I do believe training can help improve team performance and is a key aspect of a leaders’ role to invest in the skills of their people… but it is not easy at all.
I’ve lost count of the number of internal training sessions I’ve delivered over the years. I’ve also authorised many external training days for my teams with experienced and qualified Trainers facilitating.
Training is expensive, often with direct and indirect costs. And let’s face it, people don’t stay in jobs as long as they did in years gone by so there is a risk your investment will walk out the door before you realise its benefits.
Group training can be very hit and miss with so many variables that come into play that determine what sustained impact it has on actual performance. The readiness and interest levels of the participants, the skill of the trainer, the timing, the location, the topic and the understanding of the business need are all factors that can help or hinder training programs.
There is a saying “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. In the past I’ve walked away, feeling frustrated, from training sessions that I’ve run, thinking how I wasted my time because nobody seemed interested or willing to learn. In hindsight, I set myself up to fail on those occasions because although I was ready to teach, I didn’t take the time to find out whether the team were keen to learn. I assumed that my enthusiasm to overcome a business challenge, would translate into a willingness from others to want to be involved in the solution. I was wrong, so despite my passion, my messages fell on deaf ears. This was a tough thing to learn (and expensive).
I am still a believer in training and with the world of work changing faster than ever before, I have no doubt training for new skills will be essential to meet the employment demands of the future. Productivity is a massive issue for Australia that can be addressed in part by upskilling and keeping people in the workforce. With the release of the recent government “Intergenerational Report”, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey indicated more flexible superannuation options to allow people to draw from their savings, possibly to pay for education or career retraining.
Practice – “earn the part”
I recently watched the movie Whiplash starring J.K. Simmons as a Conductor who runs his Studio Band musical group with an iron fist. For the musicians in his Band, being a ‘core’ player is the ultimate goal and something the aspiring young drummer, Andrew Neiman (played by Miles Teller) wants more than anything.
The Conductor tells him he must “earn the part”, so Andrew practices obsessively, often until his fingers bleed to improve his drumming speed and skill. Now this movie is quite confronting. The combination of a relentless and abusive teacher with an overly determined, pig-headed student is extreme, but it certainly highlights the truth that those who have talent and regularly practice continue to improve.
Many of us in the workplace can continue to improve through practice (without going so far as making our fingers bleed or becoming obsessive!).
If you practiced and got better at each of the tasks that make up your job description would your results also improve? I’d suggest the answer in most cases would be yes. But the real questions are do you really want to improve your performance and are you prepared to do what is required?
Personally I love learning and I’m the first to throw my hand up when an opportunity comes along to attend a course or participate in a training session, however I must admit I rarely allocate time to practice. Greg Savage, the highly regarded recruitment thought leader speaks of the “craft of recruitment” that separates true Consultants from transactional job fillers. This craft is made up of all the niche skills required by Consultants to navigate the recruitment process from taking a job order, sourcing suitably qualified candidates, negotiating (salaries, fees, start dates etc), giving and receiving feedback, through to successful placement, then ongoing relationship building. Some Consultants are brilliant at taking a job order or presenting a shortlist but may struggle when dealing with a counter offer or rate negotiation. These are the things that can be improved through practice such as role plays, run-throughs with colleagues playing devils advocate and other methods.
Improvement takes effort
In my opinion, improving the performance of your team should be in the top few priorities for every leader. Teams can do so much more than any one individual and the job of a leader is to get results that help the organisation achieve its goals. Training and upskilling your workforce is in the best interests of all parties and as a leader this is something within your control. Practicing your own skills is also something you can do, along with encouraging others to do the same. Not everybody will be prepared to do it, but leading by example sets the platform for an environment of continual learning and improvement.
Ben Walsh – General Manager; Recruitment