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Are you training your staff to fail?

At Puryear IT, we’ve long worked on a well-documented training program for new staff. This has not been easy. In the past, we’ve had false starts, gone off on tangents, and designed large elaborate handbooks. All the while, our staff had to do the best they could to master our training and also be ready and available as quickly as possible to provide top-notch service to our customers.

photo credit: Brainless Angel via photopin cc

Yet, they weren’t always able to pull it off.

Whose fault was that?

It’s impossible to say sometimes–which is a major problem in a growing company likes ours. In some situations, new staff may simply be lacking a key ingredient and not ultimately be a good fit for us or our client base. That happens. But in other situations, staff may be exactly what the doctor ordered, but we haven’t ensured they had the tools available to do the job right.

Without a really good training program for new hires, and refreshers for current staff, it is impossible to know where staff proficiency issues are. You can’t throw a new hire into the fire without expecting them to get burned. But you can’t assume that a lack of training is the cause of proficiency issues in all cases either.

At Puryear IT, we’ve finally developed a systematic way of training new hires, and ensuring existing staff gets refreshed, via Puryear University (PYU).

I’d like to share our approach and even ask for feedback.

Now, let’s identify the original issues we had:

  • Large training guides that were 50+ pages of screenshots, documentary, and testing. And we kept increasing the size of these guides as we decided new staff needed to learn new things.
  • No way to track who was proficient at what within the company.
  • No way to know if new material we added needed to be given to existing staff and for them to be tested on that material.

Our solution was this:

  • Split up training into certifications. For example, every employee must be certified in Company Handbook Basics, Company Benefits Basics, RingCentral Basics (our phone system), and Autotask Basics (the PSA we use to run our company and projects). By splitting up a large training guide into certifications, new hires are faced with a massive tome.
  • Assign a Peer Mentor. We had an unofficial version of this previously, but we have since made this an official part of training. Each department has its own type of Peer Mentor. For example, technical services have a Technical Peer Mentor (TPM). The TPM is responsible for the day-to-day training of the new hire based on training agenda. The TPM is also responsible for assisting the new hire with questions as they learn how we do things—this is how we help educate new staff on our culture!
  • Internally track certifications earned. We use Autotask to track which employee has passed which certifications. This means our training staff knows where they are at with each employee and new material can be easily assigned to existing staff.
  • Quarterly Offsite Meetings. These are not in-the-weeds training. Rather, we go over company culture, customer service, organization and chain and command, and other tidbits which increase employee satisfaction and also keep us on the road of profitability and, well, being happy at work.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this approach and to see what you’ve implemented within your own organization.

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