Managers often spend a lot of time debating the many techniques of employee training, to try and determine if they’re doing the right things.   Should you put everything in a power point presentation, or mix it up with some video segments?  Should it be a straight lecture, or do you want to make it interactive and include things like role-playing?  Do you want instructor-led training or should it be presented as a webinar?

With as much thought as management puts into the task of employee training, it’s surprising that so little time is often spent on the material being covered.  In speaking with employees throughout the country, in a variety of industries, I’ve learned complaints do not involve the way training was presented, but the material itself.

What Seasoned Employees Had to Say

“There were so many little details about things they said rarely occur but had to cover, that I felt overwhelmed.  I wanted to quit before I even started.”

“Every time something unusual comes up I spend so much time going through the employee training manual to try and find out how to handle the one, oddball variation, that I feel frustrated.  It’s particularly annoying that my manager told us to refer to our manual to try and figure out how to do something before asking.  In the six months I’ve been with the company, I’ve wasted hours looking up how to handle things that only come up a few times a year!”

“Employee training was good, but it left out pieces of the big picture, so when I’d go to do my job and would get stuck, my supervisor had to explain how to do the next few steps and I’d have to write it in the manual because it wasn’t even covered.”

“Even I’m confused by the employee training manual, and I’ve been here for three years!”

Many Managers say they’re great with details and leave nothing out of training.  They sometimes have training materials that are hundreds of pages or slides long, with every possible scenario spelled out completely.  While this makes for a great reference book, in the event everyone in the department quits their job on the same day and no seasoned employee remains, it’s not the best way to train.

Training is Like Building a House 

Think of employee training as you’d think about building a house.  You need good bones, above all else.  You need a strong foundation, and then you frame the house as solidly as possible.  You put up the walls, throw down the flooring, add a roof, and put in the windows and doors.  Those are the basics.  This isn’t the time to worry about what knobs and pulls you want to use on cabinets and drawers.

The basics of a job are the day-to-day functions and how to do them.  If there are exceptions that arise on a regular basis, include it as part of the training.  If there are exceptions that rarely come up, omit them and explain to those you’re training that, “There are some exceptions that we will explain to you as they arise.  We don’t cover everything during training because it would be overwhelming.   When X happens, ask us how to handle it and be sure to write it down on the additional blank sheets in the back of the training manual.  That’s what they’re there for.”

People Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

Other corporate cultures prefer a far less detailed method.  They lay the foundation, and throw up the framework, but don’t include the walls, flooring, windows, doors or roof.  They provide the very minimum and see if the employee can figure out the rest on their own.

This is a very frustrating thing for new employees who are anxious to get through the painful period of the learning curve and prove to themselves and others they can do a good job.  People don’t even know which questions to ask sometimes because they don’t know what they don’t know.

Improve Training and Improve Retention

Employee training, both initial and ongoing, plays a large part when it comes to employee retention.  Don’t just spend time on the execution of training, but on the material itself.  Give the manual to those doing the job and ask for their input, explaining you’re trying to cover enough material to allow new people to do the job in the initial weeks, without covering all the various scenarios that may come up from time to time.  And get feedback from those hired within the past year.

This not only allows you to punch up the material you’re using but also engages and motivates those whose input you’re seeking.

A win-win proposition for the winning Manager.




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