Let me know if this sounds familiar. Your organization has invested time, energy, and sweat equity in a new hire who consistently fails to perform. The trainee continually blunders in situations that seem simple, that directly relate to prior training. When asked, the trainee rattles off a proper “shoulda.” But there’s a disconnect between what the trainee shoulda’ done and what was actually done.
The fact of the matter is the new employee is not responding to training and may need to be let go if he or she can’t turn it around. What can your organization do to help them? Or is there anything that could have prevented it coming to this point in the first place?
As with a medical diagnosis, pain can be managed with a pill. But unless the underlying condition is treated, the problem remains. In this context, there could be many reasons for failure to perform: incompetence, laziness, lack of motivation, poor time management, or any number of other issues. So you focus on accountability. The organization has given the trainee much time and attention already. If the trainee still can’t make the grade, then it’s time to part ways.
Defining the Problem
Not so fast. Is it possible that the trainee’s struggle is a litmus test for another condition? Think about whether your organization’s training program and culture are conducive to training. If either of the two following things are part of the deal, then your environment might not be the most supportive. There are of course, other culture and training issues to which my suggestions apply, but for this post, I’m focused on multitasking and distractions.
No one should be “multitasking” at all, especially not the inexperienced rookie. Studies show that multitaskers generally (1) are underproductive and inefficient and (2) OVERestimate the amount of time it takes to complete tasks. Thus, the multitasker takes much longer to screw up more than one thing at a time.
Did you know people spend about a quarter of their work day either getting distracted or recovering from distractions? Distraction affects everyone, but consider the rookie employee… phone ringing off the hook, emails piling up, coworkers dropping by, the ever-present lure of Twitter and Snapchat for a quick social media fix. I’m sure everyone right now is thinking of at least one distraction that didn’t make the list!
There’s an oft-repeated adage… something about walking a mile in another’s shoes. Well, put on the rookie’s shoes, and go for a spin. How can new hires meet standards when being bogged down with outdated and disproven productivity systems? Following these steps could ultimately reduce turnover and improve productivity.
(1) Train to priority! When developing a training program, be clear about the most important function for that job. Focus on training first to that #1 function. This could look different depending on the organization’s purpose and priority. For a sales position, this could be extensive training and evaluation in the company’s lead generation system. Following this model, the front-desk clerk might be trained foremost in creating positive customer interactions.
(2) Next, support the trainee in that role. Give the employee time to develop the necessary skills in that focused area. Unfortunately, your new hire doesn’t have a sound-proof office. But I guarantee a 15-minute meeting with the training team would yield something you can do to minimize or at least reduce distractions.
(3) Now, hold the new hire accountable for what they’ve been trained on: the most important job function. After all, even if they do every secondary task exceedingly well, would you keep them on if they were awful at the most important thing? Probably not. Have standards in place. Know what “passing” realistically looks like ahead of time. Make your expectations and criteria clear.
(4) Rinse and repeat this cycle with the next training priority. However, won’t training take forever to complete if you follow this model? Consider this: functions within the same job are often related. For example, if you train a customer service representative in positive customer interactions, won’t that make their secondary sales role easier? Doesn’t one flow naturally into the other? This is the “halo effect,” where success in one area naturally leads to success in others.
For argument’s sake, let’s say some functions are immune from the halo effect and that confidence has limited effect on performance. The beauty is these other functions are all still secondary and thus less important. It isn’t critical that the new hire achieve a mastery level in everything to succeed.
So here’s the take away
The most time and attention should be spent training and evaluating the most important thing first, so the new hire achieves the highest competence as quickly as possible. Then train the other one or two critical functions to as high a level as you can. Last and definitely least, train the remaining functions only to a minimally acceptable level. As the new hire progresses from rookie to novice and beyond, he or she will continue to improve the secondary skills but will be ahead of the game in terms of their most important function.
Comment or message me with your questions. They could becomes my next article topic!