In my post on recruitment (Recruitment is everything, Aug 29) I refer to the importance of getting the right people on board. If your basic building blocks aren’t high quality material, you can train until you are blue in the face but you can’t turn lead into gold (the physics involved cost too much). Having said this, even the best of people need training unless you are running a business which sells something people are born to. Some of these are illegal in most countries but I am sure that even in these more specialized areas training comes into the equation at some point.
Sales and customer satisfaction are, in my mind, directly correlated to the level of training provided by a company. You should train your people for everything: how to answer the phone, what to say to customers, what not to say, how to handle or escalate complaints, how to sell, how to dress, how to negotiate, how to compare your offering with that of your competitors, how to comment on competitors – you get the picture. This ensures that you are projecting your company to the outside world as you have strategically decided to do so. Leave nothing to luck and, God forbid, common sense. Also training, when done correctly, can be very motivating as demonstrated by today’s image.
Training manifests itself in various forms. Let’s look at three common manifestations:
1. Training: Sit everybody in a room and talk at them about how to assemble a PC. With diagrams.
2. Mentoring: “I’m great at what I do! Come, little Grasshopper, see how I do it”
3. Coaching: “We hired you because we believe you are suitable for the job. Let’s see how we can aim you in the right direction. Oh, and by the way, here are some tools”.
Horrifying as it may seem, I believe you can’t avoid any of these three types. “Let’s discuss the processor speed of the new tablet we launched. How fast do you think it may be?” You sometimes need to sit people down and brief them. But you can make it interesting and fun. With chocolate prizes for the ones that stay awake. It is, of course, necessary to let people watch the experts at work. And it is crucial to develop a coaching program. This is where you support intelligent people (the ones you correctly recruited, remember?) to develop their skills and knowledge so that they can fly solo. My apologies to the control freaks reading this.
Whatever the mix you choose, your people need to receive training, even for the basics. You need to massage them into the company culture. You don’t have to spend huge amounts. If you run a small business you may even run some sessions yourself on a Saturday. You will probably also do most of the coaching. Throw in lunch. This is especially important for sales people (the coaching bit, not the lunch). In these days of crisis I would go as far to say that on a typical coaching ride (you sit back and observe the neophyte at work and then go back to the office and talk about it) it may even be ok to breach coaching etiquette and step in if the rookie is about to blow the 100K deal.
By the way, having trained your people, you can be very specific about what is expected of them.