Category Archives: Staff training

Tears of frustration

Since my arm came out of plaster (following my mountain bike accident in July) I’ve been having weekly sessions with an occupational therapist to help get the strength and mobility back in my wrist and hand. It’s been a long, slow process, but on each visit I’ve made incremental improvements.

As you can imagine, some of the exercises she puts me through are testing, and at times quite painful. The thing is though, it’s one thing, doing the exercises with her at the hospital, but it’s quite another when I have to do these for myself 10-15 times a day at home.

And last week this led me to tears. Not tears from the pain, but tears of frustration.

I just couldn’t get one of the exercises right, and I knew if I couldn’t get it right here with the therapist guiding me there was no way I was going to get it right at home.

One instant she was tell me I was doing it wrong, and then the next she’d say “well done, that’s much better”. But the frustration was because I simply couldn’t tell the difference between doing it wrong and doing it right!

If we think in the workplace, are there ever times when we spot a team member doing something in a way that we know won’t get them the right result, but however much we pick them up on it, they still don’t get it right?

When we have to correct them on the same thing, time and time again, of course, this is frustrating for us, but it’s probably just as frustrating for them if they really don’t know what it is they’re doing wrong. Particularly when they really do want to get it right.

If this ever happens to you here are some pointers that might help…

What tells you it’s right or wrong?

The more specific you are about the tangible and measurable indicators, the easier it will be for the other person to measure their success.

Quantitative standards or pointers are easier to interpret than qualitative ones. So, for example, if you want phone answered quickly, specify in how many rings. When it comes to qualitative standards, it can be far more open to personal interpretation, so giving examples and/or demonstrations (and of course leading by example) can be helpful, but still be prepared to make the comparison between the right way and the wrong way.

Often, it’s subtle little nuances that make all the difference to reflect your service culture or improve employee productivity.

What’s the impact?

If people understand the end result they’re aiming for, this can help clarify why something is right versus why something is wrong. They can often see or feel for themselves that the wrong way doesn’t achieve the result they want and vice versa.

What to do differently?

Once people know what’s wrong (specifically), and why, it’s considerably easier for them to grasp the right way; or even to identify the right way for themselves.

Getting them carrying out tasks the right way, in comparison with the wrong way, is a step forward.

But…

It’s very easy for people to go back to the wrong way, particularly if that feels more comfortable, is easier or is quicker.

Human nature says we’ll always take the path of least resistance!

Until someone becomes fully competent and confident in the right way, (and we’ll assume here they already have the commitment and capacity to do things the right way) it will be all too easy for them to slip back into their old comfortable way of doing it.

So, be prepared to give further coaching, support and feedback until they have formed new habits.

And avoid those tears of frustration. For both them and you!

 


Just a different type of skill…

 

At last week’s Independent Hotel Show Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality suggested we stop talking about low skilled and high skill staff.

I agree.

Everyone has skills, it’s just that different jobs require different skills. It takes a certain type of skill to run a busy bar, calm down an irate customer, service a bedroom in 30 minutes. These examples are in the context of hospitality, but whatever your industry I’m sure you’ll see the same principles apply.

Sadly, it’s often only when these people leave that we miss what they bring to the team. (….could that lack of recognition be the very reason they leave?)

When we don’t see individual skill strengths there’s a tendency to demand all-round competence in a job.  As a result, development focuses on areas where a person is least capable with time and energy spent on working towards average performance.

Imagine what would happen if you were to focus on people’s strengths.  You could help them go from strong performance to real excellence in their areas of greatest ability.  How much more motivated would team members be if they could focus on what they’re best at?

Of course, in reality we can’t always let people just do what they’re best at, but we can at least make sure that they’re not always under pressure to improve what they’re worst at.  A great team will have a balance of abilities and strengths so that people can contribute their best and don’t have to excel at everything.

Identifying people’s skills and strengths enables you to capitalise and build on these. This recognition means the team member can take pride in that skill. And knowing where you have strengths in the team can also help to identify ways to bridge any gaps you have elsewhere.

And in most cases

…the tasks people are good at are those they enjoy more, excite them and keep them engaged.

So, here’s an exercise you can carry out with your team to recognise their strengths.

First, make a list of the members of your team and consider each one personally:

  • What is he/she really good at?
  • What does he/she love to do?
  • When do you see him/her working really well?
  • What is his/her greatest talent?
  • What do you like or value about this person?
  • What do other people in the team value about him/her?

Now look at the team as a whole

  • What is your team’s greatest achievement to date?
  • What is the team really good at?
  • When does your team work best?
  • What do other people value about your team?
  • Why do you enjoy leading this team?
  • What are your team’s greatest strengths?

Having completed this exercise are there any strengths you’ve identified that you can capitalise on to bridge any gaps elsewhere?



In the real world

In the real world

In all my years as a trainer the #1 mistake I see businesses making with their staff training is not doing enough to make an easy transition from theory to the real world.

