An important part of supervising is training employees to do the work—or to do it better.
Here are some ways to make the training process easier and more effective for all concerned.
1. Break complex tasks into simple routines, and teach those one at a time.
2. Don’t try to teach people things they already know. Instead take the time to find out what they don’t know or can’t do—and focus on those.
3. Remember the new hire rule: “Approximation now, perfection later.” In other words, allow for a generous learning curve. This applies to experienced workers, too—if they’re being trained for a new job.
4. People acquire knowledge by asking questions. Ask your trainees to, “please, ask.” Treat their questions seriously. “There are no dumb questions, just dumb answers.” Your responses should carry the tone of cheerful explanation—not a brisk, condescending snap.
5. People acquire know-how by doing. On-the-job training is usually the most productive kind. It’s also the kind in which the learner makes the most mistakes. That’s OK. Making mistakes is often one of the better ways to learn (as long as the mistakes don’t hurt anyone or cost too much).
6. Studies show that small amounts of tension speed up learning—large doses paralyze. Be sure the employee anxiety level is helping, not hindering, the training process. You may need to lower the stakes, slow the pace or take more breaks. Or vice versa.
7. Appoint a mentor. Find another worker who enjoys helping people get started, and who is good at explaining and demonstrating tasks and procedures and operating equipment. You can’t be everywhere at the same time, and a mentor like this can help the trainee when you have something else to attend to. But check in now and then, not just to ensure things are going well, but to show that you’re truly interested in the employee’s success.
8. Don’t forget to smile every now and then. Training is not supposed to hurt or distress the employee. Your pleasant demeanor will telegraph patience, which in turn, will exude encouragement.