I’ve been at my job for a while now, and I’ve climbed my little ticketing ladder and procured a management position that requires me to train new employees in all things Box Office and Guest Relations. I like to think I’m a pretty great trainer (I’ve had a lot of experience at this point), and I’ve amassed a few tips on how to make your new team member feel comfortable and confident throughout the training process.
1. Be relatable.
I’m a young-ish person, and I’ve trained people that are both younger and older than me. However, I’ve never let my age determine the way I treat people that I’m training. It would do me no good to cower in the face of a person with more life experience — if I’m intimidated by a new employee’s professional history, how can I objectively and successfully train that person? Similarly, if I treat a younger person like a naive baby who’s never had a job before — first of all that’s rude and ignorant, and secondly, it will inevitably instill unnecessary anxiety in the new employee. Best approach to training all walks of people? Establish a comfortable, but appropriate dynamic right off the bat. Crack a few jokes, appear confident yet relaxed, ask the new employee a few innocent questions (Where are you living in NY? How long have you been here? Fro-yo or ice cream?), and absolutely smile. No one likes learning from an Ice King or Queen. You are a real person. Act like one.
2. Be enthusiastic about mundane tasks.
Every single job on the planet (including awesome jobs like braiding Jennifer Lawrence’s hair) can be a little bit tedious, a little bit dull, a little bit frustrating — that is just part of the work world, period. No exceptions. However, when you’re training a new employee, it is imperative that you make these monotonous tasks appear insanely fun and all “Wow, look at that brain power, use that critical thinking, alright you frickin’ genius you!” This thrilling attitude will trick your new employees into thinking they’re a) using the total sum of their mental capacity and b) that qualifying ticket orders, creating spreadsheets, and scrubbing the toilet is all fuckin’ scintillating!
3. Don’t pretend you know things that you don’t.
If you don’t know how to use the copy machine, don’t train the new employee on the copy machine. Politely give that job to a more competent fellow associate. P.S. All people should know how to use a copy machine if over the age of 18, but I think you get the basic gist of this point.
4. Encourage them to ask for help.
In my opinion, this one is supremely important. I would rather have a new employee ask me a question every two seconds as opposed to a new employee making ill-conceived assumptions, and then subsequently a ton of mistakes. Of course I want you to feel empowered in the position — to be an independent thinker — but I don’t want pride or fear to cloud your judgment and put you in professional situations you’re not yet prepared to handle. Always ask for the big H. Also, if you’re an employer and you just presume your new staff member instantly arrives at the job like some cyborg who should never ask questions or seek guidance, then you are (pardon me) a real asshat.
5. Take breaks.
You need a break. The newb needs a break. Just to pee, grab a coffee, pet a dog, take a phone call, whatever. Even a simple fiver is sufficient, and will help immensely in keeping you two focused as you trudge through your training sessions.
6. Give helpful hints, but don’t. talk. shit.
Don’t cheat the new employee of valuable inside scoop that will inevitably help him or her succeed in the role. For example, if the head honcho likes his or her coffee with two Splenda, make sure the newb knows that. Similarly, if the head honcho hates the phrase “Just a second,” the newb should know that as well. It’s called being a generous supervisor. You’re not only protecting your newb from unwanted scrutiny, but you’re also protecting yourself. However, don’t make the newb privy to catty office gossip or attempt to negatively influence his or her opinions about fellow staff members. This will simply cultivate a segregated, unkind work environment. Essentially, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t fuckin’ say it. Unless the newb reaches your shared opinion about a peer on his or her own, in which case the two of you should probably go out for drinks and have it at.
7. Possess a bottomless well of patience.
Or as others might say, “Make the charitable assumption.” Just because you’ve done these tasks a million times doesn’t necessarily mean they’re rocket science. Perhaps you’re not giving yourself enough credit, perhaps the dots aren’t as easy to connect as you think. Don’t automatically assume your newb is slow. Instead, maybe recognize your job isn’t the most obvious, and that it will take some time for your newb to become as proficient as you are. You had a learning curve too, by the way. Don’t forget where you started and where you are now. I bet you were super appreciative of the people that showed you patience when you were a new. So pay it forward.
Now go train your dragon!