Training existing employees vs. hiring new ones: Best Practices
We are implementing a new documentation system. One of my employees is technologically challenged but it is important to be able to use this system. I wonder if the employee is going be able to make it. They are a long-term employee. I would rather not terminate them but the job has changed and if this employee cannot do the job, I need someone who can.
This situation raises two important decisions for the manager:
- How should one handle employees who are not able to adjust to changes in the workplace?
- Is it better to train existing staff members or hire new staff members who are skilled in a new skill area?
Sink or swim? The first question asks the manager to decide between competing priorities. The work needs to be done and a manager’s job is to ensure that it is done the right way. Yet, a manager also wants to build a team, to support and develop employees and reward performance and loyalty. One priority suggests that the employee in question should be terminated if they cannot do the job; the other priority suggests trying to help that employee succeed.
Ideally, this system change in your workplace did not come about suddenly. You had time to prepare yourself and your team for it. Telling the team that change is a continual process and explaining the benefits of the change (as well as the problems that can occur if the change is not made) can help you gain their buy-in and build motivation.
You must assess whether this particular staff member is capable of learning the system and, if so, what supports they will need to do so. Some training time must be provided. Taking a sink or swim approach without training will lead the staff member to fail. Doing so may alienate other employees causing them to re-evaluate their commitment to the team and the company based on what they see.
But you cannot be tolerant forever. The work needs to be done. Best to set up a training plan for all employees and a time frame for the training. Maybe you have some information from other departments who have implemented this new system. Their experience can give you information about what are reasonable timelines for implementation and what are some of the training challenges. If not, your department will be the model for other departments who follow you in the implementation.
Train or Hire? Regarding the second question, training existing employees or hiring new ones, there are definite advantages to re-training employees rather than hiring someone new. Recruiting and hiring a new employee is costly and time-consuming. The manager already knows how an established employee works and how to best assist and motivate them. The established employee is familiar with the workplace and, presumably, committed to the employer.
Yet, adding a new person to the team who brings a different skill set and experience can enhance everyone’s work performance. Again, the manager must see that work gets done. If this means bringing someone new into the workplace, then this step must be taken.
The decision to train or hire may also depend on the complexity of the change that one is making. If your documentation platform is very new or unfamiliar, having a new employee who knows the platform is likely to be the best bet. That person can get to work more quickly. Possibly that person can also train the established employees more effectively. This teamwork will create good synergies among employees and further productivity and innovation.
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