Sunday, 30 October 2016

Training In A Vacuum


How many times have you attended a training course only to return to your workplace and go back to old habits? According to Harvard Business Review close to $365 billion is spent globally on training and further surveys show that much of the training is considered ineffective. What are we doing wrong? I propose the answer is in the context in which we work. For training to be truly effective and to stick there has to be a systematic change to how things are done and how leadership operates within that environment. In other words we need to convert this training into both individual and organisational learning.

Consider Starbucks, an organisation that prides itself on its unique corporate culture and its ability to pass down company values to employees. Joseph A. Michelli outlined in his book ‘The Starbucks Experience’ how Starbucks takes ordinary experiences and turns them into something extraordinary through five main principles.

1.       Make it their own - Employees are encouraged to ‘make it their own’ through given principles rather than instructions. ‘No scripted customer service approach can make this happen’ says Michelli.  
2.       Everything matters – Leadership pays attention to needs of employees, employees then understand the importance of catering to details in the whole customer experience.
3.       Surprise and Delight - Starbucks leadership ensures the well being of staff by consistently meeting their needs in unique ways, employees can then do the same for customers.
4.       Embrace Resistance – create a culture where mistakes are seen as a learning experience rather than something to be reprimanded.
5.       Make your mark – Starbucks are renowned for getting involved in the communities in which they locate. They start at ‘home’ by caring for employees first.

It is through instilling these principles in employees that Starbucks can be considered a learning organisation, employees can then pass these principles onto customers to create the excellent customer experience.  

To change the way things are done focus on leadership rather than employees. Peter Senge, a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management says ‘organisations have complex well – developed immune systems, aimed at preserving the status quo’. Therefore, any change will be complex and must be supported from the top. Michelli says ‘If leaders expect staff to meet and exceed the expectations of their customers, those same leaders must respond to concerns and exceed expectations on behalf of their staff’. 

How can you help your employees turn training into learning. Some suggestions might be to:

1.       Empower employees to implement new ways of doing things by providing vision and principles rather than instructions.
2.       Encourage reflective practice to review training materials once back at work.
3.       Build communities of practice by sharing the information from the training course.
4.       Create a culture where failure is accepted as a learning experience

Training so often done in isolation can be redundant but with leadership support and a learning culture training can be transformational for your business.