This past Thursday morning, Donna Lee, my wife, and I flew down to Burbank, California. When we got off the plane, I commented on the flight attendants' exceptional service, the great attention we had received throughout the flight. Donna Lee agreed that they had been very helpful, and nothing more was said about it. The service level was (I usually get good service on flights) sufficiently higher than we are accustomed to that we both noticed and commented on it.
After five wonderful days with our son, daughter-in-law, and energetic 18-month old grandson, Dustin, it was time for our trip home. As we looked for our assigned seats I noticed one of Thursdays' flight attendants was sitting in the back row. I asked, "Are you a passenger or our flight attendant on this flight too?" She said, "You're lucky! There are going to be four of us! We're training two new flight attendants today." "Well, we'll just see if they are as good as you are because you are pretty special." Of course we experience exceptional service from the two new flight attendant trainees. As the plane was coming in for landing, the senior flight attendant came up to me and quietly asked, "How did they do?" I said, "You trained them well. They did an exceptional job."
This is a great example of the right way to do on-the-job training. You assign one of your best people to do the break-in onthe- job training. Contrast this to an experience I observed while working with a mill this past year. Two partners and I
had been working in this location for a few weeks and just in passing commented on the curt, cool receptionist. My office manager mentioned that when she called in and asked for one of their supervisors, the receptionist asked for the supervisors' extension. We didn't know it. The receptionist told my office manager in no uncertain terms, "If you don't know their extension, you don't need to bother calling because there's no way I can be expected to know everybody's extension around here." This really shocked us.
A few months later, I walked by the reception desk and noticed that the "curt" receptionist was training a new person to fill in on her days off and when she was on breaks, etc. This is an example of the wrong way to mentor and do on-the-job training. You risk passing on behaviors that are sub-standard and perpetuate a low performing culture. The question for all of us is how are we choosing the people who we will have mentor and train new employees? Often it is left up to the person who is leaving to train their replacement. Presumably the person who is leaving knows the job. They don't always have the best attitude and if they are leaving because you were not 100% satisfied with their performance or they with yours, they may have developed some practices and attitudes you don't want to see perpetuated in your new associates.
There are very few decisions more important than who to hire and who will orient and train our new hires. Think about it.