Even though some produce managers may not be especially keen on the idea of added paperwork, simple training charts can be a useful tool. These charts help managers keep track of employees’ progress, improve training, streamline performance appraisals, and can even reduce department shrink.

Here’s a few FAQs on the subject.

How long should a produce training period be?

This depends on the clerk, the company, and how much time is devoted to one-on-one training. The more direct training time, the shorter the time frame should be. One thing is clear: complete produce training should encompass an entire year. This way the clerk is exposed to all the seasons, all the holidays, and just about every situation that could possibly arise. For this reason alone, produce training simply cannot be the six-week period that some companies have proposed. 


How should a training chart be formatted?

Some organizations will already have training charts. Many do not. One simple way to think of produce training is in terms of basic, intermediate and advanced skill levels. Take a look at the example chart. It shows only a sampling of topics. From here you will likely want to add, change and build upon desired skills according to your own company’s training philosophy — as well as provide the timeline in which skills should be attained.

In the example, basic skills are built into weeks one through six, intermediate skills are built into weeks 12 through 16, and advanced training is expected to be completed in the later weeks
and months of the year.

How does a produce manager keep track of clerk training with the chart?

At some point during the current scheduled week on the chart, the produce manager can review each task or skill set with the clerk. He or she can briefly check off or otherwise grade how the employee is doing so far. A conversation may include something like, “Taylor, you’re in week No. 4 since coming into the produce department. You’re doing a good job overall. Specifically, I gave you an ‘A’ on trimming, that’s up from the ‘C’
you had in week one; remember you only want to trim what’s necessary, any deeper and profits go needlessly down the drain. On the other hand, good trimming helps profit while reducing our shrink.” Other topics can follow this line of review.

How can a produce manager incorporate the training chart into actual training plans?

At the same time the manager is reviewing each aspect of the chart with the clerk, it could go something like this: “Taylor, you’re in the middle of the intermediate skills phase of the job. Starting next week I’m going to have you work with Jamie on the opening shift one day per week for a few weeks. This will help give you a head start with the advanced skills part of your training, which includes receiving and putting the load away,
code-dating the cooler and learning how to do some of the morning prep work.” The training chart can serve as a guide for how an employee is doing so far, how they can improve, and what is specifically expected in the next training phase.

Won’t a training chart conflict with regularly scheduled quarterly or year-end appraisals?

Just the opposite is true. If anything, a well-documented training chart will make the employee performance appraisal easier for the produce manager. Since all the information on the chart details the components of most performance guidelines, all the produce manager has to do is review and attach the training chart to the clerk’s file. The training chart serves not only in a reflective sense, but it can serve as an excellent springboard for upcoming training needs and provide a detailed timeline for the employee to reach the next level.
Much of what occurs in training a produce clerk happens during the course of daily work shifts. A produce manager might assign a newer clerk to work with more experienced employees or take a few minutes to
demonstrate the best way to trim, to stock, or how best to answer a customer’s question. However, training — like any goal — is always best when put into writing. 

A training chart gives the produce manager the ideal tool to track and share a clerk’s progress, along with the opportunity to give praise, provide motivation, give further directions or expectations, or a combination of all. 

“In charting our course to the future, we are mindful of our path from the past.” — former Oklahoma governor Brad Henry.

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