Written by Vibhu Mahajan

In today’s market, companies are asking employees to do more with less. As organizations become more streamlined and departments are merged or downsized, existing employees not normally in training roles are being asked to pass along their expertise and experiences to new colleagues while maintaining their already overloaded desks.  The stress of being asked to do more with less can then be compounded if staff are asked to train other team members, which can result in a steep learning curve for all parties involved in the training process.

Inconsistencies in Training Standards

There seems to be an unwritten standard for how, and by whom, new employees are trained. The expectations of both the trainer and the new employee is often to get the new hire productively independent as quickly as possible so that the trainer can get back to focusing on his or her own area of responsibility.

For large companies, a formal on-boarding process might exist with a set schedule and written materials for the new hire to absorb, but smaller companies with budget limitations may not offer the same support to new hires.  Despite an organization’s best intentions, the reality that many employees starting new roles or transferring to new teams will experience is that the training process is not formal, intentional, or process-driven, but rather quick, to the point, and time-strapped.

So, whether you’re the trainer or the new employee, how can you ensure the training process is as smooth as possible?  Here are some tips, whether you find yourself being asked to train up a new colleague, as a new hire at a brand-new company or as a team member taking on new responsibilities.

Speak Up!

It has been said that new employees don’t ask enough questions in the first days at a new job, or that they seem unenthusiastic if they are initially only quietly observant. Experienced trainers understand this assumption to be faulty and unfair.

A staff member that’s new to a role may think that to impress superiors they should be able to do everything themselves – perfectly, the first time. Oftentimes, a new hire may be afraid of becoming bothersome to new colleagues or superiors. After all, it can be hard to admit that a concept is unclear or that we are not confident in our ability to complete a task that has been assigned. However, it is important for a new employee to ask clarifying questions; and as a trainer, to ensure the new employee feels supported to do so. This is especially true in the energy industry where there can be a high degree of health and/or safety risk in a role - new staff should always feel well prepared for the task at hand.

When learning something new, it’s natural to want to convey confidence even if we are struggling. But how do you know that you don’t know something when you don’t know that you don’t know it? Remember to speak up! No one expects you to be perfect right away.

Learning is an Art

We must remember that an inquisitive mind is a requirement for being creative. Appealing to our sense of curiosity is a wonderful trait to exploit during training.

When managers evaluate candidates for a new role or promotion, the three most common traits they look for are curiosity, creativity, and the ability to solve problems through investigation. As such, it’s no surprise that hiring managers wish to see those skills in a potential hire throughout the interview process, and in the first few months on the job. So, when you’ve started a new position, go out of your way to ask questions about other areas of the business, or come up with a new way to complete a task that no one thought of – your managers, and your team, will appreciate it.

Communication is a two-way street

For women climbing up the corporate ladder, setting expectations and utilizing effective communication strategies is a requirement for success not a side-effect of it.

To resolve the conundrum of faulty expectations and assumptions, it’s important for all parties – manager, trainer, and team - to step back and think of the business solution they are attempting to work towards. Considering the business need for a given responsibility while integrating a new hire into the team ensures that they’re able to add value sooner.

So, if you’re being trained in a new role….

Ask a question, no matter how silly you may feel it is. If you are struggling, stop and figure out why. Don’t just keep going or criticize yourself over a lack of knowledge. Remember, it’s not always obvious to trainers that something is wrong so it’s important to communicate any gap in knowledge or if you need them to teach you in another way. If you need some time to absorb, it can also be helpful to let your trainer know that you may follow up with questions later.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to give feedback – it’s a gift! Don’t be afraid to let your trainer know what components of the process worked well and what could be improved.

And if you’re the one training a new co-worker….

Do a quick reality check and recognize that the new hire will not always know what to ask or how to ask it. Try to anticipate questions and create a positive environment so they feel comfortable letting you know that they haven’t understood something.

Be careful not allow the frustrations of added stress of an overloaded desk to be passed on to new hires. People need time to absorb lessons and everyone learns differently. Be patient.

If a new hire is quiet, don’t assume that they aren’t enthusiastic about the job. New employees are likely thinking that they are being considerate of your time by avoiding “silly” questions. Anticipate that the new employee will struggle and make mistakes. Remind them more than once that you can be approached anytime no matter how frequently it is required.

When implemented, these above-mentioned strategies will help reduce stress and improve communication while making the training process more effortless.

As young women in energy facing the challenges of mergers and acquisitions, downsizing, and organizational re-structuring, we must recognize that our organizations expect us to optimize and adapt to our roles as quickly as possible. Both trainers and new hires should strive to anticipate each other’s needs and communicate effectively during the training process.

Training within this new reality is an on-going process, and many companies have learned that setting unrealistic expectations is the quickest way to lose an employee. Strategically taking initiatives to improve communication for effective on-boarding adds significant value to the team and can even lead to promotions down the road.

---

Vibhu Mahajan is a Business Analyst with Solium. She started her career in oil and gas as a production and revenue accountant in 2007. She has worked at various oil and gas companies and has a breadth of operational knowledge. In her spare time, Vibhu is involved with planning corporate team builders and volunteering with the CAPPA Luncheon Committee. Vibhu freelances with running social media and strategic digital marketing campaigns for small business to help startups grow their online followings. Vibhu also writes for her personal inspirational blog. Additionally, she is a youth mentor with Big Brothers and Big Sisters – Calgary Chapter and an active member of Business Professional Women – Calgary Chapter.