When it comes to training employees, there’s a ton of research on how best to do so. But sometimes it’s fun to look at it from another angle. Besides, who doesn’t want an excuse to post an adorable puppy pic? So instead of hitting the business books for great leadership advice, we’re going to take look at some top training tips from dog whisperer Paul Owens to see how they stack up.
Ready to unleash the learning? Let’s go!
Tip #1 – Plan ahead. Collect everything you and your new dog will need, including highly valued treats, a bed, collar, leash, tethers, and training clicker if you choose to use one. Create an environment that will promote success by puppy-proofing your house.
Once you’ve found and hired that perfect person, it may be tempting to sit back and relax until they start. Don’t do it. Spend some time thinking about specific tools, technology and processes your new star will need to get going in the right direction. Gather those items in advance and put together a detailed onboarding plan. Consider appointing an in-house mentor for each person that you bring on. And while you can’t employee-proof your business, you can create an environment that will promote success, both for your new hires and throughout your company. (Don’t forget the treats!)
Tip #2 – Make a behavioral wish list. Positive training isn’t about teaching your dog to stop doing something. It’s about teaching him what you want him to do instead. If you don’t know what you want him to do, he won’t be able to figure it out either, and both of you will end up barking at one another in frustration. Proactively teach your dog exactly what he is supposed to do rather than reactively try to correct unwanted behaviors.
If only every boss understood this premise! Clear communication about desired behaviors and outcomes is key to employee success. Don’t give your new team members time to develop habits that need to be unlearned. Start them off right by laying out the job tasks, procedures and expectations. Keep communication lines open to minimize frustration on both ends.
Tip #3 – Use consistent communication. We often inadvertently teach our dogs to do exactly what we don’t want them to do. For example, if you don’t want your dog to jump on you, don’t reinforce the jumping by occasionally petting him when he jumps. Be consistent and always have him sit or lie down before being petted.
Consistent communications and role modeling will paint a clear picture of staff expectations and accountability. Make sure to apply your standards across the board, and not just with your new hires. If you have a policy that prohibits cell phone use during meetings, but a couple of managers are constantly scrolling, you’ll have a hard time getting that message through. Be consistent and lead by example.
Tip #4 – Maintain realistic expectations. Older or larger dogs can’t always do what younger or smaller ones can do – and vice versa. Train at your dog’s individual learning rate and take physical and emotional abilities into account.
There’s no one breed of employee. They come in all different shapes, sizes, and learning styles. Some will pick things up very quickly while others will take a few times to get it right. Some will be comfortable throwing themselves into projects and others will need more guidance. Once you have a feel for what your employee can do, set your expectations, goals, and training schedule accordingly for maximum progress and results.
Tip #5 – Be positive and have fun. If it’s not fun for you, it’s not fun for your dog. Punishment and aversive training methods are not necessary and do nothing to promote or foster safety, patience, kindness and compassion. If you find yourself getting angry or frustrated, stop the training session and try again later. Positive training methods are far less stressful for you and your dog.
If your current management style consists of barking orders and bopping people with newspapers, you’re not going to get the behaviors you want— or the employee retention you’d like. Workplace stress is one of the top causes of low employee engagement. It’s okay to set goals and work hard to achieve them, and of course there will be varying levels of intensity in every industry, but a punitive atmosphere will quickly squash enthusiasm, creativity, innovation, and trust. It’s important to maintain a positive approach— and your sense of humor.
Better training = better results
Training your dog is a labor of love. Why not look at your HR and leadership responsibilities in the same way? Recruiting and hiring great people is just the beginning. Developing the team, skills and environment that will allow you to reach your organizational goals takes time, energy, patience, and yes, occasional treats.
But do it right and you’ll have a bunch of happy, loyal employees who greet you at the door each morning. And that’s pretty doggone cool.
Is your broker truly excited about organizational problem solving and helping you design an employee benefits strategy that helps you recruit top talent and makes your job easier? If not, give us a call. We live for this stuff!
* Tips have been edited for length.
Photo by Mikkel Bigandt