All of us can remember the feeling of that first day on a new job. Anxiety, confusion, and apprehension are some of the dominant feelings that surface. Remember the sense of relief when a mentor or trainer was assigned to help orient us to the position?
If the shoe is on the other foot and you are the trainer instead of the trainee, you may feel a little unsure of what to do or how to do it. Perhaps you have been given a few hours or a day or two to train a new employee. Some companies simply place an experienced staff member “on call as needed” by the new employee. Whatever your role and availability, here are some things to consider as you begin training a new co-worker:
1. Cultivate a patient attitude. While it may be tempting to become irritable or lose your temper, remind yourself that you were once new, too. Count to ten before responding to an annoying or repeated question. Smile when you think of it to put the trainee at ease.
2. Put it in writing. Use the policy handbook or procedures guide to help the new staff member learn the ropes. You may want to circle or flag important pages or passages that the new person is likely to need that first week or so. You also may want to provide a list of things that are not covered elsewhere. Written information provides easy access for the trainee and a few extra minutes of quiet for you.
3. Take the tour. Show the trainee around the facility, explaining key roles and functions. Seeing the organizational layout may help the person to frame a panoramic view of the company, which helps some workers identify their role for fitting in.
4. Socialize. Take breaks or have lunch together, adding an informal element to the training process. Explain company events like the Christmas banquet or bowling tournament. Outline the “unspoken rules” or “company grapevine” that may prove helpful.
5. Suggest linkages. Introduce your trainee to others who may be able to help, giving you a break or filling gaps where you have limited experience. Introductions will help the new person get acclimated and broaden his or her base of information contacts.
6. Provide resources. Point the trainee to Web sources, books, manuals, articles, or other resources that can add extra information after hours or when you are unavailable.
8. Make suggestions. If the person seems to be struggling with a certain task, recommend shortcuts or special help that can help the person overcome this challenge. You may want to help him or her complete the task the first time or two, or demonstrate an experienced approach as a role model.
9. Be generous with praise. Offer compliments, encouragement, and support at critical junctures. Don’t compromise your sincerity; rather, look for actual ways in which the new worker is making progress, remembering that it is easy to feel discouraged in the first few days at a new job.
10. Get help. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. Tell the trainee you’ll check with someone and get back to him or her soon. Then go to someone who has the answer. Don’t try to bluff it out or hedge a response. The trainee will only become more confused or begin to distrust you.
Becoming a trainer is a privilege as well as a responsibility. Taking time to do a good job make mean the difference between a valuable new hire who grows with the company and one who gives up or gives out.
Becoming a trainer