The Strategic Business Blog

Employee Training: In the Batter's Box or at Batting Practice?

Posted by Chris Nesbitt

Have you thought about your approach to employee training? As a business owner or manager, your approach toward employee training will have a significant impact in your ability to create a business system that will operate well whether you are present or not. Your approach toward employee training is a key element in being more strategic by design.

Employee TrainingBefore video games, internet, and the rise of other sports, "America's pastime" was baseball. There are some parallels to the training that occurs in baseball to the training that could or should occur in business.

Is your employee training done in the batter's box or at batting practice?

When children between the ages of 4 and 8 start playing baseball, they start with T-Ball. Instead of a pitcher throwing the ball, the ball is placed on a batting tee for the player to hit. There are no walks or strikeouts and there is typically no scoring for the younger ones (4 or 5 years old). This is a great way to start training a child about the basics of how to play baseball.

The training at this level is handled differently than the higher level leagues in baseball. In a T-Ball rulebook, "the batter coach shall accompany the batter to the batter's box only for the purpose of adjusting the tee and giving hitting instructions. He must then return to the on-deck circle immediately." The batter coach is allowed to help the batter get ready for the pitch. They may also instruct the batter in the batter's box ("up, back, left, or right").

In all of the other baseball leagues (Little League, High School, Collegiate, Minor or Major Leagues), have you ever seen a coach walk into the batter's box with the player and give them coaching tips during a game? No. Why?

  • They should have already learned the basics of being at bat by this stage. They should know what they are trying to accomplish and how to do so.
  • They train during batting practice to improve upon their technique based upon their results they are getting.

How does this relate to employee training at your business?

A manager can handle their employee training as the T-Ball batter coach and the batter's box, focusing all of their attention on training one player while they are in the batter's box. This may have some benefit if the employee is new and still learning the basics of their job (such as a production line employee). However, there are limitations to this employee training method:

  • The manager can only do this with a limited number of employees at a time.
  • The employee may become dependent on their manager being present to be able to produce.
  • This can have a negative effect on the employee and the manager. The employee may never begin to understand their role/job at a level where the creative abilities of their mind engage and allow them to produce at a higher level and advance in capability. The manager will have to constantly be working with the employee, keeping the manager from focusing on higher level management tasks.

The batting practice employee training can be a much more effective method:

  • During a designated training time (outside of performing the assigned job/task), the manager can focus their efforts on making sure the employee understands the big picture perspective of what they are trying to accomplish in their job. Once an employee understands what they are trying to accomplish, it is much easier for them to figure out how to accomplish it.
  • The technical aspect of how to do the job should then be taught during the training time. The employee can then go back to their job and work on accomplishing the assigned tasks.
  • The manager can then monitor the employee's progress by reviewing dashboard reports and results of their job to determine what the employee needs to improve upon. Then, during the next training time, the manager should discuss the report with the employee and ask the employee (who at this point should understand what they are trying to accomplish) what they believe they can do to improve their results. Help the employee learn how to think about how they can and should improve their productivity. The training now becomes a team effort between the trainer and the trainee.

Some may believe that if their employee is not completely focusing on executing their assigned task(s) 100% of the time they are on the job, there is a lack of productivity. However, we must remember that hard work alone is never the best approach. We must combine smart work with hard work.

What are you, as a manager, trying to accomplish?

Do you want robots dependent upon you to wind them up each day before they are ready to step up to home plate and bat (do their job)?

Do you want employees that are empowered to improve, be creative, and produce whether or not you are there?

What are you doing to schedule employee training time, both for your newer and more advanced employees?

Are your employees advancing into the Major Leagues because of your employee training methods or are they still back in T-Ball?



Chris Nesbitt is a small business consultant and managing partner of Strategic Business Directs. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+.

Photo Credit: DanDee Shots

Topics: Strategic by Design, Employee Training