An effective approach to training and coaching

By David Lewis

President & CEO, OperationsInc

Does this scenario sound familiar? Your applicant pool shows great raw talent, but in reality, those who are hired are straight out of college (or high school) with a lot of potential, but minimal to no real world experience or skills. Or, if your new hire comes from another work setting, he or she may have substantial on-the-job experience but in a workplace culture that may be significantly different from your company's.

Unless your managers are trained to turn this raw talent into productive members of your winning team, your new hires are left to shape themselves into the more seasoned professionals you hope to see, but without critical direction that might ensure success.

If your management coaches are there because of longevity or maturity, which is assumed to impart wisdom and skill, you may be merely feeding your raw talent into an unhealthy cycle that produces "more of the same" in a hit-or-miss fashion--clearly not the best investment of your management team's effort and possibly a lost opportunity to maximize your hiring ROI.

Even if your current management team has minimal formal training, breaking that cycle shouldn't be too difficult.

Here are some tips on how to effectively blaze that trail.

  • Pair up the new hire with a budding star a few years older. That approach allows the new hire to be shown the ropes by someone who may be more accessible than their official manager, more aware of the landscape from the new hire's perspective, and more suited to establishing a mentor rather than boss-subordinate relationship.
  • Training by osmosis or happenstance is not nearly as effective as formalized, targeted training. It's important to find training programs designed to build on predefined skill sets, providing the employee with the necessary foundation for continuous learning. Strategic selection of live online seminars and even on-the-job training events can be scheduled to progressively address short- and long-term skill standards. Of course, management should vet the content, setting, and methodology of the training to ensure it's a good fit.
  • When we learned to ride a bike, at some point the training wheels came off and we gradually got better at balancing ourselves. Take the same approach with your new hires. Giving them increasing responsibility for projects to manage as well as "spotlight" roles will help you see the flaws that need more attention, build confidence, and pave the way for career advancement.

Organizations that continue to ignore formal approaches to management training and professional development tend to produce a lower quality of output on multiple levels. Street smarts are different from formal education, and successful organizations invest in the latter for good reason.

The question of the month is sponsored by Norwalk HR outsourcing and consulting firm OperationsInc.