Regular Retraining: Cycling Towards Refinement
by Michael Getlan
Everybody trains the new employee. Itís a basic requirement for even simple
tasks. But how many of us take the time to retrain existing staff members (including
ourselves) to refine their skills? Itís a simple, effective way to increase
efficiency and refine processes, and it helps to keep tasks current with new
developments and new technologies. In certain tasks, retraining may be the only
way to re-groove staff members into new routines.
The requirements are patience, a willingness to accept change, and a good teacher.
Sometimes you will need to be your own teacher! And any process can be refined.
Itís sort of like polishing a mirror; the goal is to make the end product clear
and blemish free.
It Can Be Embarrassing
One of the biggest roadblocks that will be encountered in retraining is embarrassment.
The targeted staff member will almost always regard the initiation of a retraining
program as an implication that his or her work is somehow substandard, unless
a regularly scheduled retraining program is in place. This means that some embarrassment
and resentment will occur at the start of almost any program.
A bit of public relations is therefore necessary at the start of any retraining
program. The reasons for the retraining, such as the implementation of new procedures
or the changes that are occurring in the legal climate , for example, should
be explained to all staff members who will be involved in the program. Additionally,
it is better if the program targets more than one staff member at a time. Starting
the program off in a group session is also helpful.
The best possible situation is for your company or facility to have an ongoing
retraining program. It could start out as yearly or twice-yearly meetings on
a training subject, with follow-up individual or department training sessions.
Eventually, you would want a quarterly or even monthly session as you work your
way down to the front-line staff member. More frequent sessions are needed as
the level of employee reaches staff positions with higher turnover.
Of course, in those situations where a seasonal component is involved, the
reason for the retraining can be as simple as starting the new season. There
it is possible to mix first-time staff and returning staff in a training session.
That session could combine initial training with retraining for the returning
It Takes Time
These sessions can take up a lot of time, both for the staff members who are
being trained and for those who are doing the training. Although it is possible
to bring in outside trainers (and for certain applications, such as legal updates,
it may be the best thing), most training on specific tasks will be done by in-house
trainers. Many of these in-house trainers will have to be trained for that role
Training sessions need to be scheduled at regular work times as much as possible
to avoid creating tension in those that will be trained. While acceptance of
training outside of normal work hours is normal for additional skill training,
it tends to be looked upon as an imposition when staff members are being retrained.
This kind of scheduling can be adjusted if new material is mixed in with old
material to be reviewed.
But lots of time needs to be allocated for retraining. In retraining, skills
and methods of accomplishing different tasks are first unlearned and then relearned
in a different way. This typically takes more time than simply learning a task
in the first place. Of course, both initial training time and retraining times
increase as the complexity of the skill or task increases.
Keep Up With Changes
New tasks often overshadow old ones. But changes in law and the legal climate
often determine changes in the methods and details needed to process information
in business today. Todayís managers and even front-line staff need to keep up
with changing practices. Especially important are the areas of discrimination
and harassment, where failure to keep up with changes can have serious financial
Sometimes the changes are imposed from within the organization, rather than
from without. Changes in top management often dictate changes in operational
procedures. Times change, and so do the costs of various materials and supplies,
forcing the development of new suppliers and vendors and the development of
new relationships with those vendors. All of these changes fall under the umbrella
It is important to understand the nature of the retraining process and to schedule
and prepare for the retraining of your staff in advance. Let your staff know
the reasons that they are being targeted for retraining and allow enough time
and resources to get the job done correctly. Then go out and lead your staff
members on to greater success for the future. Polish those mirrors and seek
perfection in the tasks that your company needs to grow and prosper.
Reprinted with permission from Funworld © 2000 February