We’ve all had a job at some point. Maybe one of yours was at a fast food joint where your primary responsibility was to flip that burger without getting your hair on it, and the training plan likely reflected that one work goal.

While we’d love to think that on-the-job training would get better as we move into adult life, the sad fact is that the training for most jobs is pretty much non-existent. Managers hire for your design/development skills, put together a vague job description (which is what they hired against), then expect you to miraculously do an awesome job.

You’re expected to figure out the office politics, navigate the proper way to communicate with people on the teams, and figure out who can give you access to the company servers. Of course if you don’t figure all these things out on your own, then “you’re not quite living up to what we expected.”

One would think with the significantly higher wages you’re earning as an adult, employers would make better use of your time and training to turn you into a productive team member as fast as possible.

Here’s what I put together for any of the contractors I bring on who need training.

Define key results

As an employer, the first thing you need to do for any employee or contractor is define the key results for the job. You don’t need to define the exact path to get to these results (in fact you shouldn’t, since autonomy in the workplace builds happier employees) but you do need to tell them how to succeed at their job.

When I hired an assistant, we defined three goals for her first three months. If she was able to do these three things then I would consider her a total success.

  1. Deal with my receipts so I don’t have to.
  2. Put up my emails so I don’t have to.
  3. Book my meetings.

We quickly figured out that the third item was simply a bad fit for the time she had available, so we scrapped it and stuck with the first two. As long as she could do those two things by the end of three months I would consider her a great employee.

She knows exactly what she should accomplish and there is no ambiguity about it. If she couldn’t do those things then she knows that I wouldn’t consider it a success.

No floundering fishes

A second big issue I see is once the key performance indicators have been defined, many employers don’t provide any guidance at all on how to accomplish them. I know I said above that you shouldn’t prescribe a path, but you do need to point new people in the right direction.

For my assistant, I put together 10 training videos on the three areas that would be in her wheelhouse and told her that she should follow that procedure for the first three months. After that, she was free to make changes (with my consent) to improve the process. Now, when I give her a new set of tasks I put together a video showing how to do it and tell her that once she can do it without the video, she is free to make modifications to the process as long as it still accomplishes the defined goals.

I don’t assign new tasks to my assistant and just expect her to figure them out because that would be setting her up for failure.

What about you?

Have you defined three key performance indicators for every employee or contractor?

Have you told them what success in their job looks like in 6 months or 12 months?

Have you provided them with actual training resources?

Are you checking in with them regularly to see how they’re tracking with those key performance indicators? Not just at the end, but a few times as they progress through them?

Hiring is not done when you sign an employment contract — it’s done when the employee proves to be a productive member of your team. Good employee training is your responsibility, and something you owe to everyone who works for you.

photo credit: stavos52093 cc