Mentor: The Training Program

I decided to do something a little different today. (Not a musical post – now that would be different.) The Five W’s of a training program I usually suggest and have found that works very well. There are books, courses, and so much on corporate training, but this is an effective, but still very un-scientific way to do it.

I’ve never seen this done with executive level employees, but it works very well for customer service representatives and other lower level employees. It can be applied to pretty much any job, but the program does assume that the trainee is intelligent and has some relevant skills and knowledge.

It also works very well for waiters and waitresses (and other positions) in restaurants (though I have never been directly involved with such a program for a restaurant).


The trainee and one to two senior (as in on-the-job experience and performance) employees with the same job title (i. e. customer service representative). One supervisor or manager should also be involved. If this is the first person to occupy this role in the company, find the closest match possible (for example: the first Lead Developer would work with the CTO). The senior employee should be friendly, knowledgeable, and patient. The trainee should be willing to learn and able to learn from a combination of doing and observing.


A mentor-like hands-on training program. The trainee will work with senior employees to get an idea of how the company works, what to do in certain situations, and more. There is also some basic “bookwork” in the form of reading the traditional training manuals, understanding company policies and operating procedures, etc.

The trainee should not walk in and say “When do I get paid?” and “How much vacation time am I eligible for about two years?” – that should be covered in the written training documentation.

Why not? Actually, training employees properly is extremely important if you wish to (keep) standards high in terms of employee efficiency/happiness/knowledge and customer satisfaction levels. Turnover is expensive and mistakes on the job can also be very expensive, so you should really invest in a training program. Plus, this training program is relatively inexpensive and effective.


In the office or other job location. The waiter trainee would work on the restaurant floor and in the kitchen with the senior waiter, the customer service representative trainee would work in the call center with the other senior representatives. No off-site training locations or special rooms for training. Written training manuals and documentation should be read at the office in a quiet room with no distractions and nothing else to do (people will actually read it and concentrate more than if they were at home watching TV and reading it).


  • The “bookwork” part should be done immediately after the employee is hired and completes all the initial paperwork (contracts, etc.).
  • The second phase is the trainee following around and just observing (shadowing) what the senior employee does – this usually lasts about a week for an average job.
  • The third phase is the trainee splitting the duties with the senior employee. This would mean the trainee will start to take calls on his or her own and start to do the work with the help of the senior employee. This generally lasts about a week.
  • The fourth phase is the trainee moves onto pretty much impendent work and checks in with the senior employee a few times a day, asks the senior employee questions, etc. This should be formalized (such as an operating procedure saying: Meet with your mentor once at 1:00 PM and another time at 4:00 PM for 15 minutes each) so that there is no confusion about what to do. This part should last about two weeks.

After about four weeks of the program, the trainee should have an excellent idea about what’s going on. A good part is that the senior employee isn’t really losing any productivity or having to spend that much time training.

Throughout the process, a manager or supervisor should check in and ensure that everything is going well. There can also be additional bookwork in between the various phases (for example: before the third phase starts, it would be a good time to give the employee the usage manual for the helpdesk and phone system).

This is one of the most effective training methods/programs I have ever been in or organized. The process works very well and is a cost and time effective way of training people.

5 Responses to “Mentor: The Training Program”

  1. CustomersAreAlways said:

    Aug 14, 06 at 10:39 pm

    Carnivale of Customer Service: First Edition!…

    I’m thrilled to announce the first edition of the Carnivale of Customer Service! Sit back, relax, and take some notes because each of these bloggers featured for this first edition have much wisdom to share! It is my hope that……

  2. Kalivo - Show said:

    Aug 15, 06 at 3:17 pm

    […] Service Untitled offers the five W’s of a training program that, in his experience, works very well for customer service representatives. In my own experience, mentoring is indeed effective in helping a rep grasp the fundamentals of customer service. […]

  3. Service Untitled » Two Parts: Pace and Lead and How Are You? said:

    Sep 21, 06 at 3:05 pm

    […] Pacing and leading is something that representatives should be taught during their initial training (whether it be book, classroom and/or mentor-based). It is something that definitely requires practice and is hard to teach flat out because it varies so much based on the customer, the time, the problem, etc. There is a fine line between empathizing with the customer and over-reacting and perhaps scaring them that you are a bit too “intense.” […]

  4. Service Untitled » Scaling Customer Service - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jun 29, 07 at 12:43 pm

    […] 3. Use mentor based training.Mentor based training is great. It scales from 3 or 4 employees to 50,000 employees. Use formal, mentor based training as your company grows and it should work out okay. The post explains the best practices for mentor based training and it works! […]

  5. Service Untitled » Never stop training. - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jul 03, 08 at 11:37 pm

    […] process, an employee might have to participate in a few hour class, work with a supervisor in a mentor situation for a few days, and pass a test. The process can vary from company-to-company and even […]