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Employee Training Pays Off

It’s time to get rid of your sink-or-swim mentality. Use these five steps to get your employees up to speed.

By Gina Pellegrini

Although some business skills are inherent, most involve a learning curve. Understanding illustrations, knowing what to say to clients, handling paperwork and scheduling clients all require some kind of training. Unfortunately, advisors don’t always see the value of formal training. “Sink or swim” is their motto, even though it’s an inefficient approach to running a business and managing staff.

Mistakes and guesswork are reduced significantly when you spell out duties during the first few weeks on the job.

For new employees, training is essential. Mistakes and guesswork are reduced significantly when you spell out duties during the first few weeks on the job. For your current staff, ongoing training and development is also a must. Without it, some employees become complacent or bored; in fact, they could be slowing you down because they haven’t acquired new capabilities.

With training, there are three broad objectives. You want your employees to

  1. understand your business and how you operate
  2. recognize their special role and what they were hired to do
  3. know how to contribute to the business and grow in the job

So where do you start? After hiring a new employee, follow these steps:

1. Spell out and prioritize duties.
Think about your employee’s daily responsibilities and determine which ones are the most important. List all areas that require training, starting with the three most crucial activities. For example, with a new assistant, you could emphasize appointment scheduling, appointment preparation and new business.

During the training sessions, you should go over specific aspects of scheduling such as when to call for appointments, how to track dials and how many appointments per week are required. With appointment preparation, you’d specify exactly what needs to be prepared, where to get the information and how far in advance you want it. And for new business, you'd explain how to complete the application form, how to follow it through underwriting and what extra steps are required to convert the paperwork into a policy. For all job duties, be sure to discuss why they are important and how they impact your business.

2. Decide who will train the new employee.
Select someone who has done the job or knows enough about it to walk the person through the duties. The trainer should be a thorough communicator, patient and willing to answer questions. It could be someone who once held the position, or in a small office, it could be the advisor. A company representative or a broker/dealer is also an option.

3. Schedule training time slots.
Determine in advance how much time to spend on training. Schedule time slots on the calendar and make every effort to honor them. No matter who conducts the training, my advice is the same: Don’t ever blow it off. The result is too important. If an hour a day is spent training during the first couple of weeks, the new employee starts off on the right foot.

4. Review progress.
Before the employee moves on to the next level of responsibility, make sure he truly understands new skills. Check to see how these skills are applied in actual business situations. Does the employee connect the dots? Ask specific questions about the job and review what's been done so far. Don’t assign additional responsibilities until you’re confident the new employee has mastered the skills and understands his role.

5. Continue it.
At least once a year, reevaluate the employee’s duties and training requirements. Make sure your employees are growing and learning new skills. Whether it’s trying a new computer program or getting licensed, employees need to stretch themselves. The point is for them to learn new competencies or polish old ones, renew their interest and enthusiasm for the job and free up your time. (That’s the main point!)

Without training and development, new employees struggle and experienced staffers shift to automatic pilot. If you invest in ongoing education, you’ll have a more productive, confident and supportive team.

Gina Pellegrini is the owner of Pellegrini Team Consulting, a firm specializing in small-business management and employee development, and the author of The Appointment Scheduler. Contact her at 952-829-5300 or at


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