David has over 15 years of supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge of how to handle personnel issues across many areas.
Conducting on the Job Training
Training someone to do your job can be very important. It can help you have a backup just in case something comes up and you need some help or if you have to take some unexpected time off and want to ensure your job duties are kept up. Even if someone has a degree in something, it doesn't mean they know the job. They have to be shown how your organization works.
Most people feel that training someone else to do your job can be a threat to your position, but it isn't. If anything, it allows you to promote or leave for another organization rest assured that someone will be there to fill your spot. Training someone else to do your job promotes succession training, so you can always ensure someone succeeds you.
Lastly, this will look good on your resume if you are a capable trainer. Not everyone is capable of training. If you can train others despite different personalities, social issues, etc., then it will give you even more credibility at your workplace.
I have been a supervisor for over 15 years. I have had to train supervisors below me, and the line staff below them. I've also had to assign new employees to trainers.
There's no experience like on-the-job training.
— Hank Azaria
What to do Before the Job Training Starts
Before you even consider training someone in how to do your job, you need to do some preparation so you can effectively train this other person:
- Have all necessary computer systems ready. If the person needs access to software, equipment, or anything else involving technology, you should attempt to have that ready ahead of time. Giving the person their own access will instill confidence as they learn.
- Prepare procedures for the tasks involved. If you have a prepared outline on how to handle something step-by-step, it will ease the process. Not everyone likes to follow written instructions, so make them accessible and easy to read.
- Find out information about the person. If possible, find out if the person has worked in the field you have worked in, what training they have had, etc. It may allow you to skim over some parts of your training or focus on other areas they could be lacking in.
Training on the Job
On-the-job training is almost required when someone starts at your workplace. Consider the following steps when starting to train someone:
- Show the person around. Even if someone is currently working at the organization, show the person around. This will let them see the flow you go through. This is especially important for new people coming on.
- Learn about the person. Talk to the person to find out their basic skills, what they have experience in, etc. This will allow you to ascertain the kind of person they are and how they might react to certain situations.
- Ask how they prefer to learn. Some people prefer to read a book to learn; some prefer to learn by doing the task. Try to cater your training to what they prefer. There could be cases you have to resort to different methods to get your point across.
- Start on small bits of the job, then add more parts to it. If you have a multi-step job that you need to train on, start with the first step and have them repeat it. As they progress, add another step and then another. Once they see the process from beginning to end, they will have it down without a problem.
- Shadow them. Sit by their side and watch them complete each task. At first, you should point out errors as they make them, but then let them make the mistake and see if they catch it. If you hover over them too much, they may feel nervous and make even more mistakes, so be careful how much you hover over them.
- Have them try to guess a solution. If the person comes up to you asking a question, turn the question around on them and ask them how they think they should handle it. Then correct what they say if anything is incorrect.
- Don't do a difficult task for them. If something hard comes up, don't just take over for them and have them watch. Talk them through it. It is the only way they will learn. If they see you will take over for them each time, they won't bother learning what you are teaching them.
- Check their work. After they complete a task, check their work to ensure it is error-free. If there is a mistake, go over it with them. Don't say they made a mistake; just advise them of what they should have done differently.
- Develop a timetable. As their training progresses, advise them of what you expect them to learn in a set period of time. Not to pressure them, but just to give them goals to progress through.
- Be flexible in how you train. Each person is different. You can't train someone the same way each and every time. You have to adjust for the person. Remember, they are the new person, so they will be nervous, worried, and under pressure to learn as quickly as possible. It's your job as a trainer to make them feel at ease.
These are general rules. Your workplace may have expectations or a way to begin training. However, I have found following these steps has helped me train others to do my job in the most effective way possible in a variety of environments.
Determining a Trainer for a New Employee
You may have multiple people in your organization that can do your job, and someone else may need to be assigned as a trainer for a new employee coming in. As a supervisor, this allows you to have someone who handles the job on a daily basis be responsible for training while not making the employee nervous that a supervisor is training them. Consider the following when choosing a trainer for a new employee:
- Some people are just not capable of training. You will have those who don't care enough to train someone or who lack the skills to be a good teacher. Either way, you should know who those are in the job that is not capable of being trainers. Never force someone to be a trainer.
