Monthly Archives: June 2018

Ebbinghaus’ Curve of Forgetting

Ebbinghaus Effect

In 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus a German doctor of philosophy published “Ebbinghaus’ Curve of Forgetting” showing that a given piece of learning is forgotten by more than half its audience within one hour.  The share of the audience that retains the message is reduced approximately 30% after one day, and to just 25% after only two days.

Which means potentially most training can be a complete waste of your time and effort.

Not a good investment of your training budget!

When you’re investing in training you want people to remember the messages; not just tomorrow, but next week, next month or even next year.

If you want your team to remember the messages it starts with engaging them in the training. And engaging them in the training starts with making the training engaging!

Here are 10 ideas to help make this happen…

  1. Keep things light hearted – it might be a serious subject, but the messages will stick far better if the team are happy and relaxed. Reinforce messages with quizzes and games to add an element of competition and fun.
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  2. Stop thinking about training purely as a classroom activity; get creative with your training. Recognise people’s different learning styles and vary the ways you communicate with your team to appeal to different preferences. Ask the team what training they think they need and how they’d like to learn it.
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  3. Use everyday activities as opportunities for development. Use team meetings to direct focus and reinforce messages. Assign tasks or projects on real business issues to develop team members.
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  4. Get everyone’s involvement. No one wants to sit through a ‘chalk and talk’ lecture. Use team exercises to encourage interaction, get opinions, and generate ideas so everyone benefits from each other’s insights and suggestions.
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  5. Add in fun energiser activities and ‘right brain’ exercises. These might seem trivial, but getting your team involved keeps them energised and in a better state of mind for learning.
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  6. Make full use of the senses. Use props and live examples that people can touch, smell and even taste if appropriate.
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  7. Add variety. Do something different to what people are used to, to make learning interesting or memorable, so everyone remembers the messages.
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  8. Take people away from their normal environment (as long as this doesn’t make them uncomfortable or become a distraction); go outside, use music; alter the layout, introduce unusual props; use interesting presenters or even actors (great for any interpersonal skills training).
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  9. Use role plays. Despite people’s reluctance they are a great way for people to practise what to say and how in a safe setting. So it’s easier when it comes to putting it into practice in the real world. Make these less intimidating by running in small groups with colleagues acting as an observer to give feedback.
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  10. Keep messages simple and use memory aids and support materials so people can remind themselves of the key messages when needed.

Of course, you still need to ensure people understand the relevance of what you are training and follow up afterwards to help them put it into practice and embed new habits and behaviours.

But taking one or two of these ideas will go some way to making your training memorable. And if you can build in several of these principles you’ll get people more engaged and give your training some real impact.

Action point

Review the next messages you need to cascade to your team and pick just one thing from the list above – one which you’re not already doing – and build it in to your training.



Yes, but …

Earlier this week I was conducting some complaint handling training for one of my clients.

It’s not an unusual reaction when faced with a complaint – particularly when you believe it’s unjustified, or it’s not your fault – to listen politely, but then respond with “yes, but…

Of course, as soon as the customer hears those words, they know they are likely to be contradicted.

So, here are 2 alternatives:

1. The But Flip

This is when you still use the word but, but you flip the structure of the sentence. So, instead of saying “I’d really like to help you with this, but it’s out of my control”, this becomes “It’s out of my control, but I’d really like to help you with this”.

What’s the difference? The first version ends the conversation, whilst the second version makes a natural transition into looking for a solution.

In essence, what you’re doing is telling the customer what you can’t do first, but then what you can do.

2. Yes, and…

In this instance you are replacing the word but with the word and. (Many people are tempted to use the word however, however… if you’re anything like me when I hear the word however I still know is going to be bad news!)

Yes, but is confrontational and doesn’t get you any further forward, whereas yes, and keeps the conversation positive, and shows you are listening.

Proving the point

Here’s a fun exercise you can use with your team which demonstrates the impact of yes, but and yes, and, whilst giving them an opportunity to practise the technique.

It’s based on improvisation, which means there are no scripts and participants don’t know what they’ll say until they’ve heard the other person. To be successful they have to be present, listen carefully, and contribute freely.

These skills are obviously valuable in a customer service environment, in which adaptability is crucial.

The “Yes, and…” story telling exercise can be carried out by two people or more.

One person starts with one sentence of a story, and the next person builds on that, either bouncing back and forth between two people or circling around in a larger group.

