2 1 www.images-magazine.com JUNE 2018 images 43 TIPS & TECHNIQUES Training is an i nves tm e n t in future success Organise a skills inventory S adly, employee training is one of the most overlooked aspects of running a modern decorated apparel business. It is also the easiest predictor for success. Shops that have a great employee training programme have the greatest customer satisfaction in the industry, and happy customers always equal a healthier bottom line. So let’s break down what works, and the best practices you will need to adopt in your shop if you want to emulate this success. Why you need it Training is an investment in future success. That’s why chefs, airplane pilots, athletes, ninjas, military personnel, police and surgeons take the time to hone their skills and keep up to date on best practices. Even if you know how to do something, you can always get better at that task. Yet, there are other reasons too. Having trained back-ups allows your other crew members to go on vacation or call in sick without being a detriment to how your shop functions. Plus, more skill and knowledge in different areas of the shop will elevate the overall speed and even the craftsmanship of your work. The Rule of Three One idea that will help you organise your thoughts on where to begin is the simple idea of training back-ups for all of your shop’s core tasks. There are thousands of tasks handled every day in your shop, but let’s break down the core tasks for training into a few ideas: ∞ Quoting and order entry ∞ Purchasing ∞ Art creation and separations ∞ Embroidery digitising ∞ Screen prep and imaging ∞ Print production ∞ Embroidery production ∞ Digital production ∞ Heat press production ∞ Sublimation production ∞ Ink mixing ∞ Post production ∞ Shipping ∞ Invoicing Ideally, depending on the size of your business, you would have at least three people in your shop that are competent enough to handle these tasks proficiently and with quality. Why three? For starters, if one person is your key employee in that area, sooner or later they are going to be out. That’s when the back-up comes in to help. But what happens when that back-up isn’t available either? That’s why you need the Rule of Three to be implemented into your training regimen. Having three competent people trained in each of your core functions is a good insurance policy for the unexpected. Getting started One easy way to begin the process is to organise a skills inventory for each employee. This is a simple idea where you rate their level of understanding of all the core tasks associated with any skill on a scale of zero to 10, where zero means a complete lack of knowledge and 10 represents expert understanding. Measure each employee on what they know. Have each department head jot down the top 10 to 20 things they would teach a new person to their team. Those are the ‘basic skills’. Next, after a person has been working for a few years, what are the more ‘advanced skills’ they should know? Finally, what are the ‘elite skills’ that only a few of your team members have or that you would like them to have? The skills inventory is a living document that is built on a spreadsheet. If you use a Google Sheet you can share it with each department head, which makes it easier to communicate and share ideas. On the left hand side of a worksheet, broken up by departments, are all of the core skills everyone should know. Going across the top of One thing to remember is that all training activities cost money and time the worksheet as column headers are all of your employees’ names. Record the numerical rating score where they intersect on the worksheet. What skill gaps do you see? Some will be surprising. A veteran embroidery staff member may only know how to sew flat goods and not hats. Your screen room manager may not know how to use the auto-coater that well. Your customer service and sales staff lack production and inventory training. Giving your staff time and experience in different facets of the tasks in the shop makes them more valuable and better contributors to your company. You measure what you care about You’ve read that before, right? In this context, rating the level of employee skills allows you to make good personnel decisions that will affect your business. A skills inventory will allow you to adjust the sails for the company with recruiting. During any hiring phases, you can recruit not only for the job you are hiring for, but other secondary skills too. Maybe someone has applied for a position as a screen printer. During the interview you learn that they also have solid experience in the screen room, and in mixing ink too. It is the secondary skills that will help you make the right decision in hiring. Plan for the future Let’s not forget that there are always new advances in technology and techniques in this industry. When skills need to be upgraded, putting a plan together is the first step towards launching that initiative.