We have spent the past several weeks discussing Best Practices – Standards, Procedures and Workflows. I know, you say:
“My staff already knows how to use the agency management system. We have this new document which sets the standards and lets them know how I expect it done. Why do they need training?”
Yes, it is usually true that the staff does know how to use the agency management system. Some better than others. Some know all the work-a-rounds. Some work outside the system. Some keep information outside the system and in the system because they don’t “trust” the system. Sometimes old work-a-rounds are no longer needed, but staff still does them out of habit.
You have spent a lot of time and effort in the process of defining your standards, procedures and workflows. Therefore, you want to be sure that everyone has the proper understanding of their purpose and exactly how they are to be accomplished.
Everyone in the agency should be trained based on their position and the specific standards, procedures and workflows that pertain to them. If the receptionist will be looking up clients–who their producer and servicer are, and not servicing business, then their training differs from that of the servicer. Some agencies have individuals that only issue certificates of insurance. Their training should be specific to their job duties. Neither of these positions need training in any area other than what addresses their needs, and the same applies to all positions.
There is no greater waste of time than having someone sit through training that is not pertinent to his or her job. The individual is bored and often becomes a distraction. During this particular training you may find:
- There is staff that actually don’t know how to best do specific functions in the agency management system or other systems within your office.
- There is staff that say certain functions in the agency management system don’t work.
- There is staff that doesn’t know the agency management system does a specific function.
- That you have missed some important function, point or exception during your definition processes.
- That there is resistance by some of the staff to adopt changes made in their daily work.
Make a plan for dates and times for training. Post where everyone can see. No vacation time during the training period should be scheduled. Someone in management that can answer specific questions about the standards and processes must be present in every session. Questions should never be left just hanging in the air. If a question arises that needs further research, let the group know when they can expect the answer. Reconviene the group so that all receive the same answer at the same time when the question has been resolved.
It is important that at this point you make it very clear to the staff that you expect:
- Everyone to give this training their full attention.
- If there are questions, this is the time to ask them.
- If they don’t understand they need to be letting the trainer know that and be clear before they leave the training.
- That you expect Everyone in the agency to adopt the new standards, procedures and workflows.
- The date that you require that the staff is to begin using the new guidelines.
- Rewards for compliance.
- The consequences for non-compliance.
- That their work will routinely be audited for quality control.
(We will discuss items 6-8 in the next edition of this blog.)
It is important to remember that people learn in different ways.
I find the most successful training to be hands on. I have seen this accomplished in a number of ways. Agencies sometimes have several service staff who are being trained sit at a group of computers and be instructed by the trainer. Other agencies use laptops that producers and owners have, and set up a training area in the conference room, using these laptops or ones they rent just for this purpose. If using laptops, remember to attach a keyboard and mouse; most service staff find the laptop keyboard difficult to use. Make it as familiar as possible. The staff needs a quite place to pay attention and concentrate, as well as time set aside in their day to do this. Do not expect them to fit this into their lunch time, before or after work. Training for systems and procedures should be on your time. Make sure that someone is covering the phone and walk in clients. There should be no interruptions other than a true emergency. Training sessions should be kept to a maximum of one and one-half hours. You can only absorb and retain so much.
If some process is a major change in how the work is currently being done, you and the staff should be prepared to know that it make take a little longer to accomplish this process than previously. The most difficult thing to do is change. It is hard to un-learn the old and remember to do the new. During the first few weeks of the implementation process all management needs to:
- Keep your eyes and ears open.
- Listen to the mood.
- Monitor the work to be sure back log is not occurring.
- Check in with each training group to see how they are progressing.
- If certain individuals are having challenges, take the necessary time and steps to address their issues so that they can get on track.
What training tips do you have to share that would be helpful to others? What questions might you have?