Train Novices Before Hiring New People

May 29, 2012

When your boss comes demanding you scale your team, don’t immediately fire up all the recruiters you know and start sifting through resumes looking for the perfect hire. First, give some thought as to what you were just asked to do. You weren’t really asked to hire more people (that’s expensive and risky), you were asked to boost productivity. The first place to look for more productivity is at your current team – especially at the novices. Most teams have some novice to average players who could use improvement, but we tend to ignore them assuming they can’t get better at what they do.

Novices fall into two categories: Those who can get better with training and those who can’t. Separate your novices into those 2 groups, and focus on training the ones who will get better by investing in them. We like to believe that everyone can get better at their job if given the opportunity, but that’s not true. Some people are novices not because they don’t yet have enough experience or knowledge, but because they’re lazy and/or not very smart. Don’t waste your time with them. You’ve got a business to run, and you need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Once you’ve dealt with the politics involved in only investing in training some of your team, it’s up to you to personally oversee their training. Don’t just ship them off to some training center and hope the come back more productive. They’ll probably just take the week off as a pseudo vacation. Instead, roll up your sleeves, clear your calendar, sit next to them, and really train them. See how they do their job every day, and coach them on exactly and precisely what they need and where they need it. Taking a novice to proficiency may not alleviate the need to hire more staff entirely, but it may delay the necessity of it – not to mention saving you a bunch of money and headaches.

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