Your company is made of many different people with varying roles and levels of experience. How can your apprentices as well as seasoned technicians help facilitate learning and development? What if certain people aren’t interested in collaborative learning? What if members of your team don’t feel responsible for contributing or are not welcoming of those who are new? Building a functional team across all levels isn’t always smooth. Ideally, senior technicians would mentor incoming learners. How can mutual respect be established and a positive work environment be maintained?
Levels of Learning & Experience
Define what these levels look like in your company. Ask yourself how someone of each level might be able to lead from their current position. What does a brand new novice have to offer an experienced apprentice, or a senior technician for that matter? Try to instill the idea that the new folks aren’t merely “helpers”–they have their own career path that others are encouraged to invest in. Technicians aren’t their “bosses,” but rather their mentors.
Leadership From Every Angle
A brand new employee may not have much confidence in themselves. They are at the end of the line and might struggle to feel useful or of value. Creating space for them to have some sort of leadership role can introduce a sense of independence and empowerment from the very start. Can you as a Training Leader partner novices with one another for accountability? If your company typically onboards several people at a time, organize an interactive learning pod. As they say, “If you can teach it, you know it.” Encourage apprentices to support one another in their journey through the program.
Newer additions to the team also bring fresh eyes to company habits–whether useful or counterproductive. Their experiences bring a unique history and their questions offer new perspectives to those who have been around for a while. When senior technicians are paired with apprentices, they might just learn something too! Training Leaders should aim to foster dynamics where questions are welcome from apprentice to senior technicians, giving them an opportunity to reinforce the things they do well and look for ways to improve the things they cannot easily explain.
Training Leaders Who Train Leaders
Leadership may come naturally to some while the concept is difficult for others to grasp. As you work to strengthen the team that your employees comprise, you may have to educate and coach some people on what it means to be a leader. Coaches can vary in their methods: they can tell someone what to do, or they can guide them to find the way themselves. The former can be more efficient in the moment, but the latter fosters independence that will carry a student much farther in their trade. Here are some additional tips you can pass along to the mentors in your company:
- Open-ended questions encourage more of a discussion (as opposed to questions that students can answer with a simple “yes” or “no”).
- Everyone can benefit from feedback, but how it’s delivered matters. Make sure your criticism is constructive–try to comment only on the behavior instead of making statements about the person themselves. For example, instead of labeling someone as lazy, you might ask them where they are getting stuck and offer support.
- Providing feedback in the form of encouragement is as important as correcting errors; this can help new students gain confidence in their progress. It shows that you notice their achievements and then can be motivating for students to keep up their good work. Affirmations make a difference.
- Show students how the big picture goal is broken down into manageable steps–this can prevent them from being overwhelmed and provide attainable short-term steps for them to take.
Illustrating the importance of team building in your company will give apprentices the work environment they need to thrive throughout training. Further, redefining the limits of who is teacher and who is learner creates a workplace with mutual respect for all employees no matter how experienced.
We’re almost finished with our series on the 10 Laws of NexTech Academy! The final law of the training program is Flexibility; stay tuned! You can also find the previous eight laws here.