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The one thing an employee training won't fix
Joann Corley
December 13, 2020
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It was another phone call that is becoming a regular occurrence. The voice on the other end exclaimed, "We need help!", and with much animation and expression my soon to be client continued to share the concern and frustration of many of her employees. In that moment, she was their voice. She was the one who would listen intently to the stream of complaints and vexations regarding the leadership staff. She went on to explain that in the past they'd had "traditional management training" -- you know, the one day seminars. But nothing really changed. "We've got to try something else." I suggested our management and leadership development roundtable approach (our employee training and development process) and set a time to meet.

During our first day of meetings, I talked privately with a variety of employees and key stakeholders. What became clear is that a previous leader had a debilitating leadership style which had a sweeping affect on the entire organization. A new leader was put in place that had the exact opposite leadership style which resulted in a substantial leadership void. Not only was there a vacuum, but a wake of employees' hurt, pain, disillusionment and discouragement, accompanied by a directionless, disconnected leadership team.

If you are an HR professional or key decision-maker, please note, "a simple employee training day" is not going to fix this. Yet many times, that's the choice that's made.

In my experience there are 2 main reasons why:

1. Key leaders, decision-makers do not understand or appreciate the "human experience" in the work environment.

2. There is a disconnect between how behavior (the human experience) impacts revenue. Therefore the "cheapest" prescription is chosen without being clear on the need and the best remedy to meet it. I call that the spray and pray decision. Let's spray out a bunch of information in an "employee training seminar" and pray it sticks and fixes things.

I've said in previous posts, when dealing with employee performance problems, many decision-makers want a bandaid, when surgery is what is really needed. A bandaid seems to be much cheaper... really? And by the way, this is beyond an HR problem as some like to direct it...it is overall a leadership and management problem.

As I began to facilitate the mending of relationships within this leadership team, where candid conversations were had, a collective vision was created, authentic desires and outcomes were mined and expressed, apologies were made, the oppressive veil of the past began to lift and with that a resurgence of intrinsic motivators and energy of each leader. (By the way this is a description of what makes a good employee training session!)

That essential "human resource" of being willing and motivated, the desire to help and support began to show itself with pro-active problem solving, constructive interaction with team members and an overall sense of renewed confidence and hope among many other results. The impact this training on employee motivation - the ripple effect to those they were leading was substantial!

One act to resolve an ongoing challenge saved within a span of a few weeks $30,000. One act by one person because of a change in attitude as a team restored its trust and mutual respect. Someone went from being enveloped in resentment, intentionally restricting the use of his skills, to being a willing, full participant in the leadership team and the needs of the company -- volunteering his skills and resources to improve results. (Another team with a similar situation and action resulted in a $60,000-$70,000 impact in a similar time period.)

Here's the key take away -- behaviors impact revenue. Behaviors are generated by real human beings -- crazy I know.  

Unless those behaviors and needs of those human beings are not addressed (and what generates those behaviors, attitudes, thinking, emotions, etc.) candidly and truthfully in a safe, supportive environment, they will rarely change or change to the needed degree.

In this case, the deeply human part of the leadership team needed skillful, empathetic attention.  This compelling need, common across our workplace landscape cannot be adequately and appropriately addressed with workshops or training seminars.

My experience in corporate consulting continually makes a case and exposes a significant need for having coaching as a standard and integrated element of business operations. Particularly having someone as a trusted advisor and independent lens by which to assess your business. We call it, "coach-on-call" or having a corporate coach. You can learn more here.

You see, you can spend a few thousand dollars on a seminar and still have the $30,000 or $60,000 ongoing cumulative problem unaddressed, the wounds not healed, respect and trust unrestored and broken relationships still in pieces. That's the deception of the bandaid solution, it feels as if you're doing something constructive, but in essence money is being spent that isn't thoroughly addressing the true needs to achieve the desired outcomes. What makes this a reoccurring condition in the HR industry is the lack of ability many HR professionals have in seeing, admitting, advising and not leading regarding these issues, particularly in the early stages. This is something in which we must become competent or else we will continue to be a compliant partner in wasting our company's money. Ugh!

If you've not yet developed a meaningful level of skill in this area, get help! One conversation will be of great value.  But no matter where you seek help -- get it in a timely fashion. Your timeliness is part of the equation in receiving a high return-on-investment.

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