If asked to describe the perfect employee, most employers could likely arrive at an answer pretty quickly. Most have a list of characteristic this ideal individual possesses: intelligent, passionate, motivated, and possessive of a wealth of other job-specific traits.

When looking to hire, this is the person all employers want. Someone perfectly geared to the position, one who arrives day one fully equipped to handle whatever it is he or she is given.

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Is this realistic? No. And the more specific your industry, the more difficult it becomes to find that ideal math. So what do you do? Obviously, you hire the person best suited to the job. But rather than accept inevitable shortcomings, strive to mold that ideal match. Invest time and energy to train each employee to fit his or her position.

And don’t just send them to a conference of point them in the direction of a series of tutorials. Take them under your wing and pass along the unique company perspective you possess. This 4 step plan from Inc’s Geoffrey James will help you do so.

1. Teach skills

In his post, James discusses the tendency of employers to try to mold the personalities of their employees. Obviously, this tends not to prove successful—our personalities are pretty static. Sure you may wish your sales manager was more outgoing or your receptionist a bit more bubbly, but you can’t exactly teach them to be.

So focus instead on training them to develop specific skills that will enhance their performance. School your sales manager in the field of human behavior and teach him to discern customer cues that signal interest. Work on listening with your receptionist so that even if callers aren’t blown away by her excitement, they’ll appreciate her attentiveness.

2. Focus your training

Don’t seek to instill in your employee every trait he could ever need to be successful. This will only overwhelm him and majorly drain your resources. Instead, hone in on those skills specific to his current duties.

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Say your company designs websites for businesses. You just brought on a new writer to tackle blog posts for your clients. While social media and design may also be components of your business, focus your training of her on all things writing.

3. Reinforce skills

A one day crash course in a new skill isn’t enough to ensure mastery. It takes, on average, 21 days to begin doing something habitually, let alone doing it well.

For this reason it’s important to create as many opportunities as possible, especially early on, for employees to cultivate a new skill. If you’ve just taught your sales associate the process for approaching customers about purchasing a store credit card, create mock sale scenarios in which another employee stands in as a customer and your associate practices her pitch. This way, you can monitor your employee and make sure she is fully equipped (and comfortable) before engaging with an actual customer.

4. Measure progress

Hopefully, you’ve brought on employees who are intrinsically motivated to succeed, who want to learn and grow. But alas, not all workers fit this mold, and even those who do may at times need a little extra encouragement to cultivate a certain skill.

Tracking your employees’ progress is a great way to provide them the incentive to succeed. Note where they are with a certain skill when they first begin working for you and measure their growth over a set period of time.

Take, for example, your sales associate seeking to get sign-ups for your company card. Sit down with her during your first training session and draw up a document you’ll use to track her progress. Set a specific time period (2-3 months perhaps) during which you’ll measure her success and discuss with her an appropriate end goal.

Never leave your employees in the dark when you’re tracking their progress. Keeping them in the loop ensures they stay motivated and can make necessary changes as soon as need arises.


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