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Most managers seem to feel that training employees is a job that should be left to others. I, on the other hand, strongly believe that the manager should do it himself. When I first became a manager, I had mixed feelings about training. Logically, training for hi-tech companies made sense, but my personal experience with training programs at the companies where I had worked was underwhelming. The courses were taught by outside firms who didn’t really understand our business and were teaching things that weren’t relevant.
Most dramatically, when I was Director of Product Management at Netscape, I was feeling frustrated by how little value most product managers added to the business. I was shocked by what happened next. The performance of my team instantly improved. Almost everyone who builds a technology company knows that people are the most important asset. Properly run start-ups place a great deal of emphasis on recruiting and the interview process in order to build their talent base. Unfortunately, often the investment in people stops there. Often I see startups keep careful statistics of how many candidates they’ve screened, how many have made it to the full interview process and how many people they’ve hired. All of these statistics are interesting, but the most important statistic is missing: how many fully productive employees have they added? By failing to measure progress towards the actual goal, they lose sight of the value of training.
Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manger can perform. Consider for a moment the possibility of your putting on a series of four lectures for members of your department. Let’s count on three hours preparation for each hour of course time—twelve hours of work in total. Say that you have ten students in your class. Next year they will work a total of about twenty thousand hours for your organization.
When people interview managers, they often like to ask: have you fired anyone? Or how many people have you fired? Or how would you go about firing someone? These are all fine questions, but often the right question is the one that isn’t asked: When you fired the person, how did you know with certainty that the employee both understood the expectations of the job and were missing them? Often founders start companies with visions of elegant, beautiful product architectures that will solve so many of the nasty issues that they were forced to deal with in their previous jobs. Then, as their company becomes successful, they find that their beautiful product architecture has turned into a Frankenstein.
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They also undergo their own timeline of maturity. They find that their beautiful product architecture has turned into a Frankenstein. Emerging currencies and meaningful community bonds.
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As success drives the need to hire new engineers at a rapid rate, companies neglect to train the new engineers properly. During a time of particularly high attrition at Netscape, I decided to read all of the exit interviews for the entire company to better understand why people quit hi-tech companies. They hated their manager – generally the employees were appalled by the lack of guidance, career development and feedback they were receiving. They weren’t learning anything – the company wasn’t investing in the employees.
An outstanding training program can address both issues head on. The best place to start is with the topic that is most relevant to your employees: the knowledge and skill that they need to do their job. The other essential component of a company’s training program is management training. Management training is the best place to start setting expectations for your management team.
Do you expect them to hold regular 1:1s with their employees? Do you expect them to give performance feedback? Do you expect them to train their people? Do you expect them to agree upon objectives with their team? Other interesting topics — Once you have management training and functional training in place, there are other opportunities as well. One of the great things about building a tech company are the amazing people that you can hire.
Take your best people and encourage them to share their most developed skills. Training in such topics as negotiating, interviewing, finance, etc. Now that we understand the value of the training and what to train on, how do we get our organization to do what we want? The first thing to recognize is that no start-up has time to do optional things. Enforce functional training by withholding new employee requisitions – As Andy Grove writes, there are only two ways for a manager to improve the output of an employee: motivation and training. Therefore, training should be the most basic requirement for all managers in your organization.
An effective way to enforce this requirement is by withholding new employee requisitions from managers until they’ve developed a training program for the TBH. Enforce management training by teaching it yourself – Managing the company is the CEO’s job. While you won’t have time to teach all of the management courses yourself, you should teach the course on management expectations, because they are, after all, your expectations. Make it an honor by selecting the best managers on your team to teach the other courses. Ironically, the biggest inhibitor to putting a training program in place is the perception that it will take too much time. Keep in mind, that there is no investment that you can make that will do more to improve productivity in your company. Therefore, being too busy to train is the moral equivalent of being too hungry to eat.
Furthermore, it’s not that hard to create basic training courses. Warning: This document was written 15 years ago and is probably not relevant for today’s product managers. I present it here merely as an example of a useful training document. Read the original article on Andreessen Horowitz. You don’t have permission to view this page.