Employee training should be seen as any project: with clear deadlines, responsibilities, and goals.

One of the HR functions is employment and training. Let’s take it step by step.

1. Employer has an open vacancy. In most cases,  they will put up a job ad where requirements for applicants and job responsibilities will be listed and wait for applications.

2. a. They choose a person, perfectly fitting the job description and work together happily ever after. But that is almost never the case.

2. b. They choose a person, who needs training to be able to perform well on the job. This is where the fun begins.

So there is a problem a company (and the employee, actually) faces: how do we train this new employee?

There are a few approaches.

a. To put a training course which will give the ‘perfect’ employee who will perform their duties many years to come. Companies may also put a few candidates through training and employ the one who showed best results. This was the tactic of the coffee shop I was working in; they even had exams for waitresses with every seasonal menu change. And it’s an understandable requirement if a restaurant wants to be known for a service quality.

b. In times of financial difficulties, and/or if the business is small, throwing time and resources to such professional training might be difficult or even impossible. Still, the training still has to take place. In such cases it is important to keep in mind that employee training should be seen as any project: with clear deadlines, responsibilities, and goals. Communication is very important – the employee has to know what is expected from her/him, what resources are available, and when the deadline for learning is. If the company is generous, they can give a certain time off – again, making it clear for the employee – to devote it for self-learning, or resources like entries to conferences etc. Such model allows the employee to know what is expected of her/him and prepare accordingly, and the company can expect a trained employee on the evaluation day.

c. The employer expects the problem to solve itself in some magical way. No goals and deadlines are set. The possible outcome? ‘What you measure is what you get’, and if you measure nothing, you get nothing in return. A self-aware employee will try to learn things on their own, but without a deadline it will be hard to stay focused, without a goal he or she might prioritize other things than employer would, and without knowledge of available resources the learning will not be as effective.

The main difference between b and c is communication. “You lack knowledge about product range B, something needs to be done about that” – “Yes” is very different from “You lack knowledge about product range B, therefore we are giving you this catalogue to read at home and we will have a little exam in a fortnight where you will try to sell me one of the products. Is this OK with you?” – “Yes. I will read it and convince you to buy something. Two weeks should be enough for me to learn it”. Can you see the difference? In the first example, only a problem is defined but no ways of tackling it were agreed upon. In the second example, there is agreed upon resources, responsibilities, goals, and deadline. Such conversation will lead to results.

To sum up:

In order to avoid c type of situation, if you are the employer/ leader:

  1. define what needs to be learned;
  2. set a goal with a deadline;
  3. define available resources;
  4. communicate it to the employee;
  5. make sure that employee understands and is willing to take up on learning.

If you are the employee:

  1. define your weak sides;
  2. ask your employer/ leader for resources/ guidance;
  3. ask your employer/ leader for a deadline (a project without a deadline will never be finished);
  4. push yourself to the limits;
  5. communicate your progress to the employer.

Do you have anything to add? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Thank you!