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Train or Don’t Train: Standardization

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Bottom Line: Train your team on how you want things done.  Whether your team is a group of managers, technicians, installers, or office staff, train your team.

Last month, we asked if you should train your team (you can read the blog here). This month we look at another aspect of training your team, the value of standard operating procedures. 

Standard procedures save time and provide a path to consistent results that can lead to excellent customer service. I can speak from personal experience that standard procedures save time.  For example, at ACCA, I went through five employees (for one position) in about a year.  And just when the new hire started to become productive, they would move on, or it would become clear that I needed to free them to find a better fit for their skills. 

The first two put me through the wringer. I would show them how I wanted something done, ensure they knew how to do it, and then spot-check their work after.  After the second person left (or I let go, I can’t remember which), I was very tired of teaching the same thing over and over and over. So, I began to draft a set of procedures, illustrated with pictures, in this case, screenshots. (NOTE: Photos from the field work extraordinarily well.) I wrote down expectations about work schedules, how to answer the phone, frequently asked questions (both the questions new hires asked and the questions which our customers asked, and they were expected to know the answers). 

The book of standard procedures was improved every time a new candidate was hired.  By the time the third and fourth candidates had cycled through the office, I had a robust set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). When the last candidate came on board, I gave them the SOP and turned them loose.  It was amazing how little handholding was required.  Although, to be fair, the last candidate was as close to perfect as I’m ever going to see, he’s still here after almost five years.  And I did not just hand the person the SOP and walk away.  Of course, there was a lot of interaction throughout the next few weeks. But over time, daily interaction has turned into weekly reviews of progress on key performance indicators. 

And now it’s his turn to maintain the SOP.      

Make Time: 
There is NEVER a good time to draft standards. The company is always in transition. Business demands all your time. This is true. But the power of a tool that answers, “How do I do…” is incredible. That same tool also solves misunderstandings about what is required. A good policy will clearly show when someone is or is not meeting expectations. This is very helpful when you need to set someone free to use their skills elsewhere.

Get Good: Standardize 
Get good… make the time, write down how you want things done in your company, or in your department, or on your team.
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