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Training is not a panacea

When you shouldn't spend your company's budget on employee training

Many business leaders believe that if employees do not cope with the tasks they face, they need to invite a coach - he will teach them everything, and the situation will improve. This idea is valid if the reason for not achieving goals is precisely because employees do not know something or are not able to. For example, customers have a lot of objections - and a sales specialist gives up, because he does not know the techniques for working out objections, and he does not know the merits of the product. But not every employee problem - whether it is not meeting targets or the other - can be solved with training.

Training is not a panacea
Photo Shoot: Pawel chu on Unsplash

Olga Zbarskaya

business coach, social psychologist

Let's figure out in which cases training will not help.

1.       Motivation.

Often, when conducting pre-training diagnostics of employees (I wrote about this here), I see that they know everything and can. If, say, we are talking about the same sales - they skillfully establish contact, correctly ask questions to clarify the client's interest, make a visual presentation, remove objections ... Realizing that I am the person who is currently evaluating them, they try to do everything right.

It turns out that then there is nothing to teach them? Yes, nothing. The problem lies not in the plane of knowledge and skills, but rather motivation - or rather, demotivation of employees. For some reason, they don't see fit to try to meet the targets. The coach can help diagnose the professional skills of employees, but the analysis of motivation is not the task of the coach, but of the immediate supervisor or HR specialist, if there is one on the staff of the company.

This can be solved by individual conversations with employees, or by a general meeting to discuss the current situation, or by holding a facilitation session. Such a session resembles a training session, so a trainer is sometimes invited to conduct it. The difference from the training is that the trainer does not teach anything here: he organizes and structures the discussion process, in which the employees themselves express their opinions and observations and propose specific solutions.

Experience has shown that common reasons for demotivating employees in a company are:

Insufficient or unfair (from the point of view of employees) material remuneration for work,

Fatigue and burnout of employees (irregular work schedule, overload, rare vacations, etc.),

· The use of a predominantly punitive system of motivation in managing people in the company and not using incentives.


2.       Unsorted indicators

The word "unmarked", as you might guess, comes from the English-language abbreviation SMART, which denotes the criteria for a correctly set goal: specific, measurable, relevant, achievable, limited in time.

So, sometimes in companies the criterion of the attainability of the goal suffers. Employees are given plans that are obviously unfeasible - and, of course, they lose heart and lose the motivation to do something. Seeing that the bar is too high, employees, even if they can get close to it, stop trying - and as a result, they do much less than they could.

A variation of this managerial error is the presence in the KPI of employees of an indicator that they cannot influence - or they can, but very indirectly. A real example: I worked in a company where one of the KPI trainers was to reduce the turnover rate of ordinary retail employees. At the same time, only the direct supervisors of these employees could really manage this indicator - but not the coaches.

Therefore, before ordering training for employees who do not fulfill the plans, make sure that these indicators can be achieved at all.


3.       Organizational barriers.

I had a client who had a store opening and goods acceptance - a perishable - all the time at the same time. Only 2 people worked at a small outlet: they are sellers, they are commodity experts. Imagine: customers come for a fresh product - and they stand waiting for half an hour while employees take the goods.

This is an example of an organizational barrier - unsettled, inconsistent business processes.

Another example: there is an insufficient stock of goods in the warehouse, and transactions are thwarted, because customers are not ready to wait for goods to order, they leave and buy from competitors.

“Sell other goods that are in stock to your customers,” managers say to the sellers.

“We are trying, but they say they don’t need it, and they leave,” the sellers shrug their shoulders.

- Teach them to sell to clients what is, and not what they ask, - the manager places an order to the coach.

I am not kidding. This is a real life example. It’s one thing if it were a one-time situation: well, it doesn’t happen to anyone, miscalculated with inventory, mispredicted demand. But there was a systemic problem, recurring from month to month. There is a managerial miscalculation, which they tried to solve by completely different methods: instead of analyzing demand and calculating and making inventory on its basis, they decided to give a non-existent "magic pill" to employees. Without question, sometimes it is possible and even necessary to reorient the buyer to another product: if we run out of caramels in the warehouse, we sell toffee, justifying why it is profitable (and here training will help). But if this problem arises systematically, then it is better to hire an experienced economist than to train employees to convince buyers to take what they do not need.

To summarize, organizational barriers are when employees cannot achieve an indicator for reasons that they cannot influence.


4.       Psychological barriers.

Companies often introduce different ratings, competitions, etc. to increase employee motivation. These ratings are regularly updated and posted publicly so that everyone can see who is in first place today and who is in last.

This is a truly working tool that spurs employees to achieve. But there are a couple of pitfalls in its application:

- it is better to use competitions in doses, for periods - say, on a specific project - but in a constant race, employees fizzle out and lose motivation,

- ratings and competitions do not work positively for all people - on the contrary, they demotivate some people. Therefore, before introducing this tool, it would be good to study the motivational portraits of employees.

So, if the 2 conditions above are not met, the competition becomes a psychological barrier that prevents the employee from systematically moving in the performance of indicators.

Another example of a psychological barrier is opaque requirements and frequently changing “rules of the game”. For example, in a leadership position there is a turnover, and each new "broom" introduces its own rules and requirements. However, the rules of the game in organizations sometimes change without a change of leaders. Employees cease to understand what to expect and what to prepare for tomorrow - therefore, the optimal solution for them is to do nothing, not rush anywhere, slowly drift with the flow. And no training will help here, because the problem is not lack of knowledge.