You can take the story in any direction, as long as it builds on top of the previous sentence with a “yes, and…”

It works best with a few simple rules:

  • Don’t deny or contradict
  • Don’t ask open ended questions
  • You don’t have to be funny
  • You can look good by making your partner look good
  • Tell a story

Besides the fun of seeing the story go in the strangest directions, this exercise reinforces a few crucial customer service skills.

One is listening skills. You have to build upon what was said last. Many people – particularly when under pressure – are so focused on what they want to say whilst the other person is talking, they miss half of what’s being said.

It also teaches flexibility. Instead of going against what’s been said, the aim is to build on top of it.

So, set your team a challenge to switch to the but flip or but, and



Puffed Up with Pride

Last week at the HTA Catering Conference panel discussion I was asked if I could pick just one thing for business owners and managers to focus on to improve employee engagement and staff retention what would that be.

My response: “Give people pride in what they do, by recognising and acknowledging their contribution to the business.”

Being recognised at work so you can be proud of your contribution can have a massive impact on employee engagement, and all the knock on benefits of customer service, staff retention and productivity.

This stems from the top, so if you are recognising your managers and supervisors so they feel pride in what they do, they are far more likely to do the same with their team members.

As well as leading by example, educate your managers and supervisors on the importance of recognition, and give them ideas, support and resources to do this.

Here are 7 ideas to get the ball rolling…

1. Common Courtesies

Treat your team with the same care, courtesy and respect as you’d like them to show to customers. Failing to give a simple please when asking for something or a thank you when it’s delivered soon gets noted, leaving people feeling unappreciated.

A sunny smile and a cheerful “good morning” sets everyone up for the day.

2. Demonstrate Trust

We often underestimate people’s capabilities. You’ll be surprised just how resourceful your team can be given the right direction. Give flexibility to adapt and adopt their own style.

Demonstrate your trust by delegating some control and ownership. This gives a sense of pride and a desire to get things right. When individuals have one or two areas to focus on specifically it encourages them to go deeper and develop their expertise.

Play to people’s strengths, rather than making everyone mediocre at everything. Give them development and responsibility in areas in which they excel.

Identify staff champions for routine activities so there is always at least one person other than you keeping an eye on each aspect of the business. This is not only good for people’s development it also helps the team respect other’s roles and share the burden.

3. Recognition

Show you value their opinion. Involve your team in discussions and ask their advice particularly in areas where they have more involvement than you, e.g. many of them will spend more time with customers than you and often spot things you might miss.

Give meaningful feedback. Tell people how they are doing, what have they done well and how it contributes.

Recognise those who go beyond the call of duty or out of their way e.g. changed their domestic arrangements to stay late to finish a project, dropped their own work to help a colleague who was in need or simply gone out of their way to help out.

Whenever you get positive feedback from a customer publicise this. The sooner you do this after the event the greater the impact.

Acknowledge those who have put considerable effort into a project even if it has just fallen short of the mark. It’s the effort you’re applauding not the result.

4. Celebrate success

Recognise and celebrate successes – for the individual, for the team or the business as a whole.

Let everyone know when you’ve had a good month, brought in that special deal, or achieved an important milestone. Recognise and show your appreciation for those who have contributed to this success. This can be a great morale booster.

Acknowledge the contributions of those working on long-term projects too, and give regular updates on progress. Remember those in supporting roles too, who beaver away behind-the-scenes – including back of house staff, e.g. whoever is responsible for the cleanliness of your premises can have a massive impact on everyone.

Keep your team up to date with the bigger picture – what’s happening in your business, what else is happening in your industry, so they can be proud of your industry as a whole.

5. Going Public

Saying thank you and well done in front of the whole team may make some people feel uncomfortable, so be selective. But when done for the whole team it can give a real boost.

If you’re not the owner of the business, whenever someone does something noteworthy notify your boss (or whoever you are answerable to) and ask them to take a minute to acknowledge that person.

6. And the winner is…

Whether internal or external awards are a public way of giving recognition. Nominate your whole team or individuals for external awards. Just being nominated shows you think they are worthy of being a winner.

Create your own version of an Oscar to award each week. It doesn’t have to be the same criteria every time, just something that is noteworthy e.g. best morale booster, best ambassador for service, award to helping out a colleague, etc. Give kudos to the previous winner and allow them to choose the criteria and award it the following week.

Give public recognition via your physical or virtual noticeboard, where anyone can post a note of recognition for a colleague, so no accomplishment goes unrecognised.

