There is an oft-shared exchange between a CEO and a CFO that goes:
CFO: Why train when people leave?
CEO: What happens if they don’t?
The key learning from the exchange is that the decision to train should not be affected by potential attrition. In fact studies have shown that people do not leave companies, but they leave poor managers (Buckingham, 1999).
On the flip side, a company’s performance is driven by its managers. Thus if a company is battling an attrition issue, the logical action is first to ‘fix’ its managers.
I was once approached to provide customer service training to a hotel in tourist town, and when I asked the owner-operator if he was considering training his General Manager first, his response indicated that he felt that training his General Manager was not a good use of resources due to his resistance to change. But think about this, what if the hotel had proceeded to train the staff and having completed training goes back to an environment where expectations from the General Manager are different from what was trained? The training would not have stuck, and the training investment would not have been realized.
Here is another typical exchange when owners tell me about how they feel that their people need training.
Owner: “My people need training.”
Me: “What do they need training in?”
Owner: “They need to be better managers.”
So what constitutes being a better manager? My definition of a good manager is quite simple: an effective manager is one who is effective in driving business outcomes and retaining people.
But what are actions and habits of managers are the ones effective in driving business outcomes and retaining people? How do you define and measure that?
One of the issues that many small to mid-size businesses now face is that their performance appraisal systems (if they have one in place) is top-down, with little or no upward feedback from the subordinates of these managers. As a result, effective managers may be overlooked in favour of managers who excel and managing perception of their bosses. However, in emerging markets such as Malaysia, the concept of upward feedback may still be novel, and sometimes evoke the unintended consequence. For example, I once encountered a manager who went back to her department to chide them for giving her feedback that she was perceived as grumpy.
Yet, this is no reason why we need to shy away from upward feedback. Research has shown that employees who are in an environment with the following 7 traits belong to business units with good business outcomes and high retention rates (Buckingham, 1999). The 7 traits are as follows:
- They know what is expected of them at work
- They feel that they have the materials and equipment to do perform their job
- They are given the opportunity to do what they do best every day
- In the last week, they have received recognition or praise for good work
- They feel that their supervisor, or someone at work, care about them as a person
- There is someone at work who encourages my development
- They feel that their opinions count at work
So here lies the necessity for training of the manager:
- For the manager to deliver items 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 well; they need to possess skills are commonly known as soft skills – yet soft do not imply easy. These are communication, coaching, problem solving and execution skills that typically require years of on-the-job training. Yet, a good starter leadership development course that is experiential that involves role playing will able to cultivate an awareness of the skills a manager is required to perform better.
- With regards to item 2; these are function/technical based training as well as tools (e.g., software) required for their jobs. This does not mean a carte blanche for managers to ask for sophisticated customization on their software. When faced with a RM20,000 software customization request once, I asked if the executive could generate an increase in revenue of RM2,000,000 with it. And when he could not make a case for an increase in revenue, the customization request was abandoned.
As for the subordinates, continued evaluation of what it takes for them to perform their current job better as well as what skills they need for a promotion is healthy is continued organizational development. Often times, in emerging markets, employees are promoted mainly because they expect a salary increase, not because they are able to perform in the role that is above them. For example, a high performing writer may not automatically perform well as a managing editor. In an ideal scenario, the Human Resources and Training Development function will be actively monitoring the progress of high-performers and be working hand in hand with business functions to craft career paths for these individuals.
So why not train to improve your business performance?
[Metamorphic Training offers 2 signature 5-day General Management Workshops that focuses on (1) Leadership Skills and (2) Functional Skills. Additionally a host other workshops and ready to go courses are available. We also offer training needs analysis to ensure that any training investment is focused.