Hiring and Orienting a New Employee

Training the Right Employee

In some cases, you may have hired a person who has all of the character attributes that you desire but may not be well-versed in some technical area of his responsibility. He may be a good machine operator but not have adequate training in computer numerical controlled (CNC) equipment, or he may be a great salesperson but not understand the required data entry functions required of sales personnel, e.g., use of a point-of-sale device, cash register and so forth. Many times a person with responsibilities in operations may have no background at all in accounting and financial controls. In all of these cases, a training program may be appropriate. There are several ways to provide the needed training.

1. Vocational technical school. Vo-tech schools are quite good in training people in industrial arts, such as machine tool operation, engineering design, computer-assisted design (CAD), computer-assisted manufacturing (CAM), and similar skills. You or the person who is responsible for human resources matters should be well acquainted with any vo-tech schools in your company's area and the types of skills for which they offer training.

2. Business schools, colleges and universities. These institutions offer excellent training and education in traditional areas of marketing, sales, accounting, computer operation, clerical skills and others. If the school is of sufficient size, it will offer these subjects at night, interfering less with the normal workday. If your company has a policy for doing so, you may offer to pay the tuition to attend such classes, provided the classes relate to the employee's primary job responsibility, the classes are approved in advance, and the employee completes the course satisfactorily. And, of course, I must mention the seminars and workshops offered by the local SCORE chapters and by the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) . Most often, these educational opportunities are low cost and, in some cases, free to the participant.

3. Industry schools and seminars. Depending upon the background of the instructor and his or her teaching skill, industry-sponsored seminars or workshops can be an excellent way to provide "brush-up" training to new employees. The sessions are usually not lengthy and the value of meeting their peers from other companies may be even more valuable than the training itself.

4. In-house training. Many small companies don't have the facilities or time to offer formal in-house training. However, one-on-one or on-the-job training, focusing on the critical needs of the new employee, is an excellent way to make sure the needed information is learned. Keep in mind that such training may detract from the efficiency of the trainer but the new hire will learn "our preferred methods," enabling him to contribute more rapidly to the company's performance.

Motivation and Involvement
Do you really know what motivates your people? Have you thought about what motivates you? We believe the answer can be expressed in this way:

Something or someone you respect has told you, in some way, "You have done well!"

The "some way" may be a silent nod, a communication from someone you respect, or your own knowledge (based on parameters you know and honor) that you have "done well." The more clearly this acknowledgment is perceived, the more effective the motivation.

The premise that "nothing succeeds like success" is illustrated by a research study involving ten adults who were given a puzzle to solve. The puzzle was the same for all ten participants. After they were completed, five of the adults were told that they did quite well, getting seven or more correct out of 10 possibilities (which wasn't true). The other five (who may have done well) were told that they had done poorly, seven out of 10 wrong (which wasn't true either).

Then all 10 were given another puzzle, the same for each person. The five who'd been told they had done well on the first puzzle really did do well on the second puzzle. The five who'd been told they had done poorly on the first puzzle did poorly on the second puzzle.

Having coached little league baseball (ages 9 to 18) for 16 years, I can absolutely corroborate the results of the puzzle experiment. We created good teams out of players who were average in technical skills by reinforcing the good things that each player accomplished. We pointed out that poor performances were the result of some technical miscue of which the players simply weren't aware and we were sure that they would do better now that they were aware. This confidence that we expressed in the players was rewarded!

In my own business, we often hired young people who had just graduated from high school and were known to some of our proven employees. Our on-the-job training program was essential to the success of these new recruits; however, positive recognition of their successful accomplishments played an immense role in their becoming valued and competent employees. We dealt with their mistakes as a learning process as long as their attitude remained good and they did not often repeat the same mistakes. Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator!

Obviously, motivation is not as simple as a pat on the back or a person knowing that they've done well. You must understand the normal desires of people relative to their employment, regardless of the level of their responsibility. Most people desire the following:

  • Recognition for their good work
  • Meaningful participation in the company's efforts
  • A feeling of belonging in a successful organization
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement in their competence and responsibility
  • Security in their job if they perform to expectation
  • Monetary reward for an expected level of performance
  • Benefits that protect them and their families from significant monetary loss

Even top-level management personnel, who are typically self-motivated, desire the same things as those in positions of lesser responsibility. A mutual recognition by their peers for a job well done or a project successfully completed may be sufficient. A brief recognition of their success by the top executive goes even further as a motivator!

Keep Your Employees Happy
There have been many such surveys published, but none that I have found have ever identified what I believe is the most important factor in successful employment:

Enjoying the job . . . enjoying going to work!

How many people do you know that sincerely like to go to work in the morning? How many people do you know who would say they honestly like their job? We all know people who have worked all their lives at jobs that they have not enjoyed. Considering that many men and women spend 35 percent to 50 percent of their waking moments at work, not enjoying that time would be very depressing.

So, how do you make an employee's work something that he or she enjoys? It is called involvement! Keep your people involved. Consider the following:

1. Communicate with them. Make them aware of company business that might affect them, either directly or indirectly. Make sure they know about new products or services, give them copies of new company brochures, and tell them about negotiations for new health insurance. They have a need to know.

2. Reinforce their contributions to the company's objective. Informal discussions are needed to bring the employees up to date on their role in the business. Annual performance appraisals offer an excellent chance to involve the employees in company affairs in addition to letting them know how effectively they have been working.

3. Solicit suggestions for positive changes, whether in customer service, new products, manufacturing processes or administration. Often, the employees who are closest to a problem will come up with the best solution. Involve them in problem solving and operational improvements. A lot of good ideas have come from a suggestion box and those ideas should be rewarded with recognition and monetary rewards.

4. Encourage a sense of belonging, a sense of being a part of a successful effort. This is much like being a part of a winning sports team, an experience that is never forgotten.

Martin E. Davis, CPA, has owned and worked extensively with small businesses. He is the chairman of the Northern Arizona chapter of SCORE, "Counselors to America's Small Business," which is an organization of experienced business owners who offer free support to small-business owners across the United States.

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