7. Personal achievements

One exercise I love to do is getting people talking about an accolade or something (or someone) they’re proud of, be that in or out of work; something recent or from years back.  Just by getting them talking about these makes people feel good, as well as helping get an insight into what’s important to them.

Take time out to celebrate an achievement or special occasion. Recognise those important proud moments outside work: arrival of their first grandchild, child’s graduation, a significant contribution to a charity, a personal achievement such as passing their driving test.

Simply remembering personal milestones such as a significant birthday or wedding anniversary can make people feel valued, but even better if you do something to mark the occasion even if it’s just a simple card or cupcake.

Whatever you do to show you value your team and create proud moments, make it meaningful to the individual; not everyone is inspired by the same things, so consider what’s important to them.

Recognition is a powerful thing, so if you only do 2 things:

  1. Make a point today (and every day from now on) of doing at least one thing to show your appreciation to one or more of your team
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  2. Share this post with your managers and supervisors and ask them to identify one idea from the list they can start doing today…



Off to a Flying Start

Earlier this week I spoke at The Horticultural Trades Association Catering Conference on attracting and retaining superstars. Of the 7 key ingredients I discussed one focused on giving new team members the red carpet treatment and creating a positive first impression, so they feel valued and engaged from day one.

In last week’s blog I wrote about the steps you can take to create a sense of anticipation and excitement before new team members even start. This week I’d like to focus on their induction once they are in the job.

It’s all too easy to expect new starters to hit the ground running and throw them in at the deep end. Especially when you’ve been understaffed and are desperate for the new pair of hands.

But this can be counterproductive.

In the same way you might think about your customer experience and how you’d like customers to feel as a result of doing business with you, transfer this principle to your staff.

How would you like this new team member to be feeling at the end of their first day?

Overwhelmed and confused? Frustrated, underutilised and bored? Already questioning that this is the right job for them?

Or enthusiastic, excited, looking forward to making a real contribution to the business, and can’t wait to get into work tomorrow?

Make a plan

People can only remember so much information. Spread the induction over several weeks, and limit what they’ll be covering on the first day to a minimum as there will be a lot for them to take in.

During the induction period involve as many other team members as possible as this is a great way for your new team member to meet others, start to understand how their role fits in with everybody else’s and for them to feel part of that team.

Identify who will be involved with what so there are no overlaps or gaps. Then make sure that everyone involved knows what part they play and schedule time to devote to this. No one wants to feel as if they are an inconvenience and this will do little to make the new team member feel welcome.

Here is a checklist of things to include

Here is a checklist of things to include in your induction, and of course every site and every role is different so ensure you tailor the induction around the job they’ll be doing and where they are going to be working. Plan your inductions well in advance, and schedule what will be happening when.

WHAT TO INCLUDE

Here are some key headings, but not necessarily everything under each heading is to be covered in one go. Think about what’s essential for day one, what’s to be covered within the first week, and then space other things over the coming 3 to 4 weeks.

The lay of the land

Show people where they will be working, where they can find things, where they can leave their personal things, where they can take their breaks, where to find key information, resources, and the people they’ll be working with. Point out health and safety needs such as fire evacuation points, first aid kit and any hazardous areas.

The job itself

Although you would have discussed this at the recruitment stage now is the time to go into detail. Let people know exactly what is expected and how this will be measured, how progress will be reviewed and how their role fits in with everybody else’s.

The bigger picture

Where does their job fit into the bigger picture? What are the goals and targets of the business as a whole and how they contribute to this.

Where does their role fit in with everybody else’s? What does everybody else do? What are all the other services and facilities that you provide?

What we stand for

Think about your purpose, values and culture. What is important to you as a business and what is the type of experience you want your customers to have when they do business with you? Communicate this.   If you have won prestigious awards be proud of these and share what this means and what you need to do to sustain this level.

Customer expectations

Help new team members understand your customers’ expectations. Describe your customer profile and what they will be looking for. Why do people come to you rather you’re your competition, what makes you different or unique. Take people through the customer journey and allow them to see everything from a customer’s perspective as far as possible; not only for their own department, but all the other services your customers use, starting with your website*.

* This is a great exercise to do with all new starters. As part of their induction ask them to find certain information from your website. They learn about the business, and you can get some feedback on how user-friendly and informative your website is.

How we do things round here

How this translates into the day-to-day role might come better from a fellow employee, a sort of buddy, rather than necessarily always coming from you. However if you are going to do that, make sure that the person they are buddied up with knows the standards, knows the expectations, and knows what you want from them.

