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How to Get More Out of In-House Training

Ninety percent of employee learning occurs on the job. Many consider On-the-Job Training (OJT) important enough that there is a major educational conference devoted to improving it each year.

The international ISO 9000 quality assurance standards state: “Employees should receive the training and have the knowledge necessary to do their jobs.” That's it! But here's the hard part: Under ISO 9000, companies must maintain written records of their employee training. Companies must prove they have properly trained their employees. And when you have to put it in writing, deficiencies are very often uncovered.

An auditor invited to evaluate a company's training activities might ask some of the following questions:

  • How does your firm assess the need for the types and amounts of training and education received by all categories of employees?

  • What is the orientation process for new employees?

  • What percent of employees receives training annually?

  • What is the average number of hours of training and education per employee?

  • How does your firm evaluate and improve the effectiveness of its training and education activities?

In-house training and workplace education are a natural part of any business. Who doesn't want employees who know how to do their jobs? “The problem with most training and education efforts, however, is the tendency to focus on the top people and not the rank and file,” says The Wall Street Journal. Furthermore, employers often approach OJT haphazardly, and as a consequence, the amount of training and/or education actually accomplished is minimal. Many employees don't see it as “real” training or as an improvement in their worth to the company.

Here's what Stephen Covey said in Training magazine.

Question: Without the resources to afford a full-time training officer, what kinds of training and development might small-business owners provide?

Covey: “You have so many great options. Offer to cover the tuition for special classes. Identify online training opportunities. Provide a library of tapes and CDs for systematic, disciplined learning during commute times, followed by the sharing of insights with the whole team. Encourage the sharing of best practices among associates. When affordable, send people to special seminars and association meetings for learning and networking purposes. Create a learning ethic by having everyone teach each other what they are learning. Participate in cost-effective interactive distance learning provided by various training organizations.”

Stephen Covey is author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit.

Here are a few very practical ideas on ways to get more out of your in-house training effort, as garnered from other successful small businesses.

  1. Formalize the buddy system. Experienced employees show others how to do something — fill out a form, run a copy machine, check in deliveries, etc. — but with a twist. Develop checklists with specific skills that employees need to know to become more valuable to the company. As they learn skills, the “teacher” should initial the checklist.

  2. Set up a company lending library. Ask employees who check out books to fill out a simple form to describe what they learned from the books. You can also form discussion groups after several persons have read the book, manual, article, etc.

  3. Use local seminars. Persons who attend can report back to small groups about what was presented or taught. This spreads the knowledge. And don't always send the same person or top person in a department.

  4. Use knowledgeable employees for presentations.

  5. Join forces with other companies to bring in nearby community college sessions or traveling consultants.

  6. For product-knowledge training, ask your suppliers to provide key questions that you can use to build a test database to evaluate your employees.

Locating Resources

Ask your suppliers for available training materials. The trade groups your company affiliates with can be another source of job-specific training support. Community colleges are often underutilized for both their regular academic offerings and for their customized sessions tailored to company or local industry needs.

An old association recruiting manual stated:

“In order to compete in the tight labor market, wholesalers will need to make use of all the traditional recruiting channels: word-of-mouth recruiting, want ads and employment agencies. If we are to compete for well-qualified and well-educated people, we must also go directly to the major supplier of such people: the schools and the colleges.”

Both the individual wholesaler and the industry as a whole will benefit by developing closer relationships with schools and colleges. Wholesalers can encourage the academic community to provide the kind of programs needed by our industry, and the schools and colleges can serve as a source of well-trained and competently educated employees.

Pathway Program

Led by the Power Transmission Distributors Association (PTDA), a group of related distributor trade associations, including HARDI, are supporting an effort to get a “distribution” curriculum established in community colleges. An information kit on how to establish a program in local community colleges can be obtained by contacting PTDA at [email protected]. Presently, there are eight schools in the pilot phase of the project:


Chairperson Tom Hansch notes that in-house training will be among the more important agenda topics for the Education Committee at its next meeting on May 2, 2008, during the HARDI mid-year meeting in Washington, D.C.. Tom Hansch is vice president of sales and marketing at G.W. Berkheimer. Contact Tom at 219/764-5200 or at [email protected].

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