Generational differences in staff productivity, culture and drive have been a hot-button topic for a long time.

Statements such as, "These young people are lazy," or "Back in my day, we knew what was expected," are often heard at conferences and meetings. Discussions that lead to the conclusion that every new generation has a poorer work ethic than the previous one will soon lead us down a road of destruction.

Siegfried Engelmann, the developer of the direct instruction approach that took a Houston school from a failing grade to ranking as one of the top schools in that city, is quoted as saying: "If the student is not learning, the teacher is not teaching."

This statement places the responsibility of providing the ability to learn on the teacher. This line of thinking lends itself to staff training and development, putting the emphasis on the processes your firm has for developing the people within your organization.

Here are four recommendations for developing a formalized new hire training and staff development process.

THE NEW HIRE PACKET

Most organizations have a new hire packet giving a new employee important information on policies and procedures. However, very few provide a new employee with much more than that; the employee is left to fend for themself when it comes to what they are actually supposed to do as a new hire, whom they should meet, or even what exactly the organization does. To help alleviate this issue, develop a form with the following items to be included in the new hire paperwork:

* Assign a coach. This should be their go-to person for the next few weeks. The coach should be someone at the same level or one level higher than the new employee, placing the new hire in direct contact with someone who may have asked the same types of questions when they were hired.

* Meet key players. A list of key firm personnel should be provided and the employee will be required to schedule a meeting with each person. The list should include the managing partner, human resources director, other partners, the marketing director, direct reports and anyone else who plays a key role in the organizational process. During the meeting, each person should tell the new hire what they do and how they can be of assistance.

* Division/niche introduction meetings. No one can describe what the firm does better than the person in charge of each division or niche. Provide a list of each division and niche manager. These may or may not be the same people the new hire has already met with; however, the purpose of the meeting is different. Have the employee schedule an hour-long formal meeting for that person to describe what they do and what it means for the firm. Provide brochures and other reading materials for the new employee to review at a later time and use as a reference.

This process should be the top priority for all new hires, and they should be given a deadline of no more than two weeks to complete it (depending on the number of people they will need to meet). This allows them to immediately connect with key personnel, as well as developing a better understanding of the firm.

EXPECTATION AND VISION

New employees can easily get swallowed up by the mundane. To prevent this from happening, sit down your new employee and ask them, "What do you want to do in the future, both short-term and long-term?"

Allow the employee to describe their vision for the future and use this information to mesh with the firm's overall strategic vision. Once you understand a final goal for the employee, use the information, along with the firm's strategic vision, to develop an appropriate career path. This should look like a process map for the employee's career, with defined positions.

The next step is to define the expectations to be eligible for advancement to each position. These expectations could be technical skills, soft skills, business development training, mastery of software or anything else to develop that person for the next position.

INDIVIDUAL PLANS AND FEEDBACK

Now that you and your new employee have defined expectations and there is a clear path for advancement, it is time for the employee to take ownership for their success. An individual strategic plan is a development tool that defines the person's goals for the next year. An individual strategic plan should have between four and 10 goals derived from the defined expectations, as well as other tasks important to the development of the person and the firm.

The plan should be tied to bi-monthly or quarterly accountability feedback meetings. This allows the employee to know exactly what they should be working on and how they are doing on each task within the firm.

PROVIDE RESOURCES

One of the biggest complaints I hear about younger employees is their lack of basic knowledge in completing the work. However, the solution is relatively easy to set up and maintain. Develop a workflow/white paper that details a self-guided training program using exemplary work for common tasks within your firm. This can be done using hard copies or online, and should be set up in a similar format having:

* A blank document that will be the finished product (i.e., a tax return);

* The same document fully completed and 100 percent correct;

* All of the information to complete the assignment; and,

* A process or outline for completing the product.

This will allow the person to quickly learn how to accurately complete work and do it on their time. Other resources include Excel training courses and e-learning courses.

People are not born knowing what will be expected from them throughout life. Each new change in life offers an opportunity to learn; however, it does not teach the new information. It is your responsibility as a leader in your firm to provide a process for learning.

With a structured learning process, your employees will develop faster, making them more profitable. Providing ongoing expectations and feedback allows each employee to know exactly what's expected and how they are doing within the organization. With this structured staff development program, your firm will create a culture of learning and growing your people, as well as improving your firm's success.

Bryan Shelton, MS, is a consultant at The Rainmaker Consulting Group.

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