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Training Broadly vs. Specialized Training

If you are wondering whether it’s better to train your employees broadly or give them specialized training for specific functions, you are not alone. There are many different answers to this question, but the short answer is: it depends. Complicated, right? In a recent Wall Street Journal article, researchers talked about how even though there are thousands of people out of work, many businesses are still having difficulty finding suitable employees.

While this is partially due to the education system, the companies themselves shoulder a portion of the blame as well, as they have adopted training practices that do not create efficient or effective employees. When deciding how to train your employees, you need to consider what is best for your business and what is best for the individual employee. Here’s how to decide:

When to Train Broadly

If you have only one or two employees who will have to take on a wide range of tasks, it makes sense to train those employees on everything you possibly can. Of course, those employees will also have to be the kind of employees that can learn more than one specialized task without becoming too muddled or confused. If this is your situation, start by training your employee on a few small tasks to start. Once they have proven that they can learn and remain proficient in some task, even after learning others, continue their training until they are a master of all parts of your business.

This method works best with young, motivated employees who have proven themselves to be capable of this kind of training. Not everyone will be able to remember everything, but if you want someone who can quickly switch from one task to another or who you can trust to take care of your business while you’re away, it will be well worth the effort of finding and training the right person. As you are training, it might be useful to write down the steps to large or complicated tasks so that you have a how-to guide for the more complex processes.

When to Specialize Training

Specializing your training is usually the best way to make sure your employees know exactly what they are needed to do and to prevent distracting them with information that they don’t really need to know. If your business is set up so that each employee is a cog in the larger machine, that really only needs to do one job in order for the business to move forward, then specialized training is the way to go.

What Are Your Thoughts?

What do you think? What is your experience with training your employees to do everything or just have them handle special assignments? I would love to hear from you in the comments.