What takes place in the safety, and often false environment, of the training room can be very different from what happens in the big bad real world. Particularly so with any skills training which needs practice to perfect, and time to form new habits.

This can mean, not only a poor return on investment, but can also have a negative and demotivating impact on the employee.

Here are 17 ideas to make the transition easy and gain a greater ROI on training:

  1. Avoid people leaving the training session asking “what was all that about then?” Make the link to their role before the training even begins, by discussing how the training is relevant to their job.
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  2. Check understanding of key points, and ask for ideas on how they are going to implement what they have learnt.
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  3. Help the team identify situations where they can put their learning into practice as quickly as possible, preferably within hours, or at least the next day or two, and get their commitment to one or two specific actions.
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  4. Make it clear what you want to happen long term as a result of the training, and get your team’s commitment to some specific actions – with timescales and allow them time to talk through how they’re going to achieve them.
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  5. Allow a free and open dialogue to flush out anything that might be standing in the way of that, or any concerns they have which will make it difficult or even impossible for them to implement any aspects of the training.
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  6. Check they have the necessary resources, time, authority, peer support and opportunity to put it into practice. If not, ensure you get these in place before the momentum is lost.
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  7. Look for signs of uncertainly: lack of confidence or a concern they might make mistakes, unclear on which actions are their job opposed to anyone else’s, not sure how this fits in with existing processes or ways of working, etc.
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  8. Be available for individuals to ask questions on a one to one basis after training; not everyone feels comfortable raising queries in front of colleagues, and some may need a while to reflect on what’s been covered.
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  9. Schedule time for people to practise and time for you or their line manager to check how they are doing. Or assign a mentor, coach or buddy to help overcome the initial barriers to perfecting their new skill.
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  10. Provide back-up resources such as prompt cards, diagrams or checklists.
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  11. Don’t expect perfection straight away. People need time to practise and find their own way of doing things, and not be afraid to make the odd mistake so long as they learn from it.
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  12. Everything takes longer when it’s new and you’re still learning a little from trial and error. Confidence can be low as you get to grips with it all.
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  13. Don’t let potential barriers become an excuse for not putting things into practice. Follow up promptly; the longer problems are left unresolved, the less the likelihood of anyone getting to the point it becomes habit.
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  14. Observe how they handle specific situations e.g. following customer service training observe conversations with customers and give feedback afterwards: what they’re doing well, what they could do more of, and give the appropriate coaching, support and guidance on areas where they need more help.
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  15. Reinforce messages by building exercises and activities into your daily and weekly calendar, etc., as part of team briefings or meetings, 1:1 reviews and ongoing feedback.
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  16. Recognise the role line managers have in the follow up to training. What’s working well, what fresh perspectives have they brought, what needs more practice?
  17. If the training isn’t being implemented identify what’s getting in the way now, not wait until they’ve been struggling and given up hope. When something doesn’t work right first time around it’s all too easy for them to go back to their old and familiar ways.

Get people practising their new skills, systems or ways of working every day and you’ll quickly see them build confidence, develop competence and it will soon become habit.



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.



The accepted norm

The way it is jared-rice

I sometimes see managers getting very frustrated that people in their team aren’t contributing as much as they’d like.

They know, or at least suspect, they are capable of more, but for some reason some people are just not taking responsibility for making decisions or getting things done.

Ask how they see their role?  They may see things differently.  If you (or maybe your predecessor) have always done the thinking for them, maybe that’s accepted as the way it works.

Do they even recognise that you’d like more from them, and if so what?

When we find ourselves getting frustrated that people are not handling things the way we’d like, it’s time to reflect on how well we’ve explained our expectations, and the training and support we’ve given to help them realise these expectations.

Do they know what ‘great’ looks like so they have something against which to benchmark their performance?

Do they have all the tools, resources and enough time to meet your expectations?

Have we given feedback on how they’re doing and comparing it to their understanding or perception of what’s needed?

Are they kept up to date? Quite apart from the fact no one wants to look uninformed, especially in front of colleagues or customers, unless they know ‘what’s happening where’, it will always be difficult for your team members to make considered decisions.

But probably the most important question to ask is: are we giving them the freedom, confidence and autonomy to do what they’re capable of doing and to fully contribute.

Want to know what the next step is….?



Learn from Mistakes

Mistake Photo by Estée Janssens on UnsplashDay 9 in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

9. Learn from Mistakes

In any business there are times when things don’t go according to plan.

Review some of the things that have not gone to plan over the past year or even the past few weeks.

Rather than dwelling on the negatives, reflect on what you and the team have learnt from these events. Even if you think it was a one off and unlikely to happen again your team might be aware of other ‘near misses’ or situations that are almost an accident waiting to happen!

Your team invariably know how to prevent these. So listen to them and flush out any other potential risky situations. Then agree what steps you can take to avoid them or minimise their impact, so they are confident they will be better prepared next time!

