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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 staff.

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 as well.

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 consequences.

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 of retraining.

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

   

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