Why Train? Confidence.


There have been several people posting the “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to,” quote lately, and attributing it to Richard Branson. I happen to agree with this sentiment, and even if Mr. Branson didn’t say it, he seems to run his companies like he believes it.

If a captain of industry operates his companies by this rule, and everyone who comments on it seems to agree, why do so many companies not train their staff? I’ve seen three reasons that leap out to me.

The first reason seems to be cost.

Since the economic downturn of the late 00’s, organizations have taken the stance to cut costs in any and all ways possible. Labor is a high dollar item, and is often one of the first areas scrutinized for reduction. Ten years ago we saw simply the elimination of professional development. Organizations stopped reimbursing tuition, stopped sending employees to conferences, stopped paying for certifications, or stopped even providing formalized training of the organizations internal processes and procedures.

Once the items outlined in reason one became the norm, the second reason came into play, which seems to be a belief that training is unnecessary.

The belief that training is unnecessary stems from first, the expectation that if the job seeker market is saturated with people that have the skills and require no training, why would a company want to put forth the extra effort and money to train someone that doesn’t have the skills? Companies decided that they would only hire individuals who came “pre-qualified” with training and experience. When companies were able to continue operating under that model, they moved into providing no training for new hires with or without prior experience. After all, why would anyone have been hired if they couldn’t do the job? The good people would “pick it up” and the people who couldn’t (no matter how complex the job) weren’t worth keeping anyway.

The third reason seems to be turnover.

Training is an investment. Why would a company invest in an employee who could take that investment with them when the employee moved on? Companies certainly wouldn’t want their competitors to benefit from any investment made in staff that might someday go work for that competitor.

Since these reasons exist, why is there any incentive to train?

Confidence gives people charm, the courage to fail, emotional security, and the ability to keep their head in bad situations. Confidence allows your staff to face all kinds of situations, both good and bad, knowing “I can handle this.”

Here’s what happens when you don’t help your team build that confidence:

My wife and I recently had occasion to purchase the Cash Passport Prepaid MasterCard for our son who was traveling out of the country. The only place we could easily purchase this product was at the Travelex Foreign Currency Exchange office at Sky Harbor Airport. This office offered two services. They performed currency exchange, and they sold this single product. In fact, the entire office was covered in advertising touting the MasterCard product.

There was only one young lady working in the office that day. My wife and I told her that we wanted to purchase the prepaid MasterCard. She was horrified. She explained that she had only worked there a week, had never sold one before, and didn’t know how. She was very nice, very professional, and deeply sorry for the inconvenience, but our transaction still took 30 minutes, and she had to call her manager at home 4 times.

This was a person who wanted to help, but wasn’t equipped to do so. My wife and I were very patient, but it was obviously an uncomfortable experience for this young lady.

Later that day we also want to pick up a Blu-Ray for our daughter at Fry’s Electronics. They advertise price matching, so we brought our selection to checkout with the appropriate product up on the Amazon mobile site. Even though there were price matching signs everywhere, and Amazon typically does price at a level lower than brick and mortar stores, the cashier was unable to approve the price match. 2 “managers” had to be engaged to approve the price change, while the young man checking us out stood to one side and watched helplessly. He wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about trying to help us as the young lady at Travelex, but he was equally unable to provide a basic service advertised by the organization he worked for, and our relatively simple transaction took about 10 minutes.

Is this how your team performs? Do they wow their customers? Do they have everything they need to provide amazing levels of service? Do they take risks? Do they engage? Are they confident that they can help the next customer they talk to, or do they look at each person in line to be helped as one more hurdle they have to jump to get through to the end of the day?

If your team doesn’t have what they need to amaze their customers, both internal and external, that is a demoralizing experience that will show through in each and every transaction. I know that when I’m a customer, and I see staff that are obviously adrift, all I can think about is that if the company won’t take care of their own staff, they obviously aren’t going to take care of me.

“Welcome to Company X. I probably won’t be able to help you.”

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  • @jhaletweets The wikipedia article on his book "Capitalism and Freedom" is a good intro. Relevant to current political/economic climate 1 month ago

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