 



Seeing strengths

Strengths cyril-saulnier-250098Day 7 in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

7. Seeing strengths

January is often a time to catch up on staff training.

Rather than merely trying to fix weaknesses (which makes everyone mediocre in everything) look back at where individual team members have shown specific strengths. By focusing on people’s strengths we’re able to tap into opportunities to enable them to really excel – in the same way you might expect an athlete to work on honing their skills in the areas in which they already perform well.

You might need to look for the capabilities in others that they themselves may not see and help them to see these for themselves. Focusing on strengths not only boosts confidence, it enables people to shine and excel. It means complementing potential shortcomings of others in the team, contributing unique value in the eyes of colleagues and customers.

And in most cases

…the tasks we’re good at are those we enjoy more, excite us and keep us engaged.


Promote Teamwork

Team raftingDay 6 in my 12 days of Christmas mini blog series

6. Promote Teamwork

Upskill and cross train people to cover other’s responsibilities so people are confident their job still gets covered when they are sick, on holiday or have an extra heavy workload.

Set up job swaps so everyone has a greater appreciation of each other’s roles and create teamwork and a culture where everyone takes responsibility when necessary, rather than passing the buck.

Upskilling also demonstrates you commitment to your team, and shows people they are valued.


Putting Theory into Practice

parachute-brittany-gaiserIn all my years as a trainer the number 1 mistake I see businesses making with their staff training is not doing enough to make an easy transition from theory to the real world.

What takes place in the safety, and often false environment, of the training room can be very different from what happens in the big bad real world. Particularly so with any skills training which needs practice to perfect, and time to form new habits.

Of course this means not only does the business not get a good return on their investment, it can also have a negative and demotivating impact on the employee.

The link

Making the link to their role really starts before the training even begins, by discussing with the team member how the training is relevant to the job.

But this needs to be followed through during the training itself, asking for ideas on how team members are going to implement what they have learnt. Help them identify situations where they can put their learning into practice as quickly as possible, preferably within the next day or two, and get their commitment to one or two specific actions.

Flush out any questions or concerns, or anything they know of which will make it difficult or even impossible for them to implement what they’ve learnt. Check they have the necessary resources, time, authority, peer support and opportunity to put it into practice. If not, ensure you get these in place before that momentum is lost.

These might be things you don’t want to hear, but better to know about these now (and have an opportunity to put them right) than them going away confused or negative through questions unanswered and discover two weeks on that nothing has changed!

On an individual level this might include a lack of confidence or a concern they might make mistakes. They may be unclear on which actions are their job opposed to anyone else’s. They might not even see these actions as part of their role, but somebody else’s responsibility.

Be available for individuals to ask questions on a one to one basis after any training; not everyone will feel comfortable raising their queries in front of colleagues, and some may need a while to reflect on what’s been covered.

Set some specific medium-term goals to focus people’s attention in implementing the training. It might simply be based on customer feedback, or a specific target to sell x number of a certain product or service.

Finish training by giving recognition for their participation. Create a link to further training, or how you’ll be following up in the workplace.

Making the transition

Sometimes the only way to really hone new skills and develop true competence is once applied on the job. It simply can’t always happen in the confines of the training session or without the pressures of the real world.

We shouldn’t expect perfection straight away. People need time to practise and find their own way of doing things, and not be afraid to make the odd mistake so long as they learn from it.

Everything takes longer when it’s new and you’re still learning a little from trial and error. Confidence can be low as you get to grips with it all.

Unless followed though promptly, any potential barriers will simply provide an excuse for not putting things into practice. The longer problems are left unresolved, the less the likelihood of anyone getting to the point it becomes habit.

So when you plan training, schedule time for team members to practise and time for you or their line manager to check how they are doing. Or assign a mentor, coach or buddy to help overcome the initial barriers to perfecting their new skill.

Observe how team members handle the conversations with customers and give them feedback after the event on what they’re doing well, what they could do more of, and give the appropriate coaching, support and guidance on areas where they need more help.

Maintaining Momentum

Provide back up resources such as prompt cards or checklists. Reinforce messages by building exercises into your daily and weekly calendar, etc., as part of team briefings or meetings, 1:1 reviews and ongoing feedback.

Recognise the role line managers have in the follow up to training. What’s working well, what fresh perspectives have they brought, what needs more practice?

If the training isn’t being implemented identify what’s getting in the way now, not wait until they’ve been struggling and given up hope. When something doesn’t work right first time around it’s all too easy for them to go back to their old and familiar ways.

It takes time to instil new habits.


But, I do that already!

One of my clients was telling me last week of her frustration when her team were reluctant to get involved in training.  “They think they know it all already” she said.

Have you ever experienced that too? I know I have.

A big barrier to training, particularly customer service training or management skills, is when an employee thinks they know it all or are already doing everything correctly already. So they see the training as a criticism.

This means they are not receptive, which is not only frustrating for you, but means in all likelihood your training is a waste of time, money and effort.

Here are some ideas to get over this…

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