For an organization with a unique business model like ours, it's not enough to hire designers who are knowledgeable about design; we also need our employees who can deliver on client requirements, whether that means simply following instructions or getting creative.
With clients being half the world away, as distant culturally as they are physically, this is a challenge we deal with every day:
How do we ensure that our people deliver quality designs, every single time?
When I asked one of our associate managers for training how she thinks quality becomes ingrained into organizational culture, she said:
"Training has to be taken very seriously. We have to bridge the resources we get and the expectations of the client with training. Not merely classroom training, but on-the-job training has to be handled sensitively, so that best practices are shared."
Here's how we do it.
Communicate Performance Expectations
To understand the type of training programs we need to create, we have to start with the performance expectations of each position. During the recruitment process, we provide employees with a clear set of specific expectations and standards. Their job responsibilities and duties are outlined and explained to show them where they will fit in the overall Affinity Express structure. Once the employees are on-board, specific training programs focusing on providing the best service and highest-quality products to our clients are delivered, customized for various roles. Finding, recruiting and retaining talented employees and giving them the training structure and tools they need to perform at their peak is important.
Training doesn't mean we merely encourage people to follow rules. At a design company like ours, nurturing creativity and heading it in the right direction is a key part of training.
"We recruit people based on creativity as well as knowledge of the software," says our associate training manager. "The main aim for Affinity Express is to meet and exceed client expectations and that's when creative designers play a big role."
"A typical designer has basic understanding of design and software and is able to understand and interpret instructions correctly," she explains. "A creative designer would not only do the above but also add value to the particular project."
To produce quality products and services, Affinity Express starts by having the right talent in place. Then we ensure we achieve results by ongoing training. We need to focus on setting performance metrics that align with and contribute to the achievement of the organization's objectives.
Every new designer has two weeks of classroom training and two weeks on-the-job training. In these last two weeks, they are exposed to the actual production but they are mentored and guided by an experienced employee.
In addition to the classroom training we offer, which includes well-defined learning objectives, further training is conducted based on the established job competencies for different positions. This training can be done in various ways, whether it's through coaching, continuous improvement programs, collaborative team discussions or on an ad-hoc basis. Our learning center has various modules that employees can access online at their convenience, and we add new modules every month!
Select the Right Trainers
Our associate vice president of operations in Pune, India, explains that, since we have had mentors and subject matter experts train, coach and mentor designers in the last couple of years, we have seen measurable results and received positive reinforcement from clients. Having people who work with clients train newer employees is much more effective as the trainers and mentors are knowledgeable about the processes of the client and the latest best practices.
Communicate and Reinforce the Importance of Training and Quality
An associate manager commented on the emphasis we place on training,
"This is the only advertising company that gave me a platform to really enhance my individual designing skills and creativity with excellent training."
He said he focuses on increasing quality and performance of his team through training and documentation. He reviews revisions and client escalations to analyze them and shares feedback so preventative actions can be taken. He implemented training for designers on his team that eliminated ongoing issues.
As our other associate manager for training pointed out:
"We should make sure designers understand why quality is important; to have great work we can be proud of, striving toward higher productivity and building a reputation among clients. Designers should take pride in making great ads that will make the clients keep coming back."