You've found candidates, but now you need to train them while also running your business. Don't skip this step or you may find yourself with either a disgruntled employee or having to hire again. Employee turnover is especially a problem for small businesses where resources are already strained.
Here are a few tips to set up a training plan for your small business. It's not so hard.
1. Break the ice with a tour.
Walk your new employee through the whole business so they can get familiar with the layout, flow, and various tasks. Be friendly. Introduce other members of the team.
Schedule one-to-one meetings with your new hire and other key people on the team. If you're a really small company, consider meeting for 30 minutes with everyone on the team. It will build relationships faster and make them feel welcome.
Even if the employee will only perform one specific job, they need to get a feel for the whole operation. Familiarize them with the break room or lunchroom (if there is one) and the timing for lunch and breaks. Showing your employee that you're prepared for their first day provides a friendly introduction to the company.
2. Choose a trainer.
In a very small business, the owner usually has to do the training. If you have other employees, allow them to help if they have skillsets for it. Employees with excellent communication skills will make able trainers. It'll hones their skills and build good team interaction.
Counterintuitively, good communication can actually be a real challenge on a smaller team. It's easy to casually stop by someone's office and chat. It's harder to set up regular information sharing.
Try weekly department reports that are emailed to the entire team. I've personally seen this strategy work well. These reports can be casual--one page or a deck with six or seven slides.
Ask your employees to include information they want to share with the larger team. This will build leadership and agency among your employees--and provide a model for those who need to work on their communication skills.
3. Figure out how to train.
Set a pace for the training schedule. Encourage questions. Don't overwhelm, but don't lower expectations. The trainer should be getting feedback from the new employee to determine the pace at which the training should proceed.
It can be helpful to train new hires as generalists so you have someone who can help out in several different areas. Elle Kaplan of Lexion Capital says that after starting them as generalists, "allow them to quickly grow into more specialized roles...this builds a strong foundation."
Giving the employee a specific task rather than just shadowing and watching will promote immediate accomplishment and reinforce learning. You'll need to mentor at first -- but it should give you a first-hand gauge of the employee's enthusiasm and ability to perform.
Be open with your feedback on their performance. Giving the employee a specific task is more useful than having the employee just shadow and watch.
Praise is always beneficial--but also be critical if standards are not being met. Don't wait until the annual review meeting to provide feedback. Even better, consider setting expectations at the beginning of a new project so it's not a surprise once it's completed. Make yourself available for questions and maybe some new ideas or perspectives.
Millennials are very comfortable with new technology and can become a huge asset to your company. Take advantage of creative input and be open to new suggestions.
4. Measure your progress.
Set goals to determine how the training is progressing. Try to set up a short meeting maybe daily at first and then weekly when the employee is more settled.
If unexpected questions arise, make sure there is some way for the employee to get answers in a timely manner. Be a leader, not just the boss.
Set up regular evaluations so the employee can gauge their progress. These meetings can be short, so don't skip them. Even 15 minutes will do the trick.
If there are problems with either work performance or attitude, deal with them directly. Poorly performing employees will create a lot of unrest in a small business as other employees (or you) will have to take up the slack.
"If you want to keep your new hires, you have to make them feel the way you feel about your company" says Robin Jarvis of R.L. Jarvis & Associates. Taking the time to train new employees properly will pay back handsomely in increased efficiency and creativity.
Remember, as your business grows, your newly trained employees may be able to become your new trainers.