Eating Out and Learning How to Play the Game

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Perhaps the most effective on-the-job training activity, shadowing, can best be viewed while dining out! As a server approaches your table, you notice a rope tied around her waist. You soon observe that the rope is attached to another person carrying a large sign around their neck that says, "TRAINEE." The person's mouth is covered with duct tape and his hands are cuffed to his waist. His eyes and ears are wide open, however, as he watches and listens intently to the server's performance. OK, I'm exaggerating but you get the idea! One of the best ways to train a subordinate on the job is for them to observe another performing the job.

When I was growing up in an international CPA firm, I had the good fortune of working for several managers and partners that allowed me to accompany them to many client meetings. While they didn't tape my mouth shut or tie my hands, I knew I wasn't to speak unless spoken to! Be seen and not heard were my instructions. Some of these meetings were among my greatest learning experiences. Having the opportunity to watch and listen as my superiors handled both routine and difficult client situations and problems, allowed me to learn from their experiences, and from their mistakes! While my time wasn't chargeable to the client, it certainly was recovered from my performance in following years.

Some CPA firms are beginning to teach staff assistants how to play the game by using shadowing. Some have established policies that require supervisors, managers and partners to take a staff assistant to every client meeting just to watch and learn.

Other firms are making extensive investments in on-the-job training of staff assistants. After thorough explanations of the objectives and procedures of an assignment, the supervisor helps the assistant prioritize and organize the work. The supervisor may even walk the assistant through a few of the procedures and illustrate the appropriate documentation of the results. While the assistant performs the task, the supervisor may ask questions and suggest more effective or efficient ways to do the thing. When the work is done, the supervisor thoroughly reviews the documentation and communicates review notes to correct deficiencies or help the assistant do a better job the next time. Next blog, we'll address more on-the-job training activities. How do you like to train your assistants? Please post a comment.

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