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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 23, 2012 • Issue 12:07:02

Reach your company's peak performance with training

By Alan Kleinman
Meritus Payment Solutions

Long-term growth requires long-term investment in people. How do you stay efficient while increasing head count? Like most new companies, our early days at Meritus were long, and none of us had job titles that adequately covered our multi-hyphenated list of job functions. Since then, we've put some meat on our bones, and we now have specialized departments, middle management and many new hires.

A hiring strategy that has worked for us is an onboarding and training program. While it may not make sense for very small companies to have a training program, it's never too early to establish training. Proper and considered training programs promote morale and camaraderie, and new employees feel immediately integrated, empowered and committed.

Establishing a training program

Following are five steps your company can take to establish an effective training program:

    1. Clearly define ownership

    Employees onboarding occurs somewhere between recruiting, human resources (HR) and the employee's direct supervisor. With multiple stakeholders involved, it's difficult to build a cohesive program and ensure overall business goals are kept in mind. To facilitate this, appoint a training manager to help manage, track and evaluate onboarding. This designee makes new employees feel valued, oversees strategies and can readily revamp existing processes.

    The training manager can work with employee supervisors to develop a formal development program to determine training needs. Strategic onboarding shortens the time to productivity and lays the groundwork for a high-performing workforce. Possibly extending to 90-day periods, strategic onboarding goes from administrative components to tactical aspects critical to future productivity.

    A specific appointee who owns this program can integrate key messages and goals throughout all training to create continuity and business alignment. The result is a workforce that possesses companywide competency as well as job-specific aptitude.

    2. Write a job description

    Don't relegate creating job descriptions to HR. Only a collaborative effort between HR and senior management can accurately envisage how the company will grow and what role each employee will play. Make sure your job description includes the employee's level of authority, job purpose, strategies, expectations and ways to measure effectiveness. A job description need not be a binding contract for the position, but it can open up the floor for discussion.

    Once the job description is set, the training manager can conduct a training needs analysis to determine who in the organization needs training and what competencies they require to be successful. The training needs analysis provides an outline for goals to achieve, type of training and expectations of senior management. But it all starts with the job description.

    3. Fit it into the budget

    Simply put, the benefits of training outweigh the costs. Training may circumvent some of the perils caused by bad hires, as noted by CareerBuilder LLC. A survey conducted among 2,696 employers in 2011 by Harris Interactive Inc. stated that bad hires didn't produce the proper quality of work (63 percent) and didn't meet deadlines (48 percent).

    Sixty-nine percent of employers reported that bad hires lowered their company's productivity and affected worker morale. Forty-one percent estimated a bad hire costs more than $25,000, and one in four said it costs more than $50,000. Writing a job description and formal training program, clearly set the expectations and standards and provides a defined way to measure performance. Hopefully, any potential "bad hires" can be developed into valuable team members.

    Another way to keep training cost-effective is to focus on talent-driven rather than performance-driven training. Performance-driven training is the typical operational training program that can be assigned to an online/computer-based program or an internal and informal learning network of mentors and coaches.

    On the other hand, talent-driven training encompasses leadership development, mentoring and coaching for high potential employees. This type of training facilitates workforce flexibility, which is required in this economy, and builds the leadership pipeline. Choosing to conduct talent-driven training over performance-driven training may trim training costs.

    4. Establish your process

    Does it make sense to identify the knowledge gap first by having a new employee shadow an existing employee? Should the employee receive a message from the founder first to understand the company's mission? The appropriate progression is unique to each company.

    At Meritus, our current process is to educate our employees on the bankcard industry first. Afterward, we choose from a learning catalogue of classes to build modules that are relevant for each specific employee's function. Basically, we move from general industry to job-specific. Then, all employees are required to cross-train. This works for now, but we will continuously measure results as stated in the fifth step, which involves feedback.

    5. Ask for feedback

    Training is continuous. Once the process has been established, you must continuously audit. Are the processes still achieving the original intent? Is senior management satisfied with workers' performance as a result of the training? Do employees feel they were poised for success?

    Conduct a survey for new employees immediately after training to gauge the effectiveness of your materials, trainers and organization. After a 90-day period, have both senior management and employees rate employee performance and productivity on the job. Also, expect employees to pinpoint problems, find solutions and recognize teaching opportunities while on the job. Your training program will be honed as a result.

Enjoying the benefits

A well executed learning and development program will have an immediate positive impact on your company. New hires entering your workforce will be familiar with the bankcard industry, informed of your internal processes and departments, and most importantly, they'll be engaged. Put actions behind your words of investing in employees. Choose people (over results) first. By investing in people first, good results are inevitable. end of article

Alan Kleinman is the Principal of Meritus Payment Solutions, the trusted global payment partner. With a client-first mentality, Meritus provides a breadth of payment and transaction processing solutions that include mobile, credit and debit cards, gift and loyalty cards, electronic benefit transfer, automated clearing house, Check 21 and more. Contact him at akleinman@merituspayment.com or 888-851-7558, ext. 141.

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