A reader writes:
I’m transitioning out of my job and into a new one. My replacement will start a week from today, and I’ll have a full week week to train the new employee. My organization has not historically been good at training. When I started this job, my predecessor sat over my shoulder and instructed me what to do as we simply did her/my job together for the entire 8 hours of three consecutive days. It was exhausting and painful.
I want to create a training plan so that I can give my replacement independent tasks and some down time to absorb everything, rather than sitting next to her for 8 hours for 5 days and overloading her brain with too much information too rapidly. Although I have written manuals for most of the specific tasks of my job, we don’t have an employee manual or other literature to introduce the new hire to the organization in general. How do I go about creating a training plan? My organization has never used a formal training plan so my own boss can’t be helpful here.
Is it better to end up sending the new hire home early if we move through the plan too quickly, or is it better to create an ambitious training plan that we may not get all the way through if some things take longer than anticipated? Is it OK to give a new hire in a position that will ultimately be autonomous and self-directed the freedom to work independently on non-critical tasks during this initial training period, even though she has only just been trained on the tasks that same day or week?
Your instincts are exactly right here: Giving her time to absorb things and work on her own is going to increase her retention dramatically, and a training plan is an excellent idea.
I’m a big fan of creating an outline of what you’ll cover and in what order. And here’s a really good sample training outline from The Management Center. (Disclaimer: I wrote it and based it on one that I created in my old job. Also, that link will download a Word document.)
In addition to job-specific information, you should also include things like:
* An overview of your department and its staff, and who does what
* Important contacts in the rest of the organization; who to see for what
* Tips for working with other departments
* How to handle particular personalities outside the office and things to be sensitive to
* Common problems they’ll encounter and how to handle them
* What kind of communication your manager prefers
* Approval process for work
* How to locate important files and other sources of information
* Goals for the first month and first quarter
* How success in the role is judged generally, and keys for doing well in it
As you’re putting this together, think about what would have been helpful to you when you first started. What do you wish you knew earlier on? Were there things you discovered six weeks in that suddenly made your life much easier? Incorporate those lessons into your plan.
Also, structure this so that you first lay a broad foundation and then get more detailed. It’s much easier for people to retain details when they already understand what the bigger picture looks like. So give the view from 10,000 feet up first, and then zoom in on the details. Similarly, give her a copy of the training outline on her first day so that she knows what to expect. First weeks are nerve-wracking, and they’re easier when you have some idea of what’s around the next corner.
You also asked: “Is it better to end up sending the new hire home early if we move through the plan too quickly, or is it better to create an ambitious training plan that we may not get all the way through if some things take longer than anticipated?” Don’t send her home early. If you can, just move on to the next part of the plan. Or, have her start doing the work that you’ve trained her in. In fact, you absolutely must build in time for her to do the work on her own … because that’s when she’s going to run into problems and questions, and you’ll still be there at that point to help with them. If you don’t let her do any of the work on her own until you’re gone, it’ll be too late for that. So your training plan should include quite a few work blocks, where she’s doing the job and then has the opportunity to check back in with you.
One last thing: Check in with her periodically about the pace of the training. Are there things she’s not quite processing that she’d like to spend more time on? Is she ready to move more quickly? People often won’t speak up when they’re new on a job, so ask her proactively.
Good luck, and congratulations on your new job!