To Train or Not to Train
Preparing for change
I was talking recently with a client’s General Manager about the skill sets which that company’s middle management possessed. The General Manager was unhappy with the performance of some of his managers and was at the point where he felt some wholesale changes were needed. This led me to start questioning the extent if any, of formal management training the underperforming managers had received. I am a big fan of promoting from within however it is an entirely different skill set to achieve as the manager of a department as opposed to simply being a star performing member of that same department. Unless we provide training for that new skill set then we can hardly expect great achievements at that new skill set level.
The general manager was thinking that a clean sweep may have been the answer. He was asking me what I thought about replacing the underperforming team members. Again, I had to question the level of training they had received. When we went through the process and we looked at what was going to be involved by way of investment in time, resources and money in developing training programs for required skills, it prompted the General Manager to pose the question “What if I spend all this time and money and they leave?” Obviously, he was concerned that the next employer would then receive the benefit of all of the time and money he had put into training these particular team members. My answer to that was swift but simple and I said to him “I understand your concern that you may put in all this effort and money and they may leave but consider the possibility that you don’t put in all this effort and they stay?”
This is a dilemma which as employers we will all face at some stage in the operation of our business. If you have a team member performing poorly the first question you need to ask is “Am I able to improve their performance with training?” Remember, it may seem easier to simply replace that team member but if the circumstances and the processes within your business remain the same then your run the very real risk that you may simply be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. In other words, it’s a most ineffectual solution to the presenting problem. There are some aspects which of course can’t be trained. Personality traits which people possess is not something that you can easily train someone out of unless it is a personality trait that they are unhappy with themselves. But in most cases poor performance comes from a lack of knowledge and or a lack of confidence rather than any ingrained longstanding personality trait. If you have team members who are not performing to the standard you require then ask yourself whether or not they have ever actually been shown what is required of them with respect to the totality of their role.
Let’s look at a very simple example. If you are in a retail environment and you have somebody in a customer service role, like many retail environments you will supply training on how to operate the cash register, how to process EFTPOS payments and maybe some limited training on product knowledge in relation to stock. But what about how to actually make a customer feel welcome and valued? What about how to deal with a customer who is uncertain as to what they are looking for? Or a customer who is simply having a bad day or perhaps a customer who is for whatever reason unhappy? If we don’t present training on the totality of the role then were really are selling ourselves short, we’re selling our team members short and equally importantly we are selling our customers short. Because in essence what we are saying is that the customer is not important enough for us to spend time, resources and money to ensure that we offer customer service which is second to none.
It is a part of basic human psychology to seek fulfilment in our lives. One of the greatest assets that you can give your team members is to afford them the opportunity to achieve fulfilment in their workplace. Research from all over the world shows that employees are far more likely to stay committed to a business, to their role and to developing their own skills if the job they are doing affords them the opportunity to achieve that sense of fulfilment. Fulfilment comes from having a high level of confidence and it’s difficult for your team to be confident about what they are doing if they haven’t been given all of the skills they need to properly perform their job.
photo credit: Kerem Tapani