As any Human Resources professional will tell you, consistency is critical when dealing with employees. Treating employees unfairly in the training process can lead to all sorts of demoralizing and potential legal problems for the company. To avoid these issues, it is a good idea to have objective training procedures and policies in place and apply them consistently. When developing training policies and procedures, here are a few questions to consider:
- Does each position have a set duration for on-the-job training time? For example, each position in our paper mill has a predetermined amount of time a trainee is expected to train toward qualifying in each position. The amount of time varies by difficulty of position, and whether the trainee has already been qualified in a similar position. At the end of the allotted training time, an evaluation is conducted to determine if additional training is warranted.
- Does each position have a list of duties a trainee is expected to learn? The list of duties can simply be a checklist that reminds both the trainer and trainee of items that must be covered for training to be considered complete. If multiple trainers work with one trainee, having a checklist also helps to ensure that each trainer knows what still needs to be covered, and what another trainer has already covered. Developing a standard list, and requiring management to review it periodically for accuracy, helps to keep the training process fair for all trainees.
- After training ends, are trainees evaluated in the same way? Is there a standard list of evaluation questions that are used to determine if a trainee is qualified to work in a position? If additional questions are asked of a trainee during the evaluation process, are those questions recorded? The question list can evolve over time as the manager removes outdated questions and replaces them with more relevant questions. However, it should not be the case that one trainee is required to answer questions that are obviously more difficult than what other trainees are required to answer. And, of course, there should be no inconsistency between evaluation questions and the checklist of items that were part of the training.
- Is there a process for granting more training time to an employee? It is true that people learn at different speeds, and not everyone’s training experience will be the same. However, when additional training time is granted, there should be a record that explains why the additional time was allowed. If two employees train in the same job, and one requires twice as much time as the other, it is to the company’s benefit to have the reason for the discrepancy documented. Having no reason leaves the company vulnerable to accusations of preferential treatment or discrimination.
- How is incomplete training documented? Training can be abandoned and left incomplete for several reasons. Perhaps the trainee left the employer during the training or did not wish to continue training for a position. Perhaps the employer made the decision to discontinue the training against the employee’s will. Having such a record can help demonstrate an employer’s good faith effort to provide necessary training in a fair and reasonable way. Documentation should include the name(s) of those who trained the employee, the date(s) the training occurred, whether the trainee was considered a probationary employee at the time of the training, and, of course, the reason for abandoning the training. If the documentation contains negative feedback from the employee’s trainer, it is not advisable to share that feedback with the employee. If negative comments from a trainer become public knowledge, it can create an incentive for trainers to lie in the future when asked about how trainees are performing during training. For example, in the mill where I work, if a person were to be disqualified from a position based in part on feedback from a trainer, management would share that feedback with the union, but not with the employee who was disqualified.
- How is retraining documented? Finally, from time to time, employees must be retrained on job duties. Documentation of retraining should include when the retraining was offered, the trainer who conducted the retraining, the duration of the retraining, and the reason for the retraining. If the retraining is conducted due to some negative event concerning the employee, it is also helpful to have the employee sign the retraining documentation, so they are aware of why the retraining took place.