Your employees are the most important asset of your business. Last time, I covered how to recruit and find staff for your agency. Once you've hired those new employees, you'll now need a plan to train them.
The level of training you offer depends on the experience and knowledge of your employee. If you hire someone with a lot of knowledge, they may not need to be trained in their specialty, but they'll need to be integrated into the ways of your business. They may also need to be "untrained" of some bad habits, or different methods used by their former employers, if your agency does things differently.
Due to the lack of skilled practitioners in the SEM industry, you'll likely have to offer some sort of formalized SEM training. The key to successfully training your team is to understand their learning styles. It's pointless giving the visual learner a book to read. Mix up your tactics to appeal to all types of learners and keep track of progress so you can switch tactics if progress is slow.
Training for Beginners
Chances are that many of your hires will be brought on board at the trainee or intern level. You may have decided to bring them on board because of their passion and enthusiasm rather than their experience. I've established a training process to get these new hires up to speed as quickly and effectively as possible.
Knowledge of the Agency
The first part of the training always revolves around understanding the agency -- who we are, why we're in business, and what our clients expect from us. I can't stress this enough, as it doesn't matter how experienced they are or how much they know about the industry -- they have to understand what we're all about and how they need to add value to the agency.
Part of the agency training involves working for some time in all functions to ensure that they have a good understanding of the internal processes of the business. This cross-training also helps out when there is an increase in workload in one area, or if there's understaffing due to illness or attrition.
Training also involves reading our procedure manual, our employee manual, and really getting an understanding of their job description. Specific training on our tools and software usually takes place at an early point.
Knowledge of the Industry
When you hire a passionate newbie, often they have knowledge in certain areas, but there are still holes that need to be filled. There are many SEM training courses out there.
My agency uses the SEMPO Institute training for all new hires (which fits my needs very well, since I help develop the curriculum as the Chairperson of SEMPO Institute). This includes basic training, covering both organic and paid search, as well as advanced training available in both specialties. I've made this training mandatory for all staff members, and it's really helped them to gain a rounded knowledge of the industry.
The advantage of this training is that employees can work through it at their own pace and then take the tests when they're ready. Enthusiastic hires will often start the training before their starting date with company. Some have completed the basic training before their first day! However, I always allow staff to train in our time, not their own. This gives me control over how much time to allocate and how quickly they should be expected to complete the training.
In this article I looked at training in relation to your SEM agency. I specifically looked at training individuals with little or no knowledge of the industry. Next time I'll look at the challenges associated with training advanced practitioners, as well as the advantages associated with ongoing training and non-industry related training.
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