When you build something from the ground up, recreating it to train someone new can be tough. I've been through this as we've developed and iterated on several processes over a few years at The Penny Hoarder, and have trained several rounds of new employees in newly developed processes.
"If you've been in your own head up until the point when it's time to scale the company, laying out SOPs [standard operating practices] for training can be a challenge," says Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of cloud communication advisor GetVOIP.
Here are some tips to help you get those instinctual habits out of your head and into processes your growing team can replicate successfully.
Write everything down (before you need it).
"Document the processes for everything," says Joshua M. Evans, founder of the organizational culture consulting firm Culture Consulting Associates. "It can be a process that seems painfully arduous, but it will allow other team members to emulate your work and process more quickly."
This was the best habit I was grateful to learn early in my career. Even as a freelancer, with no prospects of hiring help, I documented processes as I developed--and frequently changed--them. The habit is invaluable now that I'm a manager of a growing team at a growing company.
Encourage them to ask questions.
I always ask new hires how much they know and explicitly remind them to ask questions. I build in pauses to leave room for questions. It sounds obvious, but it's easy to forget. New hires might be intimidated and fail to ask about what they don't know, so help them feel comfortable stopping you at any time to clarify or ask for additional training.
Let the employee create their own training documents.
"Balancing the instinct-focused entrepreneur role with the trainer role has been extremely difficult for me," says Spencer X. Smith, founder of social media marketing company AmpliPhi.
To ensure employees get information based on their learning style, Smith lets them create the documentation. After his training on a process, they record themselves going through it, using a split-screen to see their commentary as well as the screen they're working on.
Sandra Lewis, founder and CEO of Worldwide101, a remote-staffing company, recommends having new hires take notes while you explain tasks.
These self-created training documents let employees note what they know they'll need to remember. Plus, you can use them to train future hires, which saves you time and effort.
Give them some autonomy.
"You will never be able to replicate yourself, so don't expect new hires to do things in the exact same manner," says Evans. "Each person brings their own experiences and flavor to the team. Many times, allowing them to go about their work with autonomy will create better results, as long as clear expectations are set up front."
Let them shadow you (and see for themselves).
When you document processes based on how you'd like them to go but never actually adopt those processes yourself, you'll have frustrated employees.
The problem? You often don't realize all those little steps you take and the decisions you make to get something done. If you have trouble documenting them as you go, try letting new hires watch you work.
"The best method for turning instinctual habits into replicable processes is to have new employees shadow the leader as the leader works on the things they're trying to institutionalize," says Jamie Gruman, professor and senior research fellow at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. "As this occurs, the leader verbalizes the spontaneous thoughts going through their head so that the new recruits can develop a mental model that mirrors that of the leader."
Explain what you do to a total novice.
Before you attempt a training, take it for a spin on someone whose livelihood doesn't depend on you getting it right.
"Take time to explain what you do to a total novice," suggests GetVOIP's Yonatan. "Find a friend or a family member...and run them through your day/week."
Yonatan explains this will help you "identify the many areas in which you work on auto-pilot, but someone else hasn't even the faintest clue where to find the ignition switch."
Identify your strengths.
If you don't understand what comes naturally to you (but not others), you'll be frustrated when employees haven't mastered the same skills. Learn your strengths, so you can realize where you might have to spend more time with some folks.
"Having an understanding of my strengths helps me clarify the processes that I do by instinct that are not necessarily second nature to others," says Katie Rasoul, a leadership coach and creator of Team Awesome Coaching. "This leads me to document my expectations on how to replicate what I do, why I do it, and then train others to provide the same process."