“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” – Henry Ford (1863-1947), American Industrialist
“I hate training new employees!” is a common lament and mantra that many talented workers express. Can you refuse to train someone at work when your skill levels exceed your peers? Also, can you refuse to train someone at work when your boss expects you to share talents you learned outside of the organization?
Some talented workers feel demoralized when their supervisor expects them to share hard-earned skills as a matter of principle. This becomes especially frustrating when asked to train peers on expertise you acquired from industry or professional certifications you achieved without support from your employer.
“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so that they don’t want to.” – Sir Richard Branson (1950- ), British Entrepreneur
You have invested time and effort in learning new talents. Your boss expects you to share the secrets of your competitive advantage with others. Rather than proclaiming, “I hate training new employees!,” consider the questions below and evaluate your options.
1. What Type of Training Is Involved?
The first thing you should consider involves the nature of the training request. The amount of time and expertise required to train a new employee how to clock-in, establish their online log-in credentials, or learn how to set the security alarm differs greatly from what you must do to assist them in performing more complex tasks.
Confirm with your supervisor exactly what the company expects you to do. If your workplace has a culture where requests tend to evolve into more extensive and time-intensive commitments, document the original request so you have a record of it.
Should the training exist as part of onboarding for new hires? Is another department a better fit for a request of this nature? These and other questions may require clear answers to ensure that the request complies with company policies.
2. What Is the Time Commitment Involved?
When asked or ordered to train a co-worker, consider the amount of time involved. If your supervisor values your expertise, they should accept your estimate of how much time the session will require.
Will this training take fifteen minutes, an hour, or more than a day? Does this extra assignment come with the expectation that you must complete all other assigned tasks that day without an extension or extra help?
Remember that the new hire may be a slow learner. What you know how to do instinctively may seem like a difficult puzzle to them. While spending a short period of time training a new colleague is a reasonable expectation, demanding that you do a full data dump of your skills is neither practical nor reasonable.
Carefully document your time so your supervisor does not penalize you. A favor asked may become a favor forgotten when you spend too much time training and correcting the errors of others and not enough on your own assignments. If asked to reteach a skill for the umpteenth time, keep statistics so your boss knows that you are a problem-fixer rather than a knowledge-hoarder.
3. What Types of Knowledge Does This Training Cover?
Consider the difference between proprietary knowledge specific to the company and common knowledge that does not depend upon the specific place you work. Can you refuse to train someone at work if it involves company-specific skills or practices within a narrowly defined trade? Probably not.
However, if you have expertise in a skill, process, or software application–such as a database of spreadsheet–not developed by or specifically for your employer, you should have greater latitude in deciding your level of involvement. For example, if you paid out of pocket to obtain industry certifications or credentials, being expected to train others on this expertise may cross an ethical or comfort line.
Instead of serving as the trainer, you could suggest resources available in case they wish to pursue this knowledge. Also, just because a person learns a skill does not mean they are the person best qualified to teach it.
4. Does Performing This Act Offer the Trainer a Bargaining Chip?
Consider your role as a subject matter expert (SME) a strength rather than a burden. If expected to share knowledge you learned on your own time, determine if you can bargain your talents.
Perhaps your employer could reward you with professional development leave or other training to build upon your skills. These train-the-trainer opportunities enhance your value to the organization, since your presence means that they do not have to hire an outside consultant.
Agreeing to this role may also offer you a bargaining chip for a raise or promotion. Rather than growling, “I hate training new employees,” inform management of the value you offer by becoming a consistent SME resource.
As the go-to person, make the case that your skills and your ability to share them with others saves the company a large sum of funds that would otherwise be required for training. If you receive an unsatisfactory response to the bargaining chips available from your SME talents, consider other options outside of your employer.
5. How Might Training Build Camaraderie with Coworkers?
In a water-cooler culture, those who selfishly hoard information and knowledge have few allies. The praise and support of peers may play a role in you gaining promotions or earning raises in many corporate settings, including those that have peer-review evaluations in place. Becoming the go-to person offers advantages if your training gives your colleagues confidence.
How can you refuse to train someone at work who might become an ally down the road? Perhaps that person has unknown or untapped talents and your efforts to teach or mentor them as they walk into the door might reap dividends in the future.
However, remember that you should never share all of your talents and secrets. Keep a few in reserve so you will always maintain the SME aura with your peers.
6. Do Options Exist for Consulting or Independent Contracting?
Can you refuse to train someone at work while also viewing your skills as a marketable untapped resource? For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, an alternate path for SME training may involve marketing their skills that are not proprietary to a specific employer or that are not corporately-owned intellectual property by serving as a consultant or independent contractor.
This could occur as in-person or virtual training on your own time. Those who have comfort with a technical writing style appropriate for the field may also consider authoring knowledge-based articles or how-to guides.
These options may not be available for some people. Private entities may have non-compete clauses that prevent employees from harvesting their skills as independent contractors for fear that competitors might tap into their talents.
You also need to investigate if your employer requires you to report any outside activity. For example, many public employees (such as faculty and staff at public schools or universities) have to get approval for outside activities to assure that any compensation does not conflict with the public’s interest.
7. Should the Company Retain a Professional Trainer Instead?
Even if you have become the company’s go-to person and enjoy the role, there may be occasions where you have reservations about performing these activities. Assuming this responsibility sometimes puts you at a level of accountability “above your pay grade.” You may have fears that certain training activities could expose you or the company to liability.
Some skills may require external licenses or apprenticeships. Even if you know how to do elementary electrical work, you would not want the responsibility of mentoring a new hire to perform the skills of a trained electrician if you lack the appropriate license or experience.
Similarly, you may have significant experience with understanding the skills that you originally learned through proprietary training modules or software. While providing a little help or quick assistance regarding these materials is not an issue, developing a full-blown training session or mini-course may put you or your employer at risk of copyright violations or other legal consequences.
8. Can These Talents Open New Doors?
Beyond expanding your portfolio and building your confidence, consider whether the skills you bring to the table as a trainer should encourage you to re-evaluate your current employment status. Perhaps, some of the frustration you encounter transcends this request and is part of a larger dissatisfaction with your current job.
You may see your newly-acknowledged talents as a liability at the moment you receive the request. In reality, this recognition of your talents proves to be an asset that may have marketability beyond your present employer.
Explore your options. Celebrate the skills you have and the potential they may bring in a different setting. Soon, you may find yourself getting a little training as a new employee in a more rewarding environment!
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