By Paul Glover
When managers decide to train their employees, they are sometimes disappointed when their efforts fail. This happens because managers don’t always train employees on the skills that are most essential for moving the company forward.
The terms, training and development, often are used interchangeably, but they are actually two very different concepts. When you train employees, you help them work with their existing skill set so they can better perform their current job. But when you develop employees, you provide them the opportunity to broaden a skill set that will take them to the next level of employment with the company.
Unfortunately, many managers neglect to train employees. It frequently happens when an employee gets promoted into a new position and is expected to automatically have the skills to be successful. Think about a manufacturing plant, for example, where a fantastic third-shift employee gives 100 percent to the company. When his supervisor retires, management sees this wonderful front-line employee who does his job better than anyone else, so they promote him. The problem is that what he’ll do in his new job is not what he has done in the past, so he may not have the skill set needed to perform successfully. He needs training!
Statistics show that 50 percent of all front-line leaders who are promoted to the next level fail at that new job, and some even return to their previous lower-level positions. They fail because they don’t have the training to be a leader instead of a worker. Sure, they may receive training on machinery or processes, but soft skills—the ability to communicate, supervise, and work in a team—get overlooked. These skills are essential in a knowledge economy where we want employees at all levels to use their brains and be innovative, creative, and engaged with the company.
So how can you provide training so an employee has the best chance of success? First, ask the person what he needs. When doing so, explain that you want to help make his job easier and that asking for additional training will not be considered a weakness or have negative ramifications. It’s also important to let the person know that the need for continuous improvement and training is not an indictment—it’s a sign of progress. Once people see that training will benefit them (personally and professionally) along with the company, they will be more likely to participate.
Managers also must provide timely coaching on those necessary soft skills mentioned previously. Although you can send an employee to communication classes, you must help the person implement the lessons learned when he returns to the workplace to make the new skills stick. Finally, monitoring the employee’s progress through periodic performance reviews helps put the changes in perspective.
Sometimes managers are reluctant to spend money or time on training because they see it as a drain, but it takes high-performance employees to create companies that can compete on a global level. This means investing in your people so they can do their best work. Employees can bring their brains, ideas, and energy to the workplace, but you have to develop and nurture the skills they need to be innovative and creative.
“Recovering attorney” and long-time business and executive coach Paul Glover bares his knuckles to present 76 strategies and tips to thrive in the Knowledge Economy in his new book, “WorkQuake,” published by Round Table Companies. The blogger for FastCompany.com coined the term, “WorkQuake of the Knowledge Economy,” to capture his unique insights and tools to implement organizational change in the knowledge economy. Glover’s writing has been featured in The Business Edge, Vistage, Manufacturing.net, and Food Manufacturing. He is based in Chicago.