Training – it is all something we have gone through at one time or another in our professional lives, especially when we began a new job. In my past experience, these training sessions were comprised of learning the company culture, rules and expectations, a large pile of paperwork to sign, and on the job training for your specific position. Typically, the training process would last one or two weeks, depending upon the length of the job specific training. At this point, training became a distant memory, something that no one ever spoke of again, until someone would make a mistake and everyone had to have a refresher course on a wide variety of topics from safety and security to sexual harassment. Training would also take place if the organization was in the process of offering a new product, service or a new standard that everyone needed to understand. Training was never in the forefront of anyone’s mind in a few organizations I was associated with. It wasn’t fun, no one was motivated to be there, and many thought training was just a big waste of time. In many cases, leadership in these organizations viewed training as one of those painful things we needed to endure in order to get back to work.
As a leader, I always had the best intentions when it came to training. At one point in my career, I was a training manager for a hotel company, so of course training was important to me. I always felt that I should spend significant time with a new employee to ensure they were completely comfortable with their new position and had all the tools they needed to succeed. Then reality strikes, and the monthly forecasts are due, the phone doesn’t seem to stop ringing, and every minute of the day is booked with meetings. Guess what happens to the training schedule? It gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list, or worse yet, you ask one of your other employees to take care of the training for you. Then you throw caution to the wind and hope your new employee flies when you push them out of the nest to serve your customers.
Then, fast forward a couple of months… You have an employee, who was not completely trained for their position, out there on the front line taking care of your customers. Your organization decides to roll out a new program that improves customer service. Everyone is required to participate in a couple of training sessions to learn the new procedures in order to successfully implement the program. Now, you are doing the information dump on the same employees that you did not have the time or resources to train properly. Do you believe they will be able to perform to the best of their abilities?
Not exactly the way most of us would want to be trained, but think about your past experiences and you might see some similarities. In the past, I may have shown some aptitude in my job function, so my training was “fast-tracked” and I was up and running rather quickly. In some cases, I was able to figure it all out and became successful; in other situations I did not fare so well and made numerous mistakes. Regardless of whether or not I was successful, these were extremely stressful positions to be placed in, and I know for a fact I was unable to serve the customers as well as I could have if I had the proper amount of training.
What about the basics? How often do we meet with our employees and revisit the very basic functions of their positions? This goes back to the idea of interacting with your employees, and what can be gained by doing so. You may not even realize your employees are struggling if you do not take the time to talk with them to understand their competencies. If your organization continually works with the staff to build their job proficiency, you are improving the customer experience as well. A confident, well-trained employee has the ability to improve customer service. This employee has all of the skills needed to effortlessly perform their job; therefore they are able to spend more time engaging your customers. Also, by providing your employees with the training they need to be successful, you could reduce the turnover cycle. An employee who is not trained properly will continue to make mistakes, become frustrated and unhappy, and could potentially part ways with your organization by either quitting or getting fired.
As a leader, it is our responsibility to meet the needs of our employees. Some feel by providing employment with a fair wage and safe working environment, they are doing their part. While these are very important needs that must be met, couldn’t we agree that there are additional needs that we are missing? We often lose sight of the fact that our employees are human beings, not just a vehicle for completing a task. Proper training fulfills one important need of improving the lives of our employees. If an employee is confident and productive, they can gain a sense of accomplishment, which creates a positive self-image.
Who would you rather have taking care of your customers? A frustrated employee who does not understand what they are supposed to be doing, or a happy, confidant employee who provides service that exceeds our customer’s expectations! Don’t place your training manuals on the bookshelf to get dusty! Take them down, dust them off and get back to the basics!