Employee Training: How to Recognize When It's Time for a Refresher Course

As a lab manager, one of your most important tasks is helping your employees maintain peak efficiency and productivity. Sometimes, this means providing access to a refresher course or introducing them to new skills. Still, it's not always easy to determine when exactly it's time to provide this training.

There are several ways to regularly assess how your employees are performing as individuals and how their performance is contributing to your lab's overall success. You might also have to take into account how the market environment today may force your lab to change its approach to training.

Consider the following indicators to help you gauge when it's time to re-up your employees' training, skill sets, and knowledge.

Team-Level Indicators

Use the following measures to help develop the skills your employees need to attain.

Monitor Individual Skills

Given every employee's importance to the team, the most significant indicator for you to monitor is the level of formal training each of your employees has completed. The technology of water testing is constantly evolving, so you know the value of regular training—but training programs aren't necessarily without gaps. It helps, then, periodically to review your team's current skills by conducting a skills-gap analysis to help determine what your next retraining, or "upskilling," program should cover.

An analysis can help you understand existing skill sets while also enabling you to tailor retraining efforts to meet individual team members' goals and educational needs. Moreover, gap analyses enable you to chart skill development paths for your employees so they have a more thorough understanding of their career progress.

Create Certainty

Because no training program is perfect, there may be processes that weren't covered thoroughly at first or steps that an employee subsequently overlooked. Such errors or oversights can quickly become apparent and generally indicate it's time to return to your training program and correct them.

Implement Regular Cross-Training

In addition to monitoring skill gaps and employee errors, you can increase the thoroughness of your training efforts by incorporating cross-training programs into your curriculum. Think of it as weaving a web of skills between your employees, thus decreasing the chances that any critical functions are going to slip through the cracks.

In addition to ensuring all your lab processes are effectively maintained, cross-training can improve employee awareness of your lab's roles and functions, increase your flexibility for scheduling, promote chances for advancement, and provide an increased range of skills.

Lab-Level Indicators

Although there's significant overlap between how your individual employees are performing and your overall success, there are elements of your lab's performance that can also point to the need for further team training.

Improve Competitiveness

Any marketplace confronts businesses with ever-changing market conditions, new consumer expectations, and the combined challenge and opportunity of new technology. When it comes to your employees, this means you need to have a consistent eye on both what's going on outside your lab and how prepared your employees are to meet new challenges. Whether you consider it "upskilling" or "reskilling," your lab's success will greatly depend on how well you keep their skills up to date with learning and development programs.

Streamline the Process

One irony of employee training—or almost any process improvement—is that when you complete an "upgrade," you quickly begin to see how you can make it even better. This means beginning to plan your next steps, which will just as inevitably mean preparing for your next round of training. By anticipating an upgrade of your lab's programs on a regular basis, you have the opportunity to make systems consistently more streamlined and efficient while also improving your training processes for both trainers and trainees.

Reduce Employee Turnover

Employees leave jobs for any number of reasons, and sometimes an employee's departure is inevitable. But, replacing employees costs you money in the form of recruiting and interviewing costs, as well as new employee training. Regular re-training can help you avoid unnecessary costs by helping increase employee satisfaction, giving employees a renewed sense of purpose in their jobs with the potential for greater responsibility and increased earnings.

Market-Level Indicators

Keep Up With New Regulations

You know better than anyone that keeping up with the regulatory environment in which water labs operate can be a full-time job as legislators and regulators at the local, state, and federal levels respond to scientific, technological, and political developments. In addition to keeping up with these shifts, you have to determine how regulatory changes are going to impact your business and, if so, whether and how you need to re-train your employees to keep your lab running as effectively as possible.

Watch for New Market Opportunities

Although keeping up with regulatory change is a constant challenge for water labs, a more positive challenge involves new opportunities that may emerge in the market. Perhaps it takes the form of a new testing service you've decided to provide or the potential for a new or expanded client base in the wake of increased business or residential development. Regardless of the form, the prospect of new opportunities is likely to force an assessment of whether your team has the training and skills necessary to capitalize on them.

Consistent Training, Consistent Improvement

Employee training is top of mind when hiring new team members, but it's important to maintain at every step of the employee journey. By regularly monitoring performance at the team and lab level, you'll set your lab on a path toward ongoing improvement, efficiency, and success.

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Jeff Rowe
Writer and Editor

For the past 25 years, Jeff Rowe has worked as a writer and an editor for the nonfiction and professional markets, including researching, writing, and editing feature articles, blog posts, speeches, project reports, and magazine essays. He has published numerous articles and essays on developments in health care and health information technology, the home medical equipment market, natural resource and environmental issues, and food topics. He has also been editor and community manager for numerous industry-targeted websites, as well as author of a developing series of novels set in medieval Spain.