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Training Sets the Tone: Novice Employees Can Benefit from a Training Guide

Howard Scott |

I recently observed a coin laundry owner training a new staffer. I watched as he showed the newcomer how to fix a changer. He went through the steps so quickly that no one would have understood. Plus, his cell phone rang twice, and he spoke to someone at great length in the middle of training.Later, the owner said to me, “By the end of the day, she’ll be ready to work.”I think he is underestimating the need for training.Training is vitally important because it sets the standard for performance. If the training is haphazard and sketchy, the novice employee will know that not much is expected. But if the training is thorough and professional, then the staffer will realize how hard he/she has to work to achieve success.HAVE A PLANDevote three days to training; this is sufficient time for a novice to get comfortable. Of course, you can appoint others to do segments, but you should be the key trainer. That way, you get to know your staffer and can get across your standards. This also lets you figure out if the trainee is not up to the task, so you can act accordingly. This commitment means you have to remove yourself from other management work — turn off your cell phone, instruct the staff not to interrupt, don’t go out for pickups, and train, train, train.Think about training in advance. What does a competent staffer need to know? If contacting the right person to solve a problem is key, then provide a complete listing of contact information (cell phones, home phones, etc.) and discuss each individual’s function.If doing minor repairs is required, devote extensive time to the equipment. If the staff will be doing wash, dry and fold, focus on that operation, providing guidelines, tips and standards.Write up a training guide. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, printed book, but the more extensive and comprehensive it is, the better. A 15- to 20-page, hand-made booklet will do. It should include a day-by-day training outline, technical information, operational procedures, most-asked questions and answers, source information and a company history.For instance, the opening procedure might include turning on the power, turning off nightlights, seeing that the venders are full, and washing the floor. Number these tasks under “opening procedures” so that the staffer can follow along with what he/she is expected to do and in what order. Use the training guide as the basis of your presentation. Check off each page as you present the information.What other subjects should you cover? Think outside of the box. A section should be devoted to company policies — absences, sick days, late arrivals, vacations, work shifts, raises, etc. Handling irate customers is another important subject. A section listing employee shortcomings could cover how and when employees aren’t fulfilling their obligations. Basic data such as store hours, store information, ownership, management, and business areas needs to be included. Simply, sit down and try to write about everything that might help your novice employee.THE CLEANING PROCESSGo over the basics of washing clothes, drycleaning, finishing procedures, etc. Even if you don’t offer drop-off drycleaning and you probably don’t do any type of pressing, a little knowledge will help answer customer questions.A good way to approach teaching is to tell the trainee what he/she needs to know, have the person do a task, evaluate the effort, and let the trainee tell you what was learned. “Tell, Do, Evaluate, Repeat,” is the mantra of effective instruction. Unless the trainee actually does the task, you never know if the person has the knack, and whether or not the person understands what is required. A follow-up evaluation will provide insights and head off bad habits. Having the staffer repeat what was learned also helps formulate the process in that person’s mind.ROLE-PLAYINGRole-playing is a great way to handle most common questions. Even though the activity may sound silly, it’s what Corporate America does to get its recruits up to speed.You play the role of the customer and ask, “How much detergent should I use?” or “What do you recommend for getting out grease stains?” Make sure the trainee knows the answers. If not, review the information. If the staffer knows, continue with a follow-up question. “What can I do if the grease doesn’t come out?” Make the trainee think on his or her feet.Role-playing is also good for learning how to handle irate customers. Role-play through various scenarios and instruct the staffer to stay calm, respond to the customer and appear sympathetic. Sometimes a sincere, “I’m sorry,” goes a long way toward forgiveness.Right from the start, help the staffers be the best they can be. Provide comprehensive training. 

About the author

Howard Scott

H&R Block

Industry Writer, Drycleaning Consultant, and H&R Block Tax Preparer

Howard Scott is a longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant, and an H&R Block tax preparer specializing in small businesses. He welcomes questions and comments, and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359.

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