Why Training Like a Bird Doesn’t Work

There are several species of birds that use the “tough love” philosophy when training their young to fly.  Essentially, the parent leaves the young birds on their own to figure it out.  The baby bird either flies, or becomes intimately acquainted with terra firma.

Years ago I started a job where I was given no training or assistance, other than  access to prior purchase orders to “see how it was done”.  Essentially I started and was left to figure it out.  After a year I finally knew what I was doing, but I made some big mistakes on the way.  Those mistakes cost the company more money than training me properly ever would have.

Significant evidence exists showing the benefit of training an employee properly when they start.  As long as you don’t waste money over-training, the effort generally proves worth the time.  But how organized is your new-hire training?  Here are six things to remember:

  1. Don’t leave them alone to figure it out!  Even the smartest individual needs to know how your company operates in its unique and quirky ways.
  2. Have a checklist.  There are many items to cover when training a new employee and I know from experience how easy it is to forget something.  A checklist will help prevent that.  (Thanks to Michael Hyatt for turning me on to this concept in a new way recently!)
  3. Make sure your training program is current.  Few things give a bad impression faster than running an employee through a training program and sitting down with them at the end to all the parts that aren’t right.
  4. Don’t miss the small stuff.  It’s easier to remember to train a new buyer about the PO process than to remember to train them on transferring a call.  See #1 for how to remember everything!
  5. Remember the two most important words in training assessment – Show Me.
  6. Show them where to find extra help after the initial training is complete.  A mentor, reference library, wiki, or any other resource that lets them be self-discoverers takes some of the burden off the trainer for future questions.
As with any curriculum, new-hire training is important to regularly check for currency.  Is your new-hire training ready for the next “student’?
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