Slice of Life: Why Everyone Should Pay Attention to Training
By Dan Bobinski
Have you ever noticed that we rarely, if ever, see line items in budgets for the “financial impact of training?” Subsequently, much training is relegated to the back burner because only that which gets measured tends to get managed. It has been my observation that when organizations place a high priority on training, it’s because they know their efforts will have a substantial, positive impact on the bottom line.
Thankfully, it’s not just me saying this. In a study conducted by the United States Council on Competitiveness, it was found that a 10 percent increase in employee training impacted productivity more than a 10 percent increase in work hours or a 10 percent increase in stock options.
Also, according to research published by the American Society for Training and Development, firms that train more than 80 percent of their workforce are able to attract and retain employees better than competitors of similar size in their industries that don’t invest in training.
Then we can look at the Emerging Workforce Study, which found that in organizations where training is considered poor, 41 percent of employees are planning to leave within a year. However, in companies where training is considered good, only 12 percent are thinking about leaving. Even if nobody leaves, think about the impact such attitudes have on day-to-day productivity. You might also have a short talk with your HR people about the costs of employee turnover.
Causes of poor training
Perhaps the largest factor in any organization’s attitude toward training is the leader’s attitude about it. If the leader thinks training is an expensive waste of time, it’s common for almost everyone around the leader to adopt a similar attitude. Likewise, if a leader sees the value of training, it’s likely those surrounding the leader will, too.
Interestingly, bad attitudes toward training can exist even if the leader is a training advocate.
For example, years ago I had a client whose leader placed a high value on training, and all of his direct reports did the same, except one. I had a long-term training contract with this company, and although employees from every other department were eager to learn, those in the detractor’s department adopted his attitude. They scoffed at and even mocked the idea of learning new things.
To be fair, a supervisor, manager, or director can value training even if those at the top do not, and while the focus on training’s value may not be as strong, an impact will still be felt.
In either case, these situations confirm a workplace principle: For employees to engage training, whoever they report to must communicate that training is valuable.
Another cause of poor training is thinking that “show-and-tell” is effective. Show-and-tell is the term I use for the technique of showing someone how to do something while telling that person how to do it, and then believing that is all that’s needed for a successful transfer of knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
People learn in different ways and at different speeds. Sure, it would be nice if human beings had a USB port in the back of their heads so we could download whatever people needed to know in just a minute or two, but that’s not the case. Along these same lines, too many managers and leaders believe that learning new concepts and skills can be completed in short time frames. Both employees and their organizations get shortchanged with these false beliefs.
New employees must learn the skills to perform their jobs efficiently and accurately. Seasoned employees and those rising through the ranks will need training for new procedures and new responsibilities. If six hours of learning is squeezed into a four-hour window, managers may think they’ve saved a few hours of payroll and gotten people back into productivity mode, but I can practically guarantee that those few hours that were “saved” will be squandered in very short order. Those not-quite-fully-trained employees will waste those two extra hours plus many more stumbling through bewildered guesses and fixing mistakes, all while trying to figure out the content they didn’t learn in those two hours of “saved” training time.
Ways to provide quality training
The first key to success in training is to think like a doctor. A good doctor analyzes a problem before writing a prescription. The more thorough the analysis, the more confident a doctor can be that the right prescription has been made. Many people have experienced the frustration of a doctor who doesn’t ask many questions and then misdiagnoses a problem. Take the time to analyze. After all, throwing training at a problem might not solve the problem. All the customer service training in the world will not fix a situation in which a bad supervisor forces customer service reps to adhere to poor or outdated policies.
Also, no matter what delivery method is used, any quality training seeks to answer four basic questions for employees:
- Why should I learn this?
- What do I need to know/do/be concerned about?
- How am I supposed to do it?
- What if unusual or atypical circumstances exist?
By ensuring that all training addresses these four questions, the four basic learning styles are addressed and all employees will be more connected to the training.
Additionally, employees should be made aware of how any training will help them in their work and how it contributes to the company achieving its goals. Having employees attend a training session without telling them how it contributes to the company’s goals comes across to them as a waste of time.
When people’s learning styles are addressed, when they see how training contributes to the bottom line, and when people up and down the chain of command openly convey their belief that training is vitally important, then employees will engage it more and a positive impact will be seen on the bottom line.
Dan Bobinski is author of the best-selling “Creating Passion-Driven Teams”, and president of Workplace-Excellence.com. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant on workplace issues who travels internationally helping organizations of all shapes and sizes. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208-375-7606.