Who Are You & Where Do You Think You’re Going?

Now that we’ve looked how much profitability is wasted when an organization spends money on the wrong training, or even training that isn’t absorbed or applied, let’s get serious about an approach we can take to make sure we’re providing the right training for our team members, for their current roles as well as the roles they’d like to move toward in the future. While this isn’t all that complicated, it will not happen without intentional and focused effort; and that’s our responsibility as leaders! Before hashing that out, here’s a piece from an article called 5 Ways Ineffective Training Hurts Companies that was shared by Walden University detailing how much this matters:

“While training initiatives are typically made with good intentions, they can prove ineffective due to hurried planning, poor timing, and a lack of follow up. Employees may be left wondering if company leaders and HR managers really understand what they need and the challenges they face on the job. And when training requirements are passed down from above, supervisors may also experience frustration with poorly planned programs. When training time feels wasted, no one is happy—and no one benefits. While it may seem that some training is superior to no training, the truth is ineffective training hurts companies in several tangible, far-reaching ways.”

After presenting a lesson I titled Increasing Profitability Through Clear Career Paths with a group of business owners for an industry peer group we support, covering the importance of providing targeted training and development as part of a recruitment and retention strategy, the CEO of the industry group asked me a question I’ve heard more owners and executives allude to than I can count (without actually asking it so openly). He asked, “Why should an owner invest in developing a team member who could take that training and get a better job with a competitor?” While I certainly understand the concern that question is based on, my reply was that “it’s better to risk that than to have a bunch of employees who aren’t training and never leave…” I went on to explain how making an investment into our team members shows value and earns loyalty. I also emphasized the importance of being very clear about how they’ll be expected to apply the training AND rewarding their progress when they do - with additional opportunity and compensation. If we’re not doing those things, can we really blame them for looking elsewhere?

With that in mind, we can’t just assume that forcing someone through any given training session yields results. As the author of the Walden University article shared, providing the wrong training comes with far more cost than just the time or fees - tying back to several of the other profitability killers we’ve looked at specifically leading up to this point. Without a solid plan to ensure our training fits the participants’ needs, we’re likely better off keeping them engaged in their day to day role… This is where we need to be able to answer the questions, “Who are you?” and “Where are you going?” for each of our team members!

Don’t miss my point… I’m not suggesting we ask those questions directly but, as leaders, we most certainly should be building relationships with our team members that are strong enough to provide us with answers to both those questions - specific to their career and to their life. When we have this kind of understanding about what they’d like to achieve, any training we do provide can be tailored to helping them do it. Then it’s as simple as determining who can most effectively deliver that training!

The Right Message From the Right Person…

I won’t speak for you but it sure seems like my parents became exponentially smarter as I moved from my late teens/early twenties to being an adult who had to be responsible. So much more of the advice they gave me resonated and could be immediately applied! I just can’t understand why it took them so long to get there… There were plenty of times where I could have used that wisdom years earlier!

I’m clearly joking about that. I have no doubt that I was indeed given as much or more necessary wisdom and guidance in my teens but paid little attention because I knew everything I needed to already. And if you’ve got kids, you’ve already experienced that from the other side - or you will soon enough! In many cases, we all need an outside voice to be able to hear a message. When my son started talking about possibly changing jobs a few years ago, that’s ONE of the reasons I contacted several friends who own businesses in different industries to provide him with input on career opportunities in those industries that he might not have heard at all if it only came from me. The other reason was that each of my friends that I connected him with had a level of expertise in their respective fields that I never will and could offer him a level of insight that I just couldn’t provide…

Let’s think about how that applies to providing the RIGHT training for each of our team members so they can grow in their current roles as well as into the roles they’re most interested in as their careers progress. Knowing who they really are and where they want to go is a big part of that but we also need to consider who is most appropriate to provide them with that training. There are certain skill sets that can and should be developed internally and on a daily basis, regardless of the industry. And even with the most skilled people in our respective industry, there will be times where we need to get outside support for those technical skills; new technology may change how something is done, we may be moving into a new area of opportunity, or maybe it’s just more cost effective like sending someone through an apprenticeship at a trade school so they learn some of the foundational knowledge that we just don’t have time to teach on the job. Recognizing the right fit matters for hard skills but it’s absolutely critical for those things we often consider as soft or intangible!

