As business owners, we spend countless hours per day dealing with all things staff. This could range from hiring and training to just answer staff questions through phone calls or text. Managing your staff is a never-ending routine, and I see it leading to burnout all too often. Maybe you’ve even had one of these thoughts cross your mind recently?
“Why don’t my staff just know how to do their job?”
“I cannot believe my staff didn’t know how to do XYZ”
“Are they really calling me about such a stupid question?”
“Why don’t my staff have any common sense?”
There are a few potential reasons why you and your staff are having this disconnect. First, your staff may not know how to find the information. Or, perhaps maybe they lack the confidence to do what they think is the right course of action. Perhaps they know the answer, but they’re so afraid of upsetting you that they just aren’t 100% sure.
Today we’re going to explore a few proven methods for how you can ensure that your staff is retaining your training materials, which will ultimately build their confidence within their role while freeing up time for you! 🙂
Testing & Training
What type of tests do you have for your staff? There are many kinds of tests, but some of the most popular are in-person, written, and on-the-go.
A popular method that I’ve always recommended (and used in my own business!) is to give newly hired pet sitters a written test during their orientation. My pet sitting employee handbook and training manual used to be 60+ pages long, so it really wouldn’t be fair or reasonable to expect them to every piece of information on every remember page. That’s where my 10-question written test came in – to help honey in on those key areas I really wanted my staff to remember.
Another type of test, the in-person test, is perfect to use during training and ride-along. Having a newly-hired pet sitter aimlessly shadowing can be overwhelming without a clear sense of direction. It’s important to be realistic and understand that the human brain is really good at retaining a few pieces of key information, but isn’t always so good at remembering all of the tiny, minute details.
One way to really drive home those important hitters is to come up with a “10 Point Visit Checklist” or something similar that you can demonstrate and walkthrough during your training visits.
Last but not least – testing is not only reserved for new hires! A great method to use for seasoned employees is testing-on-the-go. When you’re asked questions, try to refrain from just feeding them the answer.
I know that can sound a little strange, but always answering every single question point-blank can hurt your staff more than it’s helping them. You want to encourage them to think critically and teach them how to find the answer themselves, instead of reinforcing the idea that you’ll serve as an open-book of information.
Check out this example:
Pet Sitter: I need some help – I’m currently at a client’s home and I don’t see one of their cats. What should I do?
You: That’s a great question. What do you think you should do?
Pet Sitter: Well, first I think I should fully search the house, including all potential hiding spaces. Maybe then I can bring out some treats to try and entice the kitty to come out.
You: Perfect – give that a try first and let’s see how it goes 🙂
See how much more fruitful that is for your staff? You allowed the employee to think through the problem and come up with the solution themselves, instead of you telling them outright.
Here comes the big question – how often within 3 months are you reusing your training materials? That’s right – I’m looking at all of the people who whip out their employee handbook/training manual for orientation, only for it never to be looked at again by your staff.
I get it – being a business owner is busy.
However, it’s really important to get away from the mindset that training is “one-and-done.” Training is an ongoing, never-ending learning process, so we want to make sure you are consistently reintegrating your training materials into your staff’s routine.
Let’s take a step back and do some thinking.
How many staff meetings do you have per month, quarter, or year? Of these meetings, how big/small are they? Are they mandatory, expected, or optional? What kind of meetings are they? Are they meetings over a meal, or a group Zoom call? How do you communicate with your staff? Do you use email, texting, or Slack?
Take some time to really think about these questions and determine what you’ve found to work and what you’ve found not to work.
To help with this, Liz Illg, pet business powerhouse, and myself are coming out soon with a brand-new series of 12 professionally-shot videos that you can reuse again and again for staff meetings. Stay tuned for more information on this project 🙂
Ways To Learn Your Training Info
It’s also important to recognize that people learn in all different kinds of ways. A one-size-fits-all approach is simply not effective for ensuring your staff retaining your training information. In fact, research shows that there are 7 different learning styles:
- Visual/Spatial: Using images or visual cues to process information.
- Examples: Pictures, videos, and demonstrations.
- Auditory/Musical: Responding primarily to sound
- Examples: Audio recordings or audiobooks
- Verbal/Linguistic: Learns under both verbal instruction and through writing.
- Examples: Handbooks, training manuals, and tests.
- Physical/Kinesthetic: Going through the motions of what is being learned.
- Examples: Hands-on training, ridealongs
- Logical/Mathematical: Learns through understanding the reasoning behind content and skills.
- Examples: Dog/Cat behavior guides
- Social/Interpersonal: Natual group workers that are engaged with others and love working within teams.
- Examples: Group training sessions and activities.
- Solitary/Intrapersonal: Individuals who prefer to learn on their own and keep to themselves.
- Examples: Employee Handbook/Training Manual self-study
It’s important to understand and keep these different learning styles in mind so that you have training content that can meet the needs of any type of learner. A great start is to implement video training within your pet sitting business. and to develop an employee handbook/training manual.
Another way that we can make sure your staff is retaining information is to simply ask your clients! Here are a few questions that can help:
- How clean was your house when you returned?
- Would you recommend us to your neighbors?
- Was your dog visibly tired after his/her walk?
- On a scale of 1-10, how safe do you feel with us coming and going from your home?
On one hand, it makes clients feel good that their opinion matters and on the other hand, you are obtaining valuable feedback. Don’t feel pushy asking for feedback! If you do it on a regular basis, it will come to be expected and your clients won’t mind at all 🙂
Overall, pouring into your staff and a fun and resourceful way, not in a dominating way, can go a long way towards retention training. It’s important to recognize that training is not just a 2-hour orientation, but an ongoing process that’s implemented into your long term plan with employees.
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