Train that Staff… Then, Take the Day Off!
If you own or manage a small business like a dry cleaning store, restaurant, hardware store, tour company, flower shop or sporting goods store, you probably struggle to find time for yourself; not just because you are busy running a business, but because you can’t trust your staff to do the right thing when you aren’t there.
Of course, you have to hire the right people. But, let’s suppose you’ve done that and you still find them making lots of mistakes. Before you fire them and try again, look closely at your staff, and the processes you have in place to run your business, to be sure that you have considered all the potential causes of the problems.
You could be faced with a training gap. Many small business owners are great at running their own business but they aren’t necessarily that great at training their staff. Think about your own skills and preferences, and consider these questions:
- Do you have the patience to train others? Did you teach your kids how to tie their shoelaces or drive a car? How did that go?
- Do you take the time to explain what you are thinking, or go on the assumption that the person who take on the task can read your mind? Do you tell yourself “my way is just the logical way and of course they’ll know what I mean”?
- Do you write out instructions for people so that they are clear and then go over them with the person to be sure they interpret them correctly?
- Do you believe that talking to and/or managing your staff and talking about issues and upcoming projects is an important part of your day or are you too tied up with other things?
If you are not good at training or managing people or you don’t LIKE to do these things, consider hiring a ‘manager’ type. You WILL have to train that person but you’ll only have to do it once and then you can turn over the responsibility to that person.
If you feel you are good at these things but your staff is still making mistakes, you may just need to organize your thoughts and your processes into a written form so that you can use that outline to train your new team members as they join your company. If you are really ambitious and you have enough staff to warrant a training manual, you might want to do that too.
Here we will only cover the ideas for your outline. This outline will help you organize your thoughts so you remember to convey all the right information to your staff. If you get really inspired, you can even expand the outline and add items that are unique to your type or style of business.
1. These items are important to know when a staff member is opening the business in the morning e.g. disabling security system, opening shades or blinds, setting up displays, putting up signage, opening cash registers or safes.
2. These items are important to know when a staff member is closing the business at the end of the day e.g. disabling security system, opening shades or blinds, setting up displays, putting up signage, counting receipts, taking money to the bank.
3. When waiting on a customer, the staff should always…
Here you can add everything from the style and formality you wish the staff to have, to the attention you want them to pay (do you want them to be at the person’s elbow or leave them alone and let them shop, checking on them occasionally to see if they have questions) Are there specific steps to preparing items to pack or bag?
4. Note steps and processes for maintaining inventory in stock rooms, ordering inventory from suppliers, paperwork that must be completed (how and when to do that), cleaning, temperature control or other maintenance required for inventory.
5. Note steps or processes for stocking and maintaining shelves e.g. keeping clothes neatly folded on shelves, keeping sizes in order on racks, keeping sizes of tools or merchandize in the right bins, when to check inventory for stock and re-order if necessary.
6. Tell your staff how you expect them to dress and behave e.g. no cell phone conversations during working hours (except on breaks), staff must wear a uniform or a certain style clothing, no tank tops, skirt lengths, type of shoes, etc. What should they say when they answer the phone? How formal should they be? Remember that your staff represents your business so be clear about what you expect.
7. When do you expect your staff to ask a manager or you about an issue? How much responsibility are you giving them and how accountable will they be for their mistakes? Will you take cash register shortages out of their paycheck?
8. What are your payroll and salary policies? When do you give raises and based on what criterion? Do you give commissions? Do you review performance and tell them what they are doing right and wrong so they can improve?
9. Is the staff required to clean or straighten up at the end of the day? How much? Where are the supplies for cleaning?
10. What are your expectations regarding absences? How far in advance do they need to schedule a day off? When will you post the work schedule? Can staff members trade schedules if they need to or are there specialists in certain areas that cannot easily be shuffled around? Does your staff get sick days? What holidays do you give them, if any? Do you allow any staff to work from home? If so, what communication do you require throughout the work day?
11. IMPORTANT: Are there special tools, products or services you provide for which your staff will require certain skills? Will they demonstrate products to customers? If so, who will train them (do you have training manuals or courses on these things?) How much experience must they have before they are allowed to perform that task or demonstrate a product?
12. Does the staff get discounted merchandise or services? How much discount and when? Can they take things home to use them?
13. Do you have a policy or procedures manual for your staff to study and follow?
14. Familiarize your staff with customer records for those customers who may have wholesale accounts and those who can take product on credit.
15. Train your staff on how to use the computerized product and inventory system, the cash register and any other equipment (like credit card machines). Be sure to oversee the use of these machines until you are sure they know what they are doing and can perform credit entries and other specialized functions without help. Tell them when you expect them to ask for help. If a staff member is not allowed to use a certain piece of equipment, let them know who is authorized to perform these operations.
16. Finally provide a list of contact names and numbers for all the resources an employee may need in your absence (including your OWN contact information in case of emergency).