Why train when people leave?

There is an oft-shared exchange between a CEO and a CFO that goes:

CFO: “Why train when people leave?”

CEO: “What happens if they don’t?”

The key learning from the exchange is that the decision to train should not be affected by potential attrition. In fact studies have shown that people do not leave companies, but they leave poor managers (Buckingham, 1999).

On the flip side, a company’s performance is driven by its managers. Thus if a company is battling an attrition issue, the logical action is first to ‘fix’ its managers.

I was once approached to provide customer service training to a hotel in tourist town, and when I asked the owner-operator if he was considering training his General Manager first, his response indicated that he felt that training his General Manager was not a good use of resources due to his resistance to change. But think about this, what if the hotel had proceeded to train the staff and having completed training goes back to an environment where expectations from the General Manager are different from what was trained? The training would not have stuck, and the training investment would not have been realized.

Here is another typical exchange when owners tell me about how they feel that their people need training.

Owner: “My people need training.”

Me: “What do they need training in?”

Owner: “They need to be better managers.”

So what constitutes being a better manager? My definition of a good manager is quite simple: an effective manager is one who is effective in driving business outcomes and retaining people.

But what are the actions and habits of managers that are effective in driving business outcomes and retaining people? How do you define and measure that?

Research has shown that employees who are in an environment with the following 7 traits belong to business units with good business outcomes and high retention rates (Buckingham, 1999). The 7 traits are as follows:

  1. They know what is expected of them at work
  2. They feel that they have the materials and equipment to perform their job
  3. They are given the opportunity to do what they do best every day
  4. In the last week, they have received recognition or praise for good work
  5. They feel that their supervisor, or someone at work, care about them as a person
  6. There is someone at work who encourages their development
  7. They feel that their opinions count at work

So here lies the necessity for training of the manager:

  • For the manager to deliver items 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 well; they need to possess skills that are commonly known as soft skills – yet soft do not imply easy. These are communication, coaching, problem solving and execution skills that typically require years of on-the-job training. Yet, a good starter leadership development course that is experiential that involves role-playing will be able to cultivate an awareness of the skills a manager is required to perform better.
  • With regards to item 2; these are function/technical-based training as well as tools (e.g., software) required for their jobs. This does not mean a carte blanche for managers to ask for sophisticated customization on their software. When faced with a RM20,000 software customization request once, I asked if the executive could generate an increase in revenue of RM2,000,000 with it. And when he could not make a case for an increase in revenue, the customization request was abandoned.

As for the subordinates, continued evaluation of what it takes for them to perform their current job better as well as what skills they need for a promotion demonstrate continued organizational development. Often times, in emerging markets, employees are promoted mainly because they expect a salary increase, not because they are able to perform in the role that is above them. For example, a high performing writer may not automatically perform well as a managing editor. In an ideal scenario, the Human Resources and Training Development function will be actively monitoring the progress of high-performers and be working hand in hand with business functions to craft career paths for these individuals.

So why not train to improve your business performance?

 

[Metamorphic Training offers 2 signature 5-day General Management Workshops that focuses on (1) Leadership Skills and (2) Functional Skills. Additionally a host of other workshops and ready to go courses are available. We also offer training needs analysis to ensure that any training investment is focused. For more information: www.metatrainings.com]

Works Cited

Buckingham, M. a. (1999). First, Break All the Rules. London: Simon & Schuster.

 

 

To quit or not to quit: The truth about goal-setting

When I first started college, I declared mathematics as my major because I thought that was the right decision at that time – I didn’t know what I wanted to do and math was one of my strongest skills. After pursuing the course for almost four semesters, I soon found out that I did not enjoy math after all, and that was reflected on my grades.

By the time I realized that I was in the wrong major, I had already done two years’ worth of schooling. That was when I thought to myself – should I continue pursuing mathematics since I was already half way through my major? Or should I switch my major and use my time doing something I truly enjoy?

What about those two years, where countless hours were already spent studying and completing math courses? If I change my major, there was a chance that I might graduate later than my peers.

