By Jeannine Rizzo, President of the Inside Edge &
Howard Shore, Principal of Activate Group
Too often the Chief Human Resource Officer or Director of Training and Development calls to ask for a price to conduct a training session before giving enough thought to defining the company’s real issues at hand and how to best address them. The main issue is always how to maximize some aspect of a company’s growth performance, so before one can decide on whether to invest in training, one must first determine whether that training will hit the intended target.
One also must weigh the cost to implement that training against the projected increase in growth to determine if there is adequate return on investment. Not doing so commonly leads to failure in targeted outcomes. Typically, a company under-invests in proper training because they do not realize the magnitude of the issues at stake. They go to the cheapest bidder (and usually the least effective program), or they invest in the wrong program altogether.
Investment dollars are a coveted resource, and it’s always prudent to utilize them in way that will result in the greatest return on investment. Management typically –and mistakenly – views returns on investment from training as intangible and does not allocate resources to their intellectual assets (“people”) in the same way they do to their hard assets (e.g. plant, real estate equipment, etc.). The returns on investment from training both can and should be measured. In addition, when it comes to investing in people, the decision is even more critical. Many times your return on investment can be much greater because your people make the decisions that affect hard assets and, more importantly, your strategies, customers, and products/services.
Investment in developing your human capital is necessary to continue to drive your business growth. The stronger the team is, the more likely it is that deliverables are achieved.
Another common mistake in the approach to training is to use cookie-cutter systems, a “one size fits all” approach to people development. In other words, we assume everyone is the same and provide the same solutions to all. For example, if you contact a company for a training cost estimate, and they readily give you a quote without doing substantial due diligence, you may rest assured that you will get a subpar outcome. In addition, if you send your people to training programs conducted with homogeneous groups of people from other companies in a “cookie cutter” program, they will gain some knowledge, but you will again have a subpar outcome because the program did not address your company’s unique needs.
Amplifying the problem is the business trend to create job descriptions that define a position’s responsibilities based on the abilities of the ideal candidate. However, the reality is that new hires are usually less than ideal, and the definition of the ideal candidate often describes less than 1% of the population. So now you have employees that are less than ideal, and are great at some things and not at others. This can be said for everyone on the team. Reality is that people are unique in what they know, how they feel, and what they do. The leader’s responsibility is to know the team and what they do well, and to leverage them accordingly to achieve the desired business outcome. Each player excels in different areas, so doesn’t it make better business sense to partner skill sets to achieve common goals rather than to expect everyone to excel at everything?
When assessing how to maximize your growth performance you have to look at each individual in terms of “strengths” instead of “weaknesses.” Think about the things you do well. They’re fun! You enjoy them! You can do them all day! Time flies by! They’re exciting! Exhilarating! Refreshing! You’re motivated! You’re infused with momentum! You’re in the “zone”! Now take a moment to think about the things you don’t like doing. You dread doing them! You procrastinate! You feel burdened! You feel tense! It’s a chore! When people are doing things they don’t enjoy, they complain, move slower, produce less, procrastinate, and are less engaged. So even if you train someone to be better at things they find less appealing, they still won’t achieve the goal of maximum performance.
To create an effective training program and to get your return on investment, you have to look at the outcomes that are not happening and evaluate your players. The big challenges faced when looking at a team are: 1) whether the right people are on the team; and 2) whether the players are in the right seats. Many times it is important to replace some of those players because they are destroying the team’s ability move up to the next level, and no amount of training will change that. Training can teach people some new skills, but it won’t remake the person. Very often the personality makeover is exactly what owners are hoping will happen, and that is just not realistic.
Once you have the right players, and they are in the right seats, you then need a training program that will help them strengthen and bring out their true abilities and neutralize their weaknesses. For example, Shaquille O’Neal will never be a good free-throw shooter. If his coaches hinged the future of the team based on his making 90% of his free throws, they would never win a game. However, once you’ve helped him maximize his footwork in the paint and learn some nice short-range shots, he is unstoppable.
When a team is executing the aspects of the job in which they are strong, their results are explosive! People are motivated, excited, enthusiastic, optimistic, and driven. They take initiatives, stretch them, and achieve results. The objective then is to leverage strengths and actively look for others who are strong in areas in which your current team is weak. The investment of time and money here is much more strategic and results-driven. Unfortunately, most leaders spend a tremendous amount of time and money developing people in areas in which they are underperforming (the weakness) with the hopes of raising the skill level in that area. It’s a noble effort, yet a poor business decision.
The Inside Edge is a strategic partner of Activate Group. Jeannine Rizzo is a world-class designer and implementer of custom training solutions for domestic and global companies. To learn more about her solutions, contact her at (561) 267-2005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Activate Group helps clients maximize their growth performance by providing strategies on the fly, knowledge, and motivation. Contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email@example.com to find out how a business coach and our consultants and trainers can help you accelerate your success.