bp default image

The Importance of Training

Formalized training should begin at the top of the ladder.

In my December 2005 column, I addressed the challenges of hiring good managers for your company. This month, I want to focus on another aspect of personnel"?training the people within your organization.

As much as we hear about it, talk about it, and even meet about it, most of us are guilty of not focusing enough on employee training. This is usually true for all company levels"? from the entry-level worker to the top strata of management. And while there are several options for training outside of your organization, the successful companies are those that have excellent training programs within their own companies.

Organization and structure
If your goal is to develop a truly successful training program in your operation, begin by formalizing it. This should include training curriculum from top to bottom"?for your managers as well as your newest hires.

All too often we discuss the importance of training with our managers and then send them out with the mandate that they need to "train your people." The problem with this scenario is we have never trained our managers in the first place! Whether your supervisors are managing three people or 30, if you expect them to properly train their people you must first train them. Then move down your organization.

You also need to make certain that your training programs are structured"?not only in their format but also as to their schedule. Whether sessions are held daily, weekly, or monthly, they should be held at the same time in order to create consistency. And once you set the schedule, stick with it. If your training is held regularly, you'll find that your employees will take it seriously, and attendance at these training sessions will be much higher. On the other hand, if your classes are held haphazardly, you will likely find that your personnel will begin regarding them as somewhat optional, rather than mandatory.

Mix it up
In my own company's training curriculum, we use a variety of instructors to keep the training fresh. Sometimes we will have our president lead the session, while other times it may be one of our department heads.

But we also have gone out-of-house, utilizing outside resources as "guest speakers" at some of our training sessions. Often, people outside of your organization will provide a unique view on a subject that otherwise may be received as "the same old stuff" if taught by someone within the organization. For example, you could bring in someone with extensive sales experience to share his or her perspective on how to interact with their customers, how to develop sales leads, how to retain customers, etc. While you may be able to tackle these subjects within your own management group, utilizing a variety of resources can be a very effective approach to your training.

Another way to invigorate a training program is to intermingle personnel from all your departments into a training session. This works particularly well with general subject matter: If you have a training topic that a large group or all of your employees need, divide the training up into smaller groups and organize the groups with representatives from every company department. This ensures that your employees have a chance to mingle with various people in your organization and to do so in a different setting from the standard one.

Who do you train?
One of the challenges of training is deciding who exactly do you train in your organization and when you train them. The answers are: a) everyone, and, b) all the time.

Let's begin at the top of the ladder: Your philosophy should be that every manager must be in the process of training his or her replacement. This may seem threatening to some, but it's the only way people within your organization can grow. How many times have you had a key employee quit, only to find that you have no one even close to being qualified to replace them? That is a direct reflection on your training program.

Nor can your sales force ever have enough training. In addition to training them in sales skills, make certain they are trained in the technical aspects of your business. In our industry, the most successful sales reps are the ones that have the technical expertise to "talk the talk." Your customers demand it"?and if they don't get it from your sales rep, they will find someone else who does.

Establishing successful training programs at the management and sales levels will make it easier to get additional training programs off the ground and running. Remember, every employee at every level needs some training.

Marty McGhie (marty@ferraricolor.com) is VP finance/ operations of Ferrari Color, a digital-imaging center with Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Sacramento locations.

View more from this Big Picture issue