I was torn between the two years that I had spent in school (sunk cost) and the things that I could be doing should I decide to change majors (opportunity costs).

It was a tough decision to make, but I ended up changing majors and graduated within two years.

The main reason that I was able to graduate within two years even after changing my major was because I had set my mind to achieve that goal. Goals are important because they give you a sense of direction in life. Setting a goal is the easy part.

Following up with that goal, however, is another thing altogether.

For example, if you are working on a fitness goal, it is easy to give excuses to skip your workout session. Below is a 3-step routine that I have found helpful in following through goals:

Step 1: Prepare your workout gear the night before. On the day of your workout, break down the steps of your morning routine by getting out of bed, washing your face and putting on your exercise clothes.

Step 2: Monitor your performance. For instance, you can observe your fitness level by looking out for improvements such as running at a longer distance within a short space of time. As you get closer to your goal, employ different tactics to mix up your workout routine so that it does not become mundane.

Step 3: Celebrate your achievement with rewards that are aligned with your goals. For example, instead of cheating on your next meal, you can buy new clothes that you can now fit into as a form of reward.

This principle of goal-setting also applies to business and management. A classic example is providing training in sales to café employees:

  1. Start with smaller and more attainable goals such as teaching employees on the right way to greet customers.
  2. Acknowledge employees’ success and set the next round of goals by introducing new tactics of selling to keep employees interested in the training.
  3. Celebrate employees’ success with congruent rewards such as “free drinks” for employees who perform well.

When you feel like slipping after setting a goal for yourself, remind yourself of why you set the goal in the first place. If you really want to give up, then the goal that you have set for yourself may not be a good fit for you or may not be worthwhile after all. In life, we need to know when it is time to quit. In my case, the emotional cost of pursuing something that I love offsets the sunk cost of spending those two years in the wrong major.

Quitting does not mean failure. It may be a sign for you to revisit your goals so you do not regret your action 10 years later knowing how far you have come.

Motivation

If you love your job, you have every reason to be excited when you wake up everyday. Your passion is what motivates you to move forward in your career. There are, however, times or days when you feel demotivated to go to work, especially when work becomes mundane and you keep on procrastinating on your tasks. So what do you do when you find yourself stuck in this situation?

 This article by Edmond Lau clearly explains that your level of motivation depends on the type of goal (either mastery or performance) that you attach to it.

5 things to remember when attending a fair for the first time

As a self-proclaimed certified barista (I took a short barista course last year!), I was more than excited when I was asked to attend the Café Malaysia fair, the first international café equipment, supplies and technology exhibition. Truth be told, it was my first time attending a fair and my visit has taught me a few things to keep in mind when attending fairs. Below are five things to remember when attending a fair for the first time:

  1. Get as much information as possible on the fair that you will be attending. Find out the vendors that will be in attendance, the fair’s target audience and some of the highlights that will be held during the fair such as activities, contests, etc. You will get a better idea on what the fair has to offer, which will then help you prepare for the event.
  1. Expect a crowd on the day of the fair. I did not think there would be so many people at the fair, so I decided to come an hour later. As soon as I entered the building, however, there was a long queue – attendees waiting for their turn to register for the event. Keep in mind that some fairs are only open to the public on certain days, and for other days, they are by-invitation only. Be sure to check which days you are allowed to attend.
  1. Know your business well. In order for you to get more information from the vendors (eg. quotes), you need to have full knowledge of your business such as the type of business you are running, the capacity of your business, etc. This will give the vendors a good idea on the status of your business.
  1. Remember to bring your business cards on the day of the event. If you do not have your business cards ready, you can always print your contact information on a piece of paper. Most vendors at the event will have a contact form that you can fill in so that they can get in touch with you.
  1. Take notes. This is very, very important, especially because there will be too much information given to you that it can be a bit overwhelming. Most vendors also provide brochures and leaflets for their businesses, along with their contact information to make it more convenient for you to get in touch with them in the future. A word of advice: Summarize your findings as soon as you get home while your memory is still fresh. This will help you identify the vendors that might be suitable for your business.