Training New Employees - What's a Genuine Mistake?

Training New Employees - What's a Genuine Mistake?

by Dr. Diane M. Hoffmann
As Featured on EzineArticles

It's a sure thing that, while being trained (and even after), people will make mistakes. It is up to management and supervisors to identify what types of mistakes are being made and recognize the context within which these mistakes are made. There are three types of mistakes:

1. silly mistakes
2. stupid mistakes and
3. genuine mistakes

Management might come across mistakes made by the new employee and perceive them as "stupid", while in actual fact, the individual had not been instructed properly by the people who were "supposed to train them". I see that happening a lot in companies and it is a very unfair judgment on the new person starting out. That's why I always say that, first, management must make sure to place new people in the hands of high caliber staff members for training.

The 80/20 formulae can be used as a measuring tool to ask, "what ratio of error is taking place here?" If the mistakes occur 20% of the time or less, then that's OK. They will decrease through repetition of the tasks. But if they occur at 80% or more, there's a problem, and the next step is to find out what the problem is -- not ignore it.

For example, an office clerk might tell another office clerk that a certain computer disk is to be found in a "pouch". While the new person is looking for a "pouch", the boss pressuring for it, the disk is actually filed uncovered in a disk tray. The new person is looking for one thing and the manager is upset because the new office clerk can't locate "a simple disk". What the manager does not know is the context within which the new person is working: under someone else's misinformation.

A new manager might have been mislead by a trainer to believe that a support person would provide all the accurate and current price lists for an upcoming presentation. But during the new manager's presentation meeting, this information proved to be false -- the support person did not provide the correct information. This makes the new manager look bad, but he had been told by the trainer that he could rely on the support personnel -- and he did. Being new, he had no benchmark to verify the information given to him.

Now, of course, he has learned, the hard way, that he cannot trust this support person. Before judging the new manager to be incompetent, or inexperienced, those witnessing this genuine "mistake" must use the context and realize there must be some factor unknown to them. A genuine mistake will be most likely to occur within the 20% of the 80/20 formulae.

On the other hand "Stupid" or "Silly" mistakes are more likely to occur in the 80% range. If a person is truly incompetent, immature, inexperienced or unsuitable for the job, mistakes will be of a different nature and more frequent. Fortunately these will show up in the first week or two of training, or within the first month at least.

However, if the new person will be performing monthly tasks, when the task comes up again in a month, the trainer will have to take into consideration that, although the new clerk has been working there for a month, performing the task will only be the second time. To the new person, this will be a whole new review of the task, and training will still be required during the process as the trainee recalls the steps covered a month earlier. Nobody can remember a task done once, a month later.

If there is an indication of real problems (such as making too many mistakes, or silly and stupid), it is critical to make sure to consider all possible contextual influences. The key is to recognize and identify its existence right away and deal with it before the probation period is over or before it grows into a bigger problem. Sometimes one may have to bring in an outside consultant to discuss the problem and possible solutions.

Management can't just shake its head when a mistake is made. It has to recognize and examine situations within the context of the surrounding training. It has to find out why and how a problem happened before it goes further. This is done through the tools and activities of the communication process. But sadly very few do it.

It's a sure thing that, while being trained, people will make mistakes. It is up to management and supervisors to identify what mistakes are being made within the three types and positively accept what a genuine mistake is as part of the training process./dmh

Article Copyright(c)Diane M. Hoffmann. You may print this article making sure to include the following bio without any changes.


Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and author of the 296-page printed book "Contextual Communication, Organization and Training". Diane also provides a 2-part e-book version of her printed book, "Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal" and "Improve Communication, Organization and Training" as well as many free articles which can be seen at her blog at http://contextual-communication-hrd.blogspot.com/.


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Communication In The Workplace - Improving One Increment at a Time

by Diane M. Hoffmann, ph.d./th.

The majority of people in the workplace (or anywhere for that matter) communicate at a very shallow surface level. That includes those in senior management. Studies have shown that most people communicate at 50% effectiveness -- even in a two-way communication. I venture to say that it is often less than that. But we can improve our communication in the workplace, one increment at a time.

Just think how often you are frustrated by your boss, your peers or colleagues, on a daily basis. How many times are you misunderstood? How many times do you have to explain that you didn't mean something the way it was perceived or received by your listener? Even worse, how many times have you been interrupted to never have had the chance to get back to that important discussion where you wanted to clear yourself of a misunderstanding?

Often, even the explanation of a misunderstanding is misunderstood or received with arguments -- sometimes angrily, sometimes silently. How many times have you kept silent rather than risking offending someone as you would genuinely try to find out where a misunderstanding came from, or try to explain your position.

Experts in linguistics say that people learn languages in their cultural environments and as they grow up they make, maintain and break relationships by talk - males and females having differences in communicating. Communication is a complex subject and vulnerable to the spoken and written words. The novelist E. M. Forster said, "A pause in the wrong place, an intonation misunderstood, and a whole conversation went awry."

In a telephone call to an associate, one day, I left a message on his answering machine to call me back. Somehow, he had been given a phone number which was a business line used for a specific on-going project located in another part of the building; I had subsequently explained to him, that he should not use this number and gave him the one he should call.

However on this particular day, when I called him, I was temporarily working from the first number location and left the message on the tape to call me on that number, at that particular time. When he called me back a few moments later, he called on the other line which was in the other location. What did that tell me? That he did not "listen" to the message on his answering machine. (Just like many don't read their memos or emails). They listen or read hastily and in part only.

This was indeed confirmed later. But, I could have "assumed" he did not listen properly. If I hadn't found it important enough to pursue the incident in order to clarify, I might have wrongly perceived this of him. It could have been that he was not careless at all, but that the tape on the answering machine broke or ended before the explanation about the phone number came on. This would have disclosed my wrong assumption, which would have meant that if I don't know something, I should not assume.

Of course we don't always deduce and analyze our conversations in such details during our daily activities. Who has the time? However being aware of these possibilities, and including this awareness in our philosophical way of thinking, (thinking before receiving) will help us operate in a realm of understanding at all times -- a second nature as it were.

Improving communication is about awareness and doing the little things, many times a day, that will add up to make us communicate better. The goal should be to improve from our current 50% to 100%, one increment at a time./dmh

Article Copyright(c)Diane M. Hoffmann. You may print this article making sure to include the following bio without any changes.

Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and author of the 296-page printed book "Contextual Communication, Organization and Training". Diane also provides a 2-part e-book version of her printed book, "Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal" and "Improve Communication, Organization and Training" as well as many free articles which can be seen at her blog at http://contextual-communication-hrd.blogspot.com/.

***Sign up above for my weekly "TipSheet" on Communication Verbal-Nonverbal, Organization and Training...***