The law of the land

This is where you cover all contractual parts of their role such as work permits, absence reporting, signing their contract, how and when they get paid. Talk about holiday entitlement and how they go about booking this so there are no later disappointments as late notice holiday requests get turned down.

History and heritage

It’s nice to know a little bit about the background, heritage and key historical facts about your business, but people don’t need every little detail. Home in on what’s relevant, so if for example your building has an interesting history and your customers are interested in this, cover the key points and let them know where they can go for more information if they want to dig deeper.

One of the family

Help new starters to settle in by involving them in team activities in the workplace, and ensuring they get an invitation to any social activities. Let them know who the people are to go to for help and guidance, who are your champions or experts in different areas, who should they turn to when you’re not there.

Practice makes perfect

Don’t expect everyone to be superb in every aspect of the job straightaway. Plan on the job skills training appropriate for the role they are going to do and allow time for them to get up to speed.

Getting stuck in

For new people it can sometimes feel to them as if they are not achieving much in the early days. So consider allocating a specific project that they can get stuck into and for which they have some responsibility and ownership. This is a great way to get them involved and give them something where they can contribute early on.

Regular reviews

Schedule weekly meetings with your new starters for a minimum of the first four weeks to review progress, answer questions, and identify when help is needed. This is also a great time to get feedback from them on their ideas and observations. Often a fresh pair of eyes will highlight things we’ve missed, and they bring with them experience and insights on how to do things better.

So, for the next person you take on, don’t waste your recruitment effort & costs by poor induction.  Increase the likelihood that they will want to stay, do the job to the standard you expect, and become a loyal employee, by giving them a thorough planned induction, backed up by the right support and resources to deliver the job well.



Employee Engagement Starts Here

Nearly every business owner I know lists recruiting and retaining good staff high on their list of priorities.

Having gone to the effort and expense of finding a good fit, don’t waste this by poor induction.

The first few days and weeks in any job will determine how that person feels about your business and whether or not this is the place they want to stay and if they’re able to pursue their career here; is this an environment where they can feel happy and get on with their fellow team members? Employee engagement starts here.

People like (and need) to know what’s expected of them. But induction should go far deeper than simply their duties and contractual obligations.

During someone’s first few weeks is also an opportunity for you, as you have a fresh pair of eyes to review your business, to spot things that maybe we’ve become accustomed to, and to come up with new ideas.

Start the induction process as soon as possible; the more you can do before their first day the quicker they’ll get them up to speed.

In your job offer let them know how much you’re looking forward to them coming to work for you and then start with information that lets them know that they’re going to get a warm welcome.

Create a Welcome Pack

The easiest way for you to do this is to create a standard welcoming pack. This might include:

  • A short personalised welcome letter or card from you, the owner or general manager personally signed.
  • The background to your business, your values and what’s important to you.
  • An outline of what they’ll be doing in the first week – training, briefings, range of work.
  • Map of the area with local information: banks, useful shops, a park to enjoy during their break. Go to Google Maps and print out.
  • Information about personal safety at work, plus travelling to and from the job. (Particular important for those who will be working unsociable hours) This might include information about parking and public transport, even a timetable (download and print).
  • For hospitality, leisure or retail businesses a voucher for them to come and be a customer with you so they can experience things from a customer’s perspective.
  • Vouchers from other local businesses – find those who will be happy to do a reciprocal arrangement (all good for the local community). Make them of real value, and something your staff will care about.
  • Information about social media they can connect to: the Facebook Page, Instagram account, Twitter and a private Facebook Group for staff if you have one. (And if you don’t now might be a good time to think about one!)
  • A short summary of the Staff Manual with key things they need to know.
  • Their contract of employment so they have an opportunity to read through this before day one
  • Any current topical information, such as your latest newsletter
  • An invitation to any events happening between now and when they start
  • A copy of their induction programme and their point of contact for day one
  • What to wear and what to bring on their first day

Putting all this in a smart folder with their name on it and sending it to them before they start will make them feel more welcome and they are more likely to be looking forward to the first day and getting into their job quickly.

You could also put this information online and give them the url to access it (or in a pdf you send to them), so you can embed links to access useful local information and all your social media pages.

So, once they start what needs to be covered in that induction to get them off to a flying start?

Next week I’ll share a handy checklist for creating your own induction programmes.

I’ll also be talking about this at the HTA catering conference next week, so if you happen to be there, I’ll see you then!