The world has frequently experienced periods of economic uncertainty. While economies are somewhat fragile, trying to get organisational investment in some areas – in particular training and HR programmes – is somewhat difficult. What is it that prevents organisations from investing in the times when their people need it most? If there is ever a need for people to be at their best or a call for more loyalty from its people, it’s when there are shortages.
When economies stabilise and there is more movement in the labour market, organisations that have provided investment in employees are more likely to see them want to support their organisations and managers further. So, although companies tighten their investment belts during troubled times, they may suffer when things return to stability.
The main reason organisations (or the decision makers in those organisations) don’t invest in HR and training programmes is because they fail to link the outcomes to tangible benefits. Some people see training as a ‘nice to have’ but not essential which often means they haven’t thought it through.
As an example, if you employed someone to operate a new piece of machinery, you wouldn’t dream of letting them figure it out for themselves. You would expect them to be trained on how to use it properly, ensuring they knew the safety aspects and how to operate it at best performance. Why? Well presumably because you have invested in the machinery and don’t want it damaged. Oh, and probably because you won’t want a lawsuit or any bad press about injuries caused by your negligence or lack of training. A further consideration may be that you want to maximise the output of the machine so you want them to know how to operate it at optimum performance levels. Okay – that all makes sense but how does that apply to training someone who doesn’t operate machinery, like a receptionist for example?
Well, here’s the key point. For the same reasons you wouldn’t let someone loose on an expensive piece of machinery, you really shouldn’t let them loose on your most important assets – your customers. They can do as much damage to your bottom line without training on how to deal with your customers optimally as they can without being trained on how to run your precious piece of kit.
Think about the statistics you have probably heard in the past. One negative experience will mean the customer will tell 9, 12 or even 15 people? Whatever the number – it’s probably high. The people they tell may or may not act on it – but chances are it will affect their choices and they may tell others and so on. It’s therefore critical to understand what our customers are worth.
Knowing that Mr or Mrs Customer is going to come back time and again is worth knowing. If you’re working in a supermarket and the customer has $150 worth of groceries in their shopping trolley – your interaction with them is not just worth the $150 – it’s $150 multiplied by the number of times they do a big shop there. If that’s monthly and they’ll live there for 10 years, your $150 shop is suddenly $18,000! Now as the owner of the store, you may comprehend that, but as the shelf stacker do you care?
One positive, helpful experience provided by employees ‘trained’ on how to engage customers can win people over for a long time. Conversely, one idle, sarcastic comment can destroy any hope of repeat business from a disgruntled customer.
So, training to create motivated, skilful and knowledgeable employees can really save money, improve profits and provide a return for what you spend in helping get to that point.
Return on Investment is the key
How do you do it? How do you help your manager see it that way and how do you get that business case signed off? You show them the ROI (return on investment) of doing it – or indeed of not doing. Some simple sums like those in the examples above can easily show why it’s necessary to train your staff on customer service, sales, dealing with complaints or whatever you think will help keep customers and attract more.