A Structured and Evolving Initial Training Plan: The Key to Quality & Scalability for High-Growth Companies
Partner & Managing Director
Whether you’re a product- or service-based business, what you deliver to your consumers is directly impacted by the efforts of your employees.
If you regularly read business tips or follow top business minds, you’ll hear a recurring theme: your success relies on your people. There’s a reason this advice is touted by all sorts of professionals from Warren Buffet to Michael Jordan to Dan Price. Professionals who – besides business and financial success – have little in common.
If you acknowledge that your employees are your main asset, then it stands to reason that the way in which you onboard and train them into new roles can have a tremendous impact. At Joorney, one of the ways we ensure the highest quality in our business plans and are able to continuously scale and grow is by having each employee go through a thorough and structured initial training process.
Through the years we have come to find that our structured initial training process not only improves the quality of our business plans and other business-critical documents but also that is has a direct, positive impact on our efficiency and scalability. It’s not just the structure that makes our training so powerful but also the way our training is delivered and how it has evolved over time.
Training can often be looked at as a hurdle. It takes time away from the day-to-day and is what stands between an employee entering the company and them actually being able to do the job they were hired or promoted to do. However, it creates the foundation on which your employees will stand and – when well-structured and maintained – can have a tremendous impact, no matter how your company operates or what your company provides.
Let’s look at why a structured plan is so important and when to adapt it in your own business.
A structured training plan improves the chances of success for your employees and your business
Every person is different. Each employee you hire or promote, no matter how similar their background may be, will come in with different skills and a different learning curve and style, and will have a different ability to get used to working in a new environment. A structured training plan allows you to maximize the chance that a colleague succeeds in their new role, whether it be training a new employee or training due to a promotion.
Based on our experience, the reality is that some percent of newcomers (e.g., 25%) will succeed whether you have training or not, let alone structured training. They may have prior experience doing exactly what they are expected to do in their new role. They will ask questions without provocation, claw out and grab information from everywhere, and master the tasks on their own.
Then you have another percent of newcomers (e.g., 25%) that will become successful at their new job with some training, even if it is not structured. These newcomers need some help and guidance but can assimilate information quickly and without much support. Although structured training isn’t necessarily needed for them, it is nonetheless beneficial.
Where the advantage really starts to come into play is with other newcomers (e.g., another 25%) who will become successful only if they are placed into structured training. These newcomers are by no means less valuable and still have the ability to not just succeed but also thrive. However, they require more structure, organization, and nurturing early on to master their role.
Then there’s the final 25% that will not succeed regardless of whether there’s training or not. Some people just aren’t a good fit for a company or for a specific role despite how they may have looked on paper, presented themselves in an interview, or performed in a previous role. Likewise, some companies and roles aren’t a good fit for newcomers, regardless of how interesting the business seemed or what the daily tasks looked like when presented to the candidate.
So, you need training in order to increase the success of people entering new roles from, for example, 25% to 50%. With structured training, you can increase that 50% to 75%! If you have a very small staff, this may not be a major concern; however, if you are growing and sales are increasing often, you need every person you can get to master their role and be successful. In that case, increasing this percentage means a lot.
However, just because you’ve established a plan that increases the success rate doesn’t mean that it can’t be further improved or that it doesn’t need to adapt. So, how do you know when it’s time to evolve?
Training plans – like any other fundamental business process – should evolve over time
At Joorney, our training program has changed many times and it continues to change often. When I started in the Business Plan Writer position in 2014, the training lasted a couple of hours max! It was very basic; I went through one well-written business plan with a senior writer, and then off I went to write my first real business plan for a client – from scratch – right away and on my first day!
This now seems unimaginable! Writing a business plan is not an easy task. Writing one well is even harder. If you don’t do a thorough job at training as soon as an employee starts out, it will happen later under far less favorable conditions. In our case, a Project Manager will train by giving corrections or the client will train via their feedback and request for changes. In either case, this is not an ideal situation, so it is imperative to get training right from the start.
We have modified and added so much to our training over the years. We don’t even start training until day two because we’ve found new colleagues don’t retain much the first day as they are excited to join Joorney and are in an adrenaline rush exploring the office and getting to know everyone. Our training has also been broken down into more bite-sized pieces with alternating instruction and practice sessions
We have also decided that focused initial training is far too important to be done by someone with other responsibilities so we created a Training and Development Manager position. Additionally, we wanted to give writers the practice of a real world business plan writing scenario and now we have them write two mock business plans with a colleague acting as a client, who provides feedback to prepare them for what receiving real revisions and feedback will be like.
All of this has taken our initial Business Plan Writer training from a few hours to nearly three full weeks!
Here’s a few ways to evaluate and identify if your training plan is in need of a change:
- Low or a lowering trainee success metrics – If you haven’t already, you should establish and quantify training success metric(s). At Joorney, in terms of the Business Plan Writer position, we evaluate this based on the percentage of employees that produce successful business plans and stay with us 2-months, 4-months, and 6-months after training concludes. If we start to notice a negative trend in these numbers, we begin to seek feedback to establish the root cause.
- Feedback from trainees – As simple as it may sound, one way to spot issues or opportunities to improve is by asking the trainees for feedback. We ask our trainees for feedback twice, the first time a week after the initial training and then again a month after the initial training is complete. If you spot a trend with those that are having a hard time with overall training or a particular part of training, you’ll know you need to look for ways to improve.
- Feedback from the trainer – We have a dedicated trainer but regardless if you have one or more dedicated or intermittent people involved in training, you should frequently check in with them. This allows you to find out if there are difficulties in either delivering the training or reaching people and keeping them interested and learning at a steady pace.
- Feedback from the trainees’ supervisors – Perhaps more important than feedback during training is the performance of trainees after they have concluded training and started working on real projects. In our case, we have had situations where supervisors have requested training to be faster or more lenient on certain topics and more detailed or strict on others. Supervisors want their teams to perform, so they naturally want the training to be in line with what they are expecting once team members have exited the training process. If you ask for, or create an environment that encourages, direct feedback, we’ve found supervisors give it freely and constructively.
- Feedback from clients – Ideally, paying attention to and seeking out the metrics and feedback above will prevent delivery of a product or service that does not meet client expectations. However, for a number of important reasons, you should be seeking frequent feedback – whether formal or informal, qualifiable or quantifiable – from your clients. If they are reporting quality issues, don’t forget to evaluate the training process as a possible source of the issue or for ways to improve.
I don’t see us ever stopping with improvements to our training program! Perhaps this is a side effect of our company culture where we are never satisfied with the status quo. Not every initial training plan may need to be adapted as regularly as ours, especially if what you sell, the industry in which you operate, or the expectation of your target clients doesn’t frequently change. However, there are a number of vital ways an enhanced training plan will benefit your business.
Don’t overlook your initial training plan when addressing inefficiencies or looking to improve or scale
Often, the key to a better-quality product or to efficiency and scalability lies in improving your initial training program. Many businesses tend to turn to other solutions first, such as changing their personnel or parts of their strategy. However, many times this is not necessary if the training program is improved.
The beautiful thing about improving your training is that if you make the right move, it has an impactful ripple effect company-wide quite quickly! Unlike some other types of changes, you get to see the reward for your effort very quickly. On the flip side, you also get to see very quickly if you have made the wrong move.
In either case, the awareness and routine evaluation of your initial training plan, and treating it as a key driver in your business, has the potential to further accelerate your success. This acceleration is what we are all about supporting at Joorney!