Training and Culture … Cause and Effect?

Author: Eric Allgood CMgr CAHRI MAITD

What does your training, or lack of it say about your business? Have you ever been to a company where everyone just seems switched on, knows what they’re doing, and happy?

The way the company inducts and trains its staff is most likely the answer. Studies, too numerous to mention, have shown team members who feel they are valued by their employers, have adequate training and knowledge, and are empowered to do their job are far more engaged than those who aren’t. This is an obvious link for many, yet very few organisations create ingrained training processes to ensure their team performs.

What do you expect from your team, do they know this from day one, have you created support mechanisms to ensure they not only understand how you’ll be measuring success but also ensuring they have the tools for it?

Let’s look at a basic example:

Cafe smiles ensure that all their team knows how to make good coffee as a minimum (they have a few who may exceptional coffee but have ensured everyone else can hand out a decent coffee if required). They’ve explained to their team they expect all tables and floors to be cleaned regularly and it is everyone’s job to ensure this. The management told their team they’ll be measured against smiles (the teams and the customers), wastage, and cleanliness. Furthermore, management hold weekly meetings where the team is updated on any safety issues raised, cafe promotions, and where a different team member trains the rest in a certain skill. When new team members are employed, they are buddied with a different person for their first five shifts to ensure they learn all aspects of the cafe and not just the area they have been hired to specialise in. On their first shift, they are given a workplace tour, safety inductions, and ensure that all IT requirements are working (log in and out of shift, for example)

Cafe frowns, on the other hand, tell their new people when their first shift is and expect them to carry out all their duties, because, after all, it’s a cafe, not rocket science! No further support is given.

These two comparisons are real summaries of two different cafes. The first cafe has very little turnover of staff, negligible customer complaints and runs very efficiently. The second cafe has a large staff turnover, regular complaints (rarely severe, but regularly about waiting times, quality of coffee, and staff attitude). The ongoing costs to the second company in time and money due to the lost customers and staff turnover created considerable strain on profitability and team members aren’t happy and complain regularly about working conditions.

To be honest, these cafes are actually the one and the same, just the wrong order. Cafe frowns came looking for a better way to recruit staff to reduce turnover; upon investigation, it was discovered their turnover was due to a poor culture, created from a disengaged team.

By simply creating a basic mentoring induction program, making clear expectations, and constantly setting new minimum benchmarks through sharing of knowledge; the team became more engaged, worked better, and without complaint. In turn, customers noticed the improvements and their complaints reduced substantially. What was the cost? In real terms nothing, because the “lost time” in mentoring was actually considerably less than the real lost time in untrained staff trying to work out how things work and what they’re supposed to do, and most importantly couldn’t cover if certain team members did not show up for work!

Training doesn’t necessarily mean high cost, external provision, and certification; it just means ensuring you are setting your organisation up to succeed, not to fail. This example is a good illustration of how the attitude of management toward training can adversely affect an organisation, remember, attitude is contagious so make sure yours is worth catching!