When Training Is Not Enough

The Trouble With Training

There are few things in business more important than hiring the right people, except perhaps making sure they can be effective once hired.  As we move further and further into a knowledge based economy that statement becomes even more critical.  Organizations tend to focus in on ‘training’ as the mechanism for properly onboarding a new employee.  “Training” is certainly critical, it is a integral element of our framework so obviously we believe that, but when discussing the hiring processes of new personnel it’s a troublesome word.

Training is most often something procedural and tactical.  Its foundation lies in the industrial era of ensuring that your employees knew how to accomplish their basic tasks before throwing them into the day to day business operations.  This training was focused on how to *do* the required work successfully.

The Role Of Training Has Changed

This works well enough if we are only talking about the kinds of jobs where repetitive tasks make up the bulk of their work. As we’ve moved further into the knowledge based economy however those jobs become fewer and fewer.  They are replaced by jobs in which subtleties are involved, judgment is required, communications and human interaction skills are increased.  Team based environments are the norm and there are dependencies upon others for the individuals work to be successful.  More and more employees will be engaging directly with customers in social media, whether officially or unofficially.

In those environments, simply ‘training’ new personnel isn’t enough.  Learning how to login to a computer, use the voicemail system, and navigate the companies software may be valuable to removing barriers to *begin* working but it doesn’t help at all in preparing people to *do* the work anymore.

Training should be an element of a induction program, not the entire program.  Induction programs for any knowledge worker should always include education and immersion (no, education is not the same thing as training).  Why?  Culture.  In any dialog that xvalabs has regarding social business, culture is necessarily front and center.  It’s always been an unavoidable priority when you are talking about change management initiatives, and if you add social concepts into the mix it becomes even more so.

Experiential Immersion

The thing about culture is that it’s experiential in practice.  I can tell you what my corporate values are and try and describe my corporate culture to you, but unless you experience it being applied to real situations you won’t truly comprehend it.  It’s contextual.  This means educating new hires on what you value and why, giving them theoretical scenarios that they might experience and talking them through how those values might be applied to make the appropriate decisions, and then immersing them in various departments in the organization to see how that works in real life.

In many organizations this may mean investing more into new hires than they currently do.  In others perhaps it’s simply modifying the way in which induction occurs. That may seem daunting, either from a purely financial perspective or simply in regards to the additional time required before a new employee becomes fully productive.

It’s An Investment Not A Cost 

However, that ‘cost’ is virtually always an investment that pays significant dividends:

  • Employee churn decreases
  • The average time employed increases
  • The knowledge retained within the organization vs. lost to other employers is incalculable
  • The individuals productivity value to the organization increases
  • Less time managing employees with control mechanisms

On the soft side of the benefits you have:

  • Happier, more engaged employees
  • Increased loyalty
  • A distributed value system aligned from top to bottom that ensures better judgment and decision making
  • Increased empowerment, reinforced by trust systems

Take The Long View

These are just a few of the benefits, there are obviously many more, but realizing the massive gains does require a longer term view of the problem.  If you simply focus on short term efficiencies you will reap short term employees in return.  Of course, if you aren’t clear on what your corporate culture is, what those values are, and how they would be expressed that’s an issue.  That’s a conversation for another day however.

In short, an induction program should contain at least three primary components.

  • Train on the tactical
  • Educate on the fundamental
  • Immerse in the experiential

Induction is not simply about meeting your co-workers, knowing where you’re going to sit, knowing who to call for office supplies, and signing all the paperwork.  Induction should be about taking someone of known value (you wouldn’t have hired them otherwise), demonstrating that you value them, and making sure they have all the tools they need to succeed.  Or if you’d like to look at it from a managerial perspective, it’s about eliminating any excuses for the person to *not* succeed.  If they fail to add the expected value at that point then they have to own full responsibility for that.

Doing anything else is like having someone take the written drivers test before throwing them the keys to your Lamborghini.

Make the investment.  Make the time.

This post was originally published on XVALabs.

Photo Credit: CincyCAA-P Flickr via Compfight cc