Saturday, October 24, 2009

A New Twist on Training New Employees

I just hired seven new employees for the store. Now comes the fun part - training.

My standards are high. My customers' standards are even higher. They have an expectation about our store that may seem unfair in these days of self-serve retail. They expect to be waited upon. They expect to have their questions answered quickly, correctly and with good cheer. They expect the staff to be friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. They expect us to have what they want, get it through the checkout quick, giftwrap it for free and have them on their way before their child has time to even think about a meltdown.

Oh yeah, and they want to have FUN while doing it.

In short, my customers are expecting the world, and I am planning on giving it.

The seven new employees had two things in common - a desire to help others and a strong work ethic. Those were the characteristics I required in this round of hiring. Now comes the task of teaching them about the toys, about our services, about our policies, about our cash registers, about our philosophy. There is a lot to learn. More than I can remember. More than I have time to teach.

I did two things you can copy for your business when you have to hire & train new employees.

First, I created a checklist of all the skills the new employees need to learn. I broke it down into main items and subcategories to make sure nothing was overlooked. Simple things like closing procedures or bagging toys were on the list along with educational material like How Toys Teach, and Phil's Top Ten Toys. Cash register procedures, time clock procedures, delivery policies and every other service we offer is on the list.

And next to each item on the list is a blank line.

The second thing I did was empower my current staff to train the newbies on all of these procedures. The only caveat is that the employee who does the training has to put her initials on the newbie's checklist next to that item.

There are three immediate benefits of doing training this way.

  1. The regular staff gets a sense of responsibility in training the new hires. They feel more empowered which leads to even more responsibility.
  2. Everyone is accountable for how well the training is accomplished. If your initials are on the checklist, you better have taught them well. Knowing that you'll be evaluated, too, has the regulars honing their own skills in the process.
  3. We're building camaraderie right from the start. The new staff are interacting more with the old staff and getting to know them quicker than if they were just working along side each other.
Sure, I'm still involved in the training. Some of my involvement is direct teaching the skills I want to teach, but most is just overseeing the process and evaluating the new employees' skills as they learn. Best of all, I get to see who of the regulars has the ability to teach and who needs more work on their own skills.

All in all, through this process everyone is improving their abilities to give the customers the kind of service they expect. And I'm getting seven new smiling faces ready for the frontlines this holiday season.

-Phil

1 comment:

  1. Those lists will also make for a great tool to use during yearly evaluations with both the old and new staff. A way to point out what they're doing well and what they need to work on. Great idea!

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