Why Your Employees Fear Training (and how to get them to stop!)
Do you remember that fable – one of Aesop’s, maybe – about the Emperor who wore no clothes, and the nice young man that paid the ultimate price for audaciously pointing that out?
Now, let’s fast-forward a few millennia, and recast this fable in a 21st century look and feel. To make things as simple as possible, let’s just go ahead and assume that the entire world of training is one big Emperor, and the multitudes of people who experience that training are, collectively, that Nice Young Man.
But this is where the similarities between these two tales should stop.
In the old-fashioned version, as you know, that exasperated young man – a kind of early ancestor to the whistle blower -- pointed out that the Emperor wore no clothes; and he suffered dearly for it. Eventually, however, other folks caught on – Knights and Dukes and Lady’s and other important regal people – and things turned out okay in the end. The Emperor was dethroned; or at least, given a bathrobe.
In our modern version, however, things are not unfolding with such bold, visible steps. Today’s Nice Young Employee – which, as noted above, is the collective mass of modern trainees – isn’t saying a word. Not even coughing. S/he isn’t even excusing himself from the training room right before the ice breaker, and returning seven and a half hours later during evaluations.
No, s/he’s doing something altogether more devastating than his ancestor who merely inspired a revolution. S/he’s detaching himself from your company, bit by evil bit, second by agonizing second.
I agree with you.
It really doesn’t get sadder – or more ironic -- for training and HR professionals than this. Here you are investing in someone, spending time to develop their skills and increase their capacity, and there they are, playing hangman on the handouts, mentally crafting the opening lines of their next cover letter, and popping red-striped mints every 15 minutes to maintain a sugar sustained semi-wakeful state that will invariably lead to collapse by about 2:15pm.
Future historians will reflect upon this phenomenon as “an interesting development in the early 21st century”.
Current Sales Managers (and those who love them), however, choose a somewhat different approach to summarize this, and it goes like this: AHHHHHHHHHHH!
Why so many H’s?
Because Sales Pros know – better than they deserve to – that there is an ironic wisdom emerging here that goes like this: if your staff is not effectively trained, then they might leave your company. But what happens if your staff isn’t effectively trained, and they don’t leave your company? They’ll become an albatross to themselves and to your sales success.
So you lose on both ends. Something must be done. And quick!
The Problem, The Hatred, and the Blame
So what’s the problem? Why do your employees fear training? Is it your fault?
These are important questions, and they can all be answered in a row: the problem is that your trainees aren’t approaching the training with the right perspective; your employees hate training because of this same reason; it’s not your fault at all.
At least, it’s not intentionally your fault.
And there’s another really good question that many will ask: can it be fixed?
The answer: yes, absolutely!
Your task is to get the biggest bang for your training dollar; and for that, most of you will look outside your company walls. This is perfectly normal and largely successful (when it’s successful), because people who know how to train are invariably going to be in a better position to do it than those who don’t.
So far, so good.
But how to you actually go creating the most effective training experience? Here’s how.
The 4 MOST IMPORTANT Factors in a Successful Training Experience
1. You must enable trainee buy-in.
Psychiatrists have been telling us for years (er…or they’ve been telling a good friend of ours…yeah…a friend…) that a patient has to want help before help can be provided. Fair enough. The same axiom holds true in the training world. You must provide your trainees with the right training framework. And what is the right training framework? Easy: they must want to be trained.
If it’s going to help them increase sales, convince them of how wonderful this will be. If it’s going to increase their capacity to earn more commission, tell them. Work with your outsourced trainer before the actual training event and promote these benefits.
Remember, please: negative expectations from trainees will pollute even the most well designed training, just as the world’s best psychiatrist can’t help our… friend…overcome his fear of circus clowns.
2. You must know what the problem is, and what the solution will be.
This one sounds too simple to be true. But you’d be amazed to see how often this factor is overlooked. Do you know what needs to be fixed? Is it deal-closing, or relationship building? Do you want to improve ROI? Motivate? Cut down on process redundancy? Align communication from different units, functions; heck, even cubicles and floors? If you don’t know what’s wrong, you won’t know how to solve it.
Or worse (and yes, there is a worse here), you might actually create problems by trying to solve the wrong thing. Scary, yes, but it happens. If you’re trying to solve a team-building problem by promoting individual accomplishment in your training, then you’re actually making things worse. And on top of that: you’re paying for it! AHHHHH!
3. Measure and monitor your sales metrics.
All of the training in our solar system is regrettably not going to improve your sales metrics if you don’t know what those metrics are, what they should be, and whether or not you’re moving in the right direction. You want to measure before and after the training to gauge effectiveness.
4. Who’ll own post-training?
One of the greatest advancements in the language of business is that people are now told that they own certain tasks. So who in your company will own the essential task of post-training?
Post-training. You may have successfully taken care of #1, #2, and #3 above, but what happens a week, a month, or a year after the training ends? Who will ensure that its legacy lives beyond the actual training experience? Memories fade, and enthusiasm wanes. You must elect someone capable of this ownership task, and empower her/him to do what is necessary to ensure that post-training gains are achieved over the long-term.
Training is not a 4-Letter Word
Please remember: as a decision-maker and training change agent, the problems that we’re solving here aren’t your fault. The perception of training has changed dramatically in the last decade; and it’s something that more and more people – especially skilled/knowledge workers – are disliking; even resenting.
Yet what hasn’t changed, and what will never change regardless of how dramatic things get, is that training is an essential part of a successful enterprise. The strategy is therefore not to fly the white flag of human resource surrender, but to approach training with total success in mind. Implementing the four steps noted above will firmly put you on the right track, and head you in the right long-term direction.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adrian Miller is the President of Adrian Miller Sales Training, a training and consulting firm that she founded in 1989.
Adrian Miller provides practical, hand-on, customized skills training programs, based on real-world selling situations and specific client needs.