatic "Yes." If you ask, "What’s your understanding of what I told you?" they can tell you in their own words, and in turn you’ll hear how you relay information.

Show them specifically what each task entails, and then have them show you. Don’t move on to teaching the next task until you’re sure they’ve mastered the one at hand.

4. Know the rules before you break them. We’ve often observed a trainer saying, "This is the way you’re supposed to do it, but I do it this way." Don't confuse the trainee with inconsistent messages! Insist that trainers uphold the agreed-upon practices. Effective shortcuts come from understanding the process first.

5. The shadow knows. After a morning of absorbing information, new workers may be on overload. So spend the rest of the shift with them shadowing you. Let them observe firsthand how you deal with a special order, handle a difficult customer or role-model good time management.

6. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Recognize that most people want to do well. Encourage and praise their progress. Too often we only tell people what they didn't do well. Allow for mistakes; this is how they learn what works and what doesn't.

Lastly, show your human side. Don't be afraid to say that you don't know something or that someone else in the department is better at a particular task than you. This allows trainees to feel comfortable and to realize that each team member plays an essential role in the success of the department.


About the Author(s)

Mark Mulcahy

Human Resources Team, CDS Consulting Co-op

Mark Mulcahy is an award-winning retail consultant, educator and organic advocate. He is a member of the CDS Consulting Co-op, which provides consulting for co-ops and independent retailers worldwide. With more than 30 years in the organic produce industry, Mulcahy is well known for his creative merchandising, effective training techniques, passion for produce, successful financial strategies and dedication to sustainable agriculture. He is the co-creator and co-presenter of Rising Stars, a leadership development course for retailers, and is co-host the national radio show, An Organic Conversation

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