One of my first jobs was as hostess at a chain restaurant, greeting customers. My training involved a week of shadowing a senior hostess, watching training videos by myself, and wondering about the implied penalty for not following protocol.

Sitting alone watching videos and worrying about rules isn’t what I want for our new hires. I want them to learn to use their experience and instincts. But how do you choose the best type of training, and how much is enough? It’s expensive and time-consuming.

At a recent staff meeting, I taped a piece of paper to the wall and sketched mountains on the left and right to indicate past and future obstacles, and a river in the middle. Our company was in a raft, and a new hire was standing on the bank. Though rudimentary, it captured the idea of joining a company of people who already know how to row in rhythm, set up camp, and sing the same camp songs. We realized that our drop-you-in-the-deep-end-and-pray method was not working.

New Way Forward

We’re now going to address training from three vantage points: bird’s eye, mountain elevation, and ground level.

On an employee’s first day we will review our three-year plan, mission statement, commonly used terms, systems, and provide a laptop and email address. A week later, once the hire has experienced our processes in action, the controller will review financial management tools. After two weeks, the hire will shadow a project manager at a jobsite meeting.

I understand why corporate franchises have to administer protocols, but from now on, our method will be about finding the right person and helping them learn our leadership style.

Allison Iantosca is a partner at F.H. Perry Builder, a Boston-area custom builder focused on building trust, dreams, and relationships.

More REMODELING articles about company culture and orientation for new employees:

Sink or Swim: Taking the Guesswork Out of Hiring — Using an on-boarding process for new employees can take the guesswork out of hiring

Communicate Your Company Culture to Your Employees

Video Library: Using Videos to Train New Employees