5.       Lack of algorithms, regulations, rules.

Often, employees work, in the manager's opinion, “not so” simply because the organization does not have clear rules and algorithms for fulfilling professional duties.

I have repeatedly faced a problem that managers voice when ordering sales training: - They do not do everything right. - So how should it be? - Well, you are a coach, teach them how to do it.

Yes, the general principles of sales are about the same as for batches of caramels, as for advertising time on the air. And yet, each business has its own specificity, which is formed by the characteristics of the product, place in the market, competitive environment, pricing policy and many other factors. And this specificity requires the creation of special technologies that a coach who comes from outside will not be able to do it with one click of his fingers, in order to teach employees later. This already attracts a consulting project (how does a business consultant work and how does a business consultant differ from a trainer - read here), within which there will be the introduction of a specialist into the business, studying its features, drawing up a document like the "Corporate Sales Book" - and after that, training employees on the basis of this document.

“They don’t behave like that with clients,” says the manager.

This can mean different things: they behave too softly, too offensively, not confident enough, incorrectly characterize the product, etc.

And here, too, it would be good to develop a single corporate set of rules that will serve as guidelines for employees, and then, in training, practice them in different situations so that employees learn to apply them.


6.       Selection error, or "Wrong" employees.

Probably, every second customer of the training voices me an additional request: to carry out diagnostics of employees in the training - they say who is suitable for this job and who is not. This approach is rather dubious, since the trainer is a training specialist, and the assessment of employees is another process, and there are specialists for him with separate methods. But I am sympathetic to the problems of small and medium-sized businesses, which hardly have the financial ability to hire an expensive appraiser, and therefore tries to use a third-party view in order to get a more objective opinion about their specialists. In addition, whatever one may say, in the training, employees partially reveal themselves: they demonstrate certain patterns of behavior, the ability (or inability) to learn and develop, the desire to achieve better results, communicate with each other and with the coach, etc. Therefore, I most often go to meet such requests of the customer, but with a bunch of reservations: this is NOT a professional assessment, but the coach's opinion based on his observations of the employee's work in training. And the managerial decision on the employee is then taken by the customer himself.

So, you often find an employee in a group who, it is not clear how he ended up in his position.

- Why did you choose the profession of a seller? - I often conduct such a survey at the beginning of a sales training.

- I love communication very much! - says the employee enthusiastically.

Well, love of communication is an important quality for this profession. But not the only thing - because the communication process should still be closed on a commercial result.

What's worse - there are those who are catastrophically afraid of customers and hesitate to ask them an extra question.

This is what I call a selection error. The man was not in his profession. This is a strong and very urgent pain for regional business, because there are not so many sellers by vocation, and not so many people seriously strive to master this profession: we still have the opinion that it is a shame to sell. Many young people see this profession as a “staging post”: I will work, gain experience and then move somewhere. And the business has to close its eyes and take almost everyone who, in principle, is ready to work as a sales manager.

So: if a person does not have the desire and ambition to produce high-quality results in the chosen business, then the training will not help. In training, as at a counter, he will simply serve his time and go on to wait until a better job turns up.

Therefore, if you, as a manager, have strong reasons to believe that you cannot cook porridge from an employee, do not invest money and time in him. Better distribute these resources among those in whom you really see potential and desire to develop in your direction.


7.       Training as a reward, as a punishment, and simply "for the company."

Oh, how often you come across the fact that an employee is sent to training as a reward for his special merits. Or vice versa - as a punishment for any wrongdoing.

Training is initially NOT a motivation tool. Employee training is a separate business process in the company, and it is carried out based on a specific task. Let's say a company introduces project management - and then employees need to be trained in the basics of project management. Or the founders set the task to increase the average check - welcome to the additional sales training. The training as such has no positive or negative connotation. There is a problem - there is a solution, there is a need - there is training.

Training can be a tool of positive motivation when: an employee has achieved certain success, he was offered to choose a reward for himself, and he wanted to learn at a specific training. If this does not go against the plans of the company and the training will really help the employee become more valuable to the organization - then go ahead! Reward him that way! But training cannot be used as a punishment under any circumstances, otherwise the very idea of ​​training will be discredited.

There are also cases when training in a company is conducted for a certain category of employees. But since finances have been invested in training, then other employees who do not really need it, such as an accountant-cashier, an IT specialist, a foreman, begin to join the group of, say, negotiators ... It is clear that communication is such a skill that is useful to everyone. But when joining a group of employees with a different specificity of communication, the focus of training is blurred, all interests have to be taken into account, and now those for whom this training was originally ordered are being trained with less efficiency.

And there are also completely absurd connections. Once they ordered me a team building training for one department, in which employees often clashed. And the supreme leader wished to add to this training a newcomer from a parallel unit - they say, it is useful for him, "let him listen." Agree, the idea and purpose of the training for one, separately taken team is leveled.

Therefore, no matter how great your desire to get the most from the ordered training - remember first of all about the initial goal of training and discuss all steps left and right with your coach. After all, if you have chosen a specific coach and trust him with the most valuable thing that you have - your employees - then trust to the end and discuss - just discuss, not dictate! - with him all the details of the upcoming training. Believe me, both the internal and the external trainer are no less interested in a high learning result and will think about it first of all.





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