Q: My MSP business is growing, and we’re hiring like crazy! How do I make sure my new hires are trained properly and can support my customers? I want to know my employees are prepared for the job and have the opportunity to ask questions and develop their skills, so I want to set up a training program. How do I get started?
Congratulations on the growth your company’s experiencing! It sounds like you weren’t offering formal training to your employees before your business got to this point. So, you’ll need to dedicate time and resources to train both new hires and veteran employees.
To help you start implementing a formal training program, we sat down with Laura Stark, the corporate trainer at Intronis MSP Solutions, to get her advice. Here are Laura’s tips:
1. Perform a needs assessment
Before you decide on a curriculum or determine your preferred training method, you’ll need to perform a needs analysis. This involves figuring out employees’ specific needs and requests, skills the company is currently lacking, and areas of improvement within the organization.
To accurately perform a needs assessment, interview employees from different levels in the company to get a variety of perspectives. A few sample questions to consider: What is preventing the employee from effectively completing their job duties? What skills would help them grow in their role?
After the interviews have been conducted, take an objective view of the of the information you’ve collected. Where is this feedback coming from? Is it from employees, clients, managers, etc.? What was the context of the feedback?
After the interviews, I look for common themes:
-What are the employees struggling with?
-Are there processes that may be improved?
From this assessment, you can determine what the areas of focus should be for the training program as well as the content that will be most useful for your employees. For the first training session, focus on what’s essential right now and then plan ahead for what’s going to be essential next month. Then tackle what’s remaining or the things that would be “good to know.”
2. Get everyone on board
In order for a training program to be truly successful for both the company and its employees, it needs to be a priority. This means that everyone in the organization needs to be on board and excited about the training program. A big part of this is getting senior management involved in the implementation process and making sure they feel the program is worth their employees’ time.
As you introduce training sessions for each department, offer a general overview training for all employees in addition to the department specific content. This training session should provide more information on the company’s industry, product, and customer base. This way all employees are on the same page about the business’ fundamental objectives. Part of this process for employees is their understanding how their role in their specific department contributes to the company’s overall goals.
Role specific training should be tailored to the needs of each department. Sales, marketing, and technical support should all have their own flavor of the training. These trainings also enable management to reinforce best practices in each department.
3. Choose a teaching method
The next step in developing your training program is to determine the structure of the program and preferred method of delivery. While specifics will depend on the resources available to you, it’s always best to offer in-person training sessions. These face-to-face interactions allow the instructor to accommodate all learning styles and provide one-on-one attention to each learner.
If you’re unable to provide in-person training, webinars are the second best option. Webinars can be effective because the instructor is able to present and talk at the same time. These sessions are interactive, and there’s also a visual aspect to them. For visual and auditory learners, this method is particularly effective.
Video is my third recommendation if you’re looking for a cost-effective teaching method and the previous two are not available. While it’s not my first choice, videos do allow viewers to refer back to the content at any time, and they provide the visual experience that’s especially helpful to some learners.
4. Keep it short
As you develop the curriculum, plan to offer multiple sessions to each department. You want to accommodate departments like sales or support, where someone always needs to be answering the incoming calls. With multiple sessions, all members of the team can attend. Training should be a priority for everyone, but understand that they’re busy. Make an effort to accommodate their schedules as best you can.
Also, keep the sessions on the shorter side, lasting only an hour or two. Employees are more likely to devote an hour or two of their day to meet with you for training rather than taking a full day away from their work. An added bonus of shorter sessions is that it will keep everyone’s attention and help them retain the information.
At the beginning of the session, present an agenda of what you’ll be covering. An agenda will help focus the trainer and the employees and follow a path of what’s being covered throughout the session. Having a pathway gives a sense of comfort to the learners because they know what to expect next.
The last piece of running a training program is the evaluation at the end of each session. This feedback will help dictate the future curriculum, gauge its effectiveness for the employees, and potentially present any issues that require attention. For example, one-on-one training might pin-point an employee who’s struggling to understand certain concepts. The trainer will be able to identify these types of problems and address the issue before it becomes a larger concern.
Using Laura’s tips, begin thinking about what you want your employees to get out of a training program. Once you’ve determined the most crucial needs, you should dedicate a budget to developing a formal program. While there are external training services, you can also hire a corporate trainer or assign a dedicated staff member to manage and implement the program.
Be proactive, and don’t let training be an afterthought. This way you can address an issue before it becomes a glaring need. And you’ll get the new hires up to speed faster and help keep your qualified, skilled employees at the company longer.
Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.