Issues impacting the commercial performance of an organisation often focus on staff issues and the challenges they face. This invariably creates a training requirement.
All too often, though, a trainer is brought in only to make the staff feel better and the management look good. This is the familiar scenario where the trainer is a stranger who delivers an off the shelf message to an unknown audience and has no involvement in development or implementation of the newly acquired skills.
I have personal experience of this, even to the extent of arriving to deliver a training course to a group of delegates who had no idea what they were attending or why. In this case, the confusion was caused because the person who commissioned the course had left the company. However, I have also encountered this problem as a result of poor internal communication on the part of the management team. On one occasion, I didn’t even get to meet the management team that had commissioned my training course!
I do believe that far more productive results are achieved if the trainer can first spend some time within an organisation, becoming immersed in and understanding the day-to-day activities and issues. The aim is to establish and to gain insight into people’s skills and styles and where best to employ these.
The resultant training is more constructive and meaningful and helps identify the way forward for the organisation more clearly. It also helps the trainer develop interactive exercises and discussion points that are specifically relevant to the delegates and their organisation.
Typical of the issues this type of broader training programme can work with staff to address are:
· Working together differently and perceiving each other’s skills positively and perhaps in a new light
· Becoming more proactive as opposed to reactive
· Validating a commercial approach for more technical team members
· Developing structured working schedules
· Improving internal lines of communication
· Managing and enhancing relationships with clients
· Owning revenue targets and developing plans to achieve these
In my experience, though, it does take courage on the part of senior management to embrace both the input and the impact of such a programme. This is particularly true if organisational culture change is required in order to implement the new skills.
For this reason, whatever its objectives, I do believe it is essential that any training programme along the lines I have described above:
· Is clearly endorsed and introduced by senior management
· Is visibly seen to be ‘lived' by the senior management team
· Is not seen as a punishment for poor performance
· Ensures confidential feedback to and from the trainer
· Incorporates brainstorming of issues, themes, problems and opportunities faced by an organisation
· Permits the reporting of key messages, even difficult ones, to management
· Results in a tangible action plan for moving forward
Where training is actively employed to refocus the business commercially, by improving decisions on the ground, the results can be impressive as the following case studies illustrate:
A market research company was about to launch a new software tool which was believed to offer valuable applications for clients. As a consultant trainer, I encouraged the directors to seek input first from clients about what they really needed – before the launch. The result was a better targeted and more successful product. My subsequent tailored training programme re-focused their thinking, encouraging them to understand the business potential of responding to actual client needs, rather than implementing blindly the solutions that they happened to believe were best for their clients.
In a service organisation, the prevailing culture was to wait for clients to call with queries or problems. As a result, relationships with clients were usually fraught and based on difficulties and negative situations. My client service training programme succeeded in broadening staff understanding of the true meaning of client service and empowered them to move forward, proactively making contact with their clients. For the first time, they began to pre-empt problems and to facilitate and improve contact in general. Staff learned in a hands-on way how this approach is very different from reactive client maintenance which does not secure the loyalty of the client base and makes it extremely vulnerable to competitive pitches.
A Media agency was steadily losing business because it was not keeping track of or following up lapsed and occasional clients. As a result, over a period of time, revenues began to decline. Working and training with them, I helped the agency to appreciate the benefits of nurturing an already warm audience to find immediate commercial opportunities. This was very different from the initial expectation which was that new revenue and building more business would come from “cold calling” an unknown base of companies.
If you would like to know more about how a commercial assessment could make your staff training more impactful, please do not hesitate to contact me.