As I shared when we looked at some of the things promotions have traditionally been based on, and how many organizations struggle to address the challenges that come when a strong team member moves into a role with leadership responsibility, developing the expertise necessary for these great team members to effectively lead the folks who had previously been their peers is rarely something that can be done well in-house. In many scenarios, there’s just not enough hours in the day. In others, the executive team may be doing OK themselves but doing something well and being able to teach others to do it can be very different - even if there is time. And even if there is enough time and there’s access to decent training material, whoever is sending the message needs to have a connection with the ones who need to receive it!

Several years ago, we worked with a large organization to provide this type of development for a fairly large group of their supervisors and managers. The executive we worked with ruffled a few feathers at his corporate office by getting us involved; not because we weren’t well received but because someone there had been talking about providing something similar for years but had never taken action. His other reason for approaching us rather than the person at the corporate office was that most of his team didn’t like or respect that person. He had seen our work and how we related to participants so he knew his team would be much more open to us than the individual from the corporate office.

Let me be clear here: I”m not telling you who should be doing what training for any of your team members, I’m simply sharing a few examples for perspective. Making those decisions requires knowing a lot of very specific details about an organization and each team member. While I’m always happy to help a client (or potential client) work through that process, I never take it lightly! The point I’m driving is that, whatever training we provide and whoever delivers it, it’s our responsibility to get it right…

The Value of Getting it Right

Whether it’s the technical skills a new team member needs just to become competent in our respective industry, the leadership skills that are so very needed for anyone with responsibility for getting results through a team of people, or even the skills that are critical for our best do’ers to pass their expertise on to the folks following in their footsteps, we cannot afford to hit it with a stick and hope for the best. We also can’t afford to assume anyone on our teams will magically develop the skills they need for any of these incredibly important tasks on their own. It’s up to us as leaders to make sure each individual in each of those roles at least has a chance to receive the right message from the right person. And I’ll say once more for emphasis, not just any training will do!

In a LinkedIn article called How Insufficient Training Leads to Failures at Work, Rahul Sharma shares how he’s seen these key areas of a business impacted; job performance, safety, customer satisfaction, and turnover. In detailing the importance of the right training, he says this:

“Many people fail at their jobs because they do not have the proper training. Training helps employees learn the necessary skills to perform their job duties correctly and efficiently. Additionally, training can help employees stay up-to-date on new procedures and processes. Without training, employees may make mistakes that could cost the company time and money.”

For the sake of time, I’ll just one more way insufficient training can impact our overall performance… Not only will our team members not be equipped to perform as well as we need them to, I’ll go as far as to say they won’t be nearly as motivated to go the extra mile as they would when we’re willing to invest the extra energy (not necessarily any more money - especially when we’re capturing a measurable return on the investment) to make sure any and all training we provide is indeed what they need for where they are AND something they can apply.

The simple act of corralling as many employees as we can fit into a room, clicking through a deck of slides, and passing around a sign-in sheet won’t cut it! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been asked what we can do to change a leadership culture in 30 minutes once every three to six months, because everyone is too busy for anything more than that… Our response is always “Not much!” because I’ve never seen anyone get results in any field of endeavor when they’re only willing to give 0.05% of their time and attention to it. The companies asking that question are clearly looking to check a box and have no real interest in supporting real change. Just in case you’re wondering where that 0.05% came from, I took 1040 hours - half a year at 40 hours per week - and divided it by the 30 minutes those companies were willing to sacrifice for something they felt was so important. And yes, that’s really something we’ve been asked to provide more than a few times - usually at almost no cost! Kinda speaks to how much those organizations value their people, doesn’t it…

When we do invest the time and energy to get it right by providing the training our team members need regardless of what stage they’re at in their career, we should be able to measure increased profitability almost immediately. But just like making sure we’re providing the appropriate training needs to be intentional, we’ll need to have a very focused approach when that training is delivered and in how we measure results so that’s where we’ll pick up soon…