Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh sticks to a rigorous training regimen. Every new employee in the online retailer’s Henderson, Nevada headquarters must spend two weeks answering customer calls, two weeks learning in a classroom, and a week shipping boxes in the company’s Kentucky fulfillment center. Then there’s an additional curriculum for longtime employees, which includes 200 hours worth of classes in subjects such as Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and Twitter etiquette.
Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, the co-founders of Home Depot, devoted 10 percent of their time to training, personally conducting classes across the country or at the company’s Atlanta headquarters. “The most important thing to remember is that you must be actively involved in all of the training that goes on in your company,” Marcus told Inc. “The fire of the entrepreneur is very difficult to translate down the line. Too often, CEOs hand over responsibility to people who may seem to represent them well on the surface but rarely do. By keeping a hand in the training process, you expose everybody, including your trainers, to your philosophies.”
When training its would-be leaders, Disney doesn't just tell its employees about customer service values established in the 1960s; it gathers good customer service stories from around the company to share with its leadership classes, and takes employees backstage at its parks to see its complex support environment. When on the road doing classes for outside organizations, instructors create a virtual experience using film and photographs.
In 2008, Dealer.com, which designs and manages websites for car dealers, was adding employees so fast it couldn’t keep up training them. The company also found that it couldn’t convey all the information new recruits needed in a classroom setting. The solution? UFuel, a comprehensive online employee learning system Dealer.com invested 14 months in developing and implementing. UFuel offers almost 100 different elective courses, ranging from Microsoft Office training to business skills.
Every business would probably benefit from a little refresher on Emily Post. Enter services like those offered by the Protocol School of Washington, which specializes in teaching professionals about business etiquette, including how to conduct oneself in foreign markets. Training from PSOW covers everything from casual and formal dining protocol, tips on remembering names, the basics of international greetings, proper online communications, and dressing appropriately for any occasion.
Collectively, your employees are a treasure trove of information on topics that would likely surprise you, so why not let them share their knowledge with each other? SnagAJob.com, a $21.8 million job-search site in Glen Allen, Virginia, offered employees 62 classes through its eclectic program, Snagger U. Classes, which are taught by in-house experts, take place during the workday and last for an hour or two. Eight to 12 employees typically show up for each class. Topics covered ranged from finance fundamentals and HTML to Texas Hold ‘Em poker and women’s self-defense. An employee that continues to learn is a more engaged employee.