I wrote a post a few weeks ago about Jesse, a new bagel shop employee who was lost on the learning curve.
She was set adrift on a busy morning without proper training. As a result, she didn’t yet know how to be useful. It was clearly an awkward situation for her.
I wondered if she would last very long.
I visited the same bagel shop last weekend and saw a completely different Jesse this time. She was confident and smiling as she served her customers. She had a job to do and she knew how to do it.
Her job this day was filling orders for customers who wanted to get a dozen bagels. She helped one indecisive customer by making a few suggestions to round out his selections. Jesse even joked with customers waiting in line by suggesting that all they had to do to skip the line was buy a dozen bagels from her.
Her personality was muffled and restrained by inhibition the first time I saw Jesse. Three weeks later, her personality sparkled.
What was the difference?
Jesse had two things that she lacked when I first saw her three weeks ago: competence and confidence.
Three weeks ago, Jesse was at Level 2 on the learning curve. She lacked the competence to do her job. It wasn’t her fault - she hadn’t yet been trained — but that lack of ability in turn hurt her confidence. Nobody likes to look and feel inept. Especially when there’s an audience (a.k.a. customers) to see it.
All new employees have to go through this stage to some degree, but a lack of training exacerbated the situation by unnecessarily prolonging this stage.
This day, Jesse had attained “Level 4” on the learning curve for fulfilling requests for a dozen bagels. This is where an employee’s skill level and confidence are both high. They’ve mastered a particular task to the point where they can do the job without thinking through the steps. This ability to just flow allows them to infuse their own personality into the situation.
Getting from Level 2 to Level 4 requires time. A lack of training makes it take even longer.
Employees like Jesse are at risk during this period because they aren’t yet able to do their jobs effectively. They may even decided to quit if the process is too uncomfortable.
Good for Jesse for sticking with it.
How to Prevent Employees from Getting Lost
Here are some tips from my previous post that can help keep new employees from feeling lost.
- Let them know it’s okay to make mistakes during training.
- Commend then on the progress they’re making.
- Be available to guide them and provide assistance.
- Encourage them to stay on track.
You can revisit the entire post here if you'd like a more in-depth explanation of the learning curve.