Facilitating Relationships between Experienced and Inexperienced Workers

Calita Kabir. (2 November 2010). What is needed first-incorporation or EIN?. https://www.flickr.com/photos/irsein/5139847759/ [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Flickr

Calita Kabir. (2 November 2010). What is needed first-incorporation or EIN?. https://www.flickr.com/photos/irsein/5139847759/ CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr

A small business tends to have a lean organization due to its size. Hiring experienced staff may help the business grow, but experienced people expect to be paid more. Often a small business will choose to hire people with little experience but a lot of enthusiasm. Choosing people who can learn is often as important as choosing people with experience. Most small business tasks should take a week to learn and a month to master. Hiring inexperienced workers will initially require training by senior people.

Your succession plan will result in training junior employees to take on more responsible tasks. The training may have the unintended consequence of friction between the trainer and the trainee. The junior person may be seen as a cheaper alternative and, therefore, a threat to the senior staff. Both the old and (if possible) new owners should meet with staff individually to explain why there is an opportunity for training and how that can improve work assignments for each person within a new business plan. With careful monitoring of the training the owner will understand how it is progressing and if the training is meeting the objectives. Successful training will instill confidence in both the employees and the potential buyer. A healthy working atmosphere with confident and loyal employees strengthens the value of a business making it appear more desirable.

During the training period, the trainer will have to answer every question from the trainee. In some cases the trainer may not know the reasons for some tasks and will have to find out. The lack of knowledge may be disrupting for the trainer and no answer may be available. Being a trainer can be challenging as the training can slow work down, and yet it must still get done. Consider using quiet times of the month to accomplish training or move staff to replace the trainee so that a good effort can be made to learn and retain new skills. Also consider keeping the training to one week at a time. When you debrief your trainer and trainee individually, you will be able to confirm whether the goals are being met and, if not, then take steps to adjust the training.

Adults learn in different ways and at different speeds. The “show me” technique may work for some while others may prefer to document each step first, and then learn the process. Operational manuals that are up to date can be invaluable; however, they are more often obsolete and useless for most trainees.

Mentoring employees can result in excellent results as well. The mentor becomes a sounding board for ideas or concepts that may not be developed sufficiently to be exposed to the entire business. A strong mentor can ask the questions about “what, why, when, where and how” that the mentee may not have thought of. Discussing ideas prior to sharing them broadly with management may result in better ideas with improved features and better results. Resources for mentors can be located on Mentoring Canada’s website.

An astute business owner may be aware that certain individuals isolate themselves from others. These individuals are likely performing below expectations. It is in the best interest of the owner to make certain all employees do their fair share of the work. The same fair standards for all employees will help build a favourable culture while resentment towards a few employees will destroy that culture. Once an individual is identified as being below expectations, the employer has several options to consider. You can start by having a private discussion to share your concern. Asking the employee to confirm what the issue is would be helpful. In some cases the issue can be resolved at the office but often the issue is based outside of the business. Now the employer can vocalize how an employee, working below expectations, impacts all the employees, customers and possibly suppliers. Together they must agree on a plan to remedy the situation to the employer’s satisfaction in a timely manner. Regular review of the employee’s work will confirm that improvements have occurred. Where no improvement occurs within a reasonable time, the employer has few options open other than a more stern warning, which could lead to termination.