Employee training can be similar to baking. If you've ever tried to make cookies and forgotten to, say, add an egg, you'll know that some dishes are doomed to failure because a mistake has been baked in.
Likewise, if you have employees who are constantly making mistakes, you may want to consider what happened at the beginning of the training process. Maybe you need to change your company's training recipe. Here are some ways you may have gone wrong.
No training was offered.
You might think no company would offer no training, but Alice Heiman, a management consultant in Reno, Nevada, claims she sees that quite often.
"Too many companies throw new employees right into the job with zero time to acclimate. They are expected to work the first day on the job. This may seem like a good idea because they believe the person is productive the first day or at least doing something," Heiman says.
The problem with doing that? "This person is now forced to look like they are busy doing something," Heiman says. "They are afraid to ask questions because they feel like they should know what they are doing. It starts them off on the wrong foot. Since they weren’t given any training, they are afraid to ask for training."
The training was rushed.
This can be an understandable issue. "Oftentimes, small-business owners are in desperate mode," says Donna Lubrano, a professor who specializes in international business at Northeastern University in Boston. "They need this new hire to be up and running and to get an ROI very quickly."
But while that may be understandable, you could be creating an error-prone employee, Lubrano believes.
—Bill Sterzenbach, partner, Upward Brand Interactions
She also points out that your employee may be nervous, especially if this is a new field or a first job, which can make it tough to absorb all the information—all the more reason not to rush someone through their training.
The wrong people are training your employees.
You don't want your worst employee doing the training, but you also may want to make sure you don't have someone jaded in charge.
"What typically happens is that the new employee picks up a lot of bad habits and sometimes a bad attitude from the person they shadowed," Heiman warns.
You also may want to carefully consider what's in it for the trainer—especially if your employees work on commission, such as salespeople or servers. Will they gain anything by training this new employee?
Laura MacLeod, the New York City-based creator of From the Inside Out Project, a program designed to improve attitude and behavior of hourly employees, suggests that may be a common mistake among employers.
"When I worked as a server and bartender, I was often asked to train the new hire," MacLeod says. "However, it was labor-intensive to do it correctly and took time away from my usual work serving customers, so I lost money. Fewer customers, fewer tips."
The next time MacLeod was asked to train someone, she asked if she could get paid for it and was told no.
"So I respectfully declined and someone less qualified trained the new hire," MacLeod says. "I've also been the new hire, who was expected to come in and train for no pay or very little. In the interest of getting to work and making money, I would rush through training, saying I was ready when I could have used more time to be totally secure. The old adage, 'you get what you pay for,' applies here. If you want good training and good employees, pay them."
Employees never verified whether they understood the training.
You saw the training happen. Maybe you did the training yourself. That doesn't mean your employee understood everything.
Someone can tell you they understand what they're being trained on if they feel that their employment is dependent on them saying "yes." Or you could have an employee genuinely believe he or she understands the ins and outs of their new job when they aren't really quite there yet.
Bill Sterzenbach, a partner at Upward Brand Interactions, a Dayton, Ohio-based marketing and advertising agency with 45 employees, reveals that was a mistake he often made in the past. Sterzenbach didn't have any way of really knowing if his employees, scattered across Ohio, truly were up to speed on everything they had been taught.
"We eventually created a series of online certifications for our employees, where they can demonstrate their understanding of the material, and we can circle back with them if there are areas where they could use additional instruction," Sterzenbach says.
The training was ho-hum.
Especially if you have your employees doing a lot of important but mundane tasks, try to make sure your training is not sleep-inducing.
"Once a new employee's eyes roll back in their head from boredom, you've lost them, and they're losing most of what they're hearing," says Barry Maher, owner of Barry Maher & Associates, a sales speaker, trainer and consultant in Corona, California.
Lubrano agrees, especially if you're throwing a lot at your new employee.
"Learning has many pathways, and auditory and visual learnings vary from person to person," she says. "Often, everything is done by word and nothing is written or systematized for a person to review. This leads to miscommunication, poor comprehension or even misunderstanding."
There was too much training.
Did you consider you can even train too much? You certainly might end up throwing so much at your new employee that you overwhelm them.
Jerry Lee, founder of Story Leather, Inc, a Walnut, California-based company that specializes in custom making leather goods, claims he did that recently with a newly hired employee.
"The new hire was hired to perform a single function—customer support—but with my over-sharing of how much growth potential the company has and the different tasks he could [eventually] get his hands in, like marketing and social media, he became distracted and couldn't focus on supporting the customer," Lee says.
Instead, Lee says, his new employee kept coming to him with suggestions for marketing and social media. "It was my mistake to lead the employee to think he can fly," Lee says, "before he knows how to walk."
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A version of this article was originally published on February 2, 2016.