Get more from your training program.

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Business team sharing and discussing ideas in office

Get more from your training program.

In order to improve the results of the training program, managers must pay attention to what happens in the workplace before and after class.

Global companies spend as much as $100 billion a year to train employees on skills needed to improve performance, such as communication, sales skills, performance management or lean operations. But training usually has little impact.

McKinsey, a recent survey shows that, in fact, only a quarter of respondents said their training program significantly improved business performance, most companies do not even going to track their return on investment in training. They do so because highly skilled staff are clearly more productive, and employees often need new skills to cope with changes in organizational strategy or performance.

Given the importance of skilled workers, companies must do better. When senior leaders focus on training and participate personally, the improvements can be quick. The content of the training itself is not the biggest problem, although many companies can improve it (see sidebar “getting the training content right”). The most important improvement is to rethink the way employees and their leaders think about training, and the environment in which they return. Only senior leaders can undertake these tasks.

Before we start training

Help people learn.

Adults learn predictable steps. For example, before the staff to be able to master new skills effectively, they must be sure that this will help improve the performance of the organization, to recognize your performance in this area is weak, then truly choose to learn. However, most enterprise training programs ignore these prerequisites, only assuming that employees “get it”. This approach is a big mistake because it allows the suspicion of normal patterns to become an obstacle to learning. This result is familiar to all those who have participated in corporate training activities. Instead of like learner training, many employees like prisoners act (” I came because I have to be “), holidaymakers (” I don’t mind here, this is from the actual work of the rest “) or a professor (” everyone studying here, I can share my wisdom “).

To avoid these results, companies must help employees internalize the need for change and develop the desire to acquire skills, thereby bringing progress. The best way to create a credible ambassador for this effort is to get trainees or peers to participate in deciding what changes need to be made and why. Failing that, by starting a training program for the analysis of the individual or business involved department performance of the existing problems, and how new skills to solve these problems, so as to achieve a similar purpose.

Consider a situation where a retailer knows its customer service and sales skills are relatively poor. In response, the company has established regional managers, customer service representatives and sales staff to help them understand current skills and plan improvements. In order to better serve customers, the team visited the ritz-carlton and other high performance organizations. These teams in the competition of the mystery shopping activities in the store, they did not disclose their company subordinate relations, where they are most get mixed service, this shows that the service improvement could be a real competitive advantage. The team also conducted exit polls for retailers’ own customers to correlate their experience quality with purchases and whether they intended to return to the store.

In order to improve customer service and sales, the team then designed new processes and tools, including guidelines that help salespeople turn product functions into revenue that shoppers may be involved in. Next, they began to pilot improvements in several stores. The results were impressive – the conversion rate was a double digit leap, and sales of important product categories rose. Better yet, after presenting the results at the company’s retail manager meeting and determining the project’s credibility, the team found that managers asked for an opportunity to start training in their stores.

Find harmful thinking.

Even if employees do know what they teach, they tend not to apply it. If this happens, training will be wasted – no matter how good it is. Pre-existing thinking is a common cause of this problem. Therefore, companies should search for problematic ways of thinking with the same rigor as the diagnostic skills gap.

For example, a large retailer has been trying to increase its focus on customers for more than two years. It spends millions of dollars teaching five-step sales processes, monitoring customer feedback, and launching e-learning programs to improve employees’ understanding of their products. The salesmen passed all the certification tests, but they still didn’t use the new skills. Customer feedback and store performance remain subdued.

To find out why, the company conducted employee interviews, focus groups and surveys. Two disturbing attitudes have emerged. First, sales people fundamentally believe that the behavior of shoppers has changed, so they are now mainly browsing in stores and online shopping. As a result, employees who are associated with shoppers earn less. Second, salespeople rely on age, gender and race stereotypes to determine which customers will buy and tend to ignore other customers. Surveys of shoppers, purchases and conversion tests show that both beliefs are wrong.

The company relaunched the training, based on the public discussion of these two ways of thinking, the use of facts to eliminate myths, to create new enthusiasm for customer service. Sales people began to apply the methods they had learned, which led to a 150 basis point increase in the pilot store’s conversion rate and a 20% increase in net income.

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