- Not all trainers will work well with new employees. There could be this stellar trainer in your office that has trained everyone, but this trainer and the new employee don't seem to be clicking. That's fine, assign the new employee to someone else. It doesn't speak badly for the trainer. Just like marriage, not all of them are perfect match-ups.
- Try to stick to just one trainer. If you have the new employee bounce around a lot for various reasons, people could train them in different ways and cause confusion. If you have to switch who is training them, try to do so early on.
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Experiences in Training Another Person to do my Job
Over the years, I have had good and bad experiences in training someone to do my job. I learned a lot, which has helped me become an effective trainer. I'll share a few of my experiences below.
- I hired a new supervisor for my office, but she and I just didn't click. She was great during the interview, but once she started, it was a different story. It was not her fault, nor was it mine. We just didn't click, which made training that much more difficult. In the end, she chose not to stay, which was a good decision.
- I trained someone who I had known for a very long time. I previously worked with this person at another job. We then both moved on to another organization at almost the same time. Eventually, we worked in the same department. I was her supervisor and had to train her on how to do the job. Knowing her made it that much easier since I knew the kind of person she was.
- I had an employee refusing to train a new employee coming on. Despite having the ability to order her to train this new employee, I didn't. If someone doesn't want to train, they will take it out on the new employee.
- An employee who trained a lot could not train a new employee. I assigned an employee to train another employee. She trained many times before without a problem. But the new employee could not learn at all. They clashed in how they did things, so it wasn't the right fit. In the end, I successfully trained the new employee.
- I failed to fire an employee who wasn't learning the job. This employee started on another shift, and she wasn't doing well during her training. I moved her to my shift so I could observe her progress. She slowly started to catch on, but just barely enough to pass probation. Unfortunately, she started to go downhill after that. I should have terminated her while she was training since she could not pick up the job duties in an effective manner. Just barely learning the duties during training is not sufficient enough to remain on the job.
There are many experiences I have had; fortunately, they have mostly been good. There could be times that you run into those people who are just unable to be trained or not right for the position. In the end, you may have to cut your losses. Not everyone is right for a job, no matter how much you train them.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I need help with training two new coworkers that are in different departments from each other. My manager expects me to do all the training while doing my own job duties at the same time. Advice?
Answer: That's rough! My suggestion is to go to your boss and see if you can delegate your duties to others. Or, delegate some of your duties to the newbies. When I've had to train a new employee or two, I've found delegating tasks to them made my job easier, allowed me to focus on their training, and gave them skills they needed. But if that's not possible, you need to plan out how you want to train them and still manage your duties. If you can give them a task and let them run on their own, then check their work afterward, that can be another solution.
Question: My head supervisor asked me if I would be willing to become a trainer, and I told him yes. The only problem is, I don't have any experience as the trainer, only as the trainee. How can I make that switch without too much difficulty?
Answer: The best way to do it is learning how the person learns. Do they want to be shown how to do something? Or do it through trial and error? Find out how they learn first.
Question: The person that I am training wants to do things her way. She needs to follow our way of doing things. How can I make that happen?
Answer: That's a tough one! Now without more detail, it's hard to say. There are reasons why things are done the way they are, but there could be a better way of doing things.
I've had that happen, and I always tell the person to do things per company policy or procedure, then we can see how to improve that process. But you need to learn the prescribed way before we move outside of that box. Don't stifle that objective to look for a different way, but reinforce we can't look at that until the set process is followed. Then have the employee "show their work" to demonstrate they learn that process, then talk about how that process can be improved.
© 2013 David Livermore
Jenna Estefan from Seattle, WA on April 30, 2013:
Training can be awkward and uncomfortable, for both sides. Tons of great pointers here. I'm excited to try them out!
Jessica Peri from United States on April 20, 2013:
When I was first hired at my job it was for a different position than I have now. The manager who was training me seemed like she wanted nothing to do with me. She left me with my training manual, didn't speak to me and later yelled at me for not answering the phone. Luckily, my workplace took me into another department and trained me for another position. I agree that not everyone is a great trainer. Voted up and useful.