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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 to train the new employee. Historically, my organization has not 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 eight hours of three consecutive days. It was exhausting and painful.
I want to create a training plan so I can give my replacement independent tasks and some downtime to absorb everything, rather than sitting next to her for eight hours for five 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 the freedom to work independently on noncritical 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 the new hire time to absorb things and work on her own is going to increase her information 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, so that there's some structure to your plan--and so that your new hire can look at it and understand what will be coming and when.
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
- How to handle various contacts outside the office and things to be sensitive to
- Common problems the person may encounter and how to handle them
- What kind of communication your (and now her) manager prefers
- Approval process for work
- How to locate important files and other sources of information
- Goals for the first month, first quarter, and first year
- 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 had known 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 she knows what to expect. First weeks are nerve-racking, and they're easier when you have some idea of what's around the next corner.
As for whether you should send the new hire home early if you finish everything you planned to cover on a particular day: 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 it's especially helpful if you're still there at that point to help. 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!
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