Using an Attendant Training Regimen That Sticks

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Using an Attendant Training Regimen That Sticks (Part 1)

Pointers from Paulie B: Repetition, shadowing aids in long-term learning

GLENDALE, Ariz. — When we hire new workers, the ideal scenario is for them to do a great job right out of the gate, and that requires some training.

Start with a clear job description that details the skills, duties and responsibilities.

Having a new hire who understands what’s expected in their new job will help weed out people who may not like some of what the job entails. For example, I had new hires who quit when they discovered that one duty was to mop the floor when needed.

After the job description, I began with safety issues, which are the most important in my mind.

I would personally give the first hour of safety training, leading a tour of everything in the store from inside to outside. It covered the basement, the boiler room, back office, behind the dryer banks, the main lobby, all exits, and the locations of fire extinguishers, emergency shut-offs, silent alarms, etc. You want every employee to know your store inside and out.

Training someone can be easy but the real trick is getting your rules, policies and procedures into your attendant’s long-term memory.


Way back when I was a high school student, one of my instructors used to say “Repetitio mater studiorum,” which, translated from the Latin, is “Repetition is the mother of learning.”

You see repetition in learning how to play musical instruments, speak foreign languages, and many other things. In fact, I used to tell my daughters that if they wanted a D or worse, they shouldn’t study. If they wanted a C, they should study once. Earning a B would require studying twice. But if they wanted an A, they’d have to study three times … and on separate days!

I found that some people can be shown something only once and retain it, but many cannot. This is why repetition is so important in training. So are visual aids, but more about that later.

Why separate days to do your best? Well, it’s all about “sleeping on it.” When we sleep, the subconscious mind reorganizes what it experienced during the day, meaning your mind basically puts things in order. If you repeat the same thing on different days, it’s much more likely to end up in long-term memory.

So, don’t expect a new employee to remember everything you say or show them in one training session. You’ll be lucky if they can remember 25%.

Let them take notes if they need to, but expect to make an investment in training time to really prepare a new worker. In other words, don’t cheap out and then expect them to know everything, or “learn as they go.” This costs you more money in unnecessary mistakes, and higher turnover of new hires. A well-trained worker will save you money in the long run.


Designating a lead attendant that the newbie can follow/emulate for a few days can help.

When I was in hospital orientation training, the new nurses would shadow the experienced ones, following them around for a couple weeks. They mostly observed the first few days, then progressively took on more tasks the second week as confidence grew. Even that wasn’t enough, but there’s a limit to how much an employer will pay to “hold a worker’s hand” before they’re “thrown to the wolves.”

For example, my new hires at the laundry were told that I expected them to eventually produce quality drop-offs at a rate of 20 pounds per hour. It wasn’t expected right away, but after a few weeks on the job. I had some experienced workers doing more than that, but 20 lb/hr was my minimum.

Connect them with your best teaching attendant, but not necessarily your best producer. Why? Because the high producers often believe that teaching slows them down. That could show up in their training attitude, which doesn’t make them the best teachers. Of course, every individual is different, but it’s something you should consider before deciding on a pairing.

It’s hard for the mind to remember things in the abstract. It’s harder to remember the spoken word as opposed to a visual demonstration. In cases where a demonstration isn’t practical, then a photo, a video or even a diagram can help. Seeing is believing, as they say.

When hiring attendants, you’ll have to weigh hiring an experienced person against hiring a newcomer. I found this needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis. Some experienced attendants from a competitor could learn quickly, and possibly offer some operating tips you never thought of, but they could also be set in their ways.

A newbie takes longer to learn the ropes but could be more compliant with the way you would do things.

In Part 2 on Tuesday: Setting up the rules, and setting an example

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].