The Training Contradiction

Posted on Tuesday, May 1, 2018 by Elly HannaNo comments

Contradictions exist everywhere. Only yesterday I was reading that small companies are the backbone of modern Britain yet in the very same article that corporate Britain is killing our society. How do you circle that square?

Obviously contradictions are nothing new. Take a step back a few thousand years to ancient Britain and you’ll find the druid; a figure whose primary function was to keep the community he lived in safe from evil spirits, yet he often did this by sacrificing members of the very community he was looking after.

Modern contradictions thankfully seem far less dramatic.  However, with the internet acting as an accelerator and amplifier there seems to be a lot more of them and they appear a lot louder.

As an organically growing business our company’s success has been built on taking on recently educated, potentially capable individuals who are then trained, developed and given the opportunities to succeed. This has bought us enviable success. However, in the last three years or so this has presented us, as their trainers and mentors, with a new contradiction.

In simple terms, the training contradiction centres around two set belief structures that are hard wired to the modern worker.

The first is around micro-management. Everything you read from Sheryl Sandberg to Michelle Obama is about individual autonomy, flexibility and trust.  The idea of a helicopter manager on your shoulder, telling you what to do, when to do to it and how to say it, is the worst type of nightmare. “Leave us alone!!” is the constant rhetoric fed back to us as a management team.

The second is around personal development and training. The growth mind-set and continuous individual development are a matter of course for the modern worker. There is an unprecedented demand for training, support, coaching, mentoring, direction, focus, vison, and purpose. If it is not Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Syed discuss the importance of hours of dedication it is Elon Musk talking about putting humans on Mars. People want to think big and be trained how to do it.

So, how do you train people intensively, systemically, quickly and profitably when they do not want you anywhere near them?

This is the continuous management dilemma we face in our business. As a market leader in recruitment our training is rightly applauded across the industry yet we have to balance this with not pushing people away and thus facing a retention issue by being too professionally intensive or  invasive.

We have tried to cope with this in a logical way, by trying to understand the contradiction. Our belief is that if we provide a training strategy that people “want” to be a part of not “have to be a part of” then we can start to influence and develop individuals in a positive way. The days of a “one size fits all” training manual are behind us. We believe if people can chose and embrace something then they can build around strengths and areas of development rather than return to their classrooms.

Our Training Manager, Jocy James, has been remarkably progressive in understanding this and linking it back to our core philosophy of team work, trust and excellent customer service.  

Particularly Jocy has invested in a new training manager to provide one on one mentoring and to identify individual needs. Ben Browning has been deliberately recruited outside of the industry to give balance and allow traditional recruitment methodology to be challenged.  He provides a sounding board for all ideas and we are already seeing step changes in behaviour which are bringing success.

Jocy also has:

  1. Altered our training courses to be shorter and more specific to individuals

  2. Provided opt in courses rather than compulsory classroom learning

  3. Daily workshops with managers

  4. Set up managers’ training days focusing on their individuals and their individuals development

  5. Lunch and learns with Directors

  6. Drop-in courses and inter-departmental mentoring

  7. All day mentoring sessions for senior business leaders

All on top of the culture of training and development that already existed.

Jocy has also advised us from a sales perspective with a revamped commission and promotion structure.  The new structure is built wholly on rewarding outcomes not rewarding output. In simple terms, we don’t care how many calls you make, we care about how many milestones you have hit.

With these and other strategies we are hoping that we can iron out this modern workforce dilemma.

We have not managed it yet, we still have moments where people feel they have been over managed or left too much to their own devices. However, by tackling it head on and by embracing it as an exciting challenge we are beginning to see an internal cultural shift; a shift that is empowering staff to become more entrepreneurial, more dynamic and more industrious.

The end results are beginning to come through and are remarkable. Our first quarter this year was the best on record and we are forecasting a record breaking year by some distance. Staff retention is our best in five years, we have had more promotions, more pay rises and more success’ than in any 12 month period since we started in 2001. On top of that, the average consultant take home pay is also at a record high.

It turns out that with a proactive view on learning and a positive attitude on the modern workforce you can retain staff and deliver success. At least there is no contradiction there.

Robert McLeod - Director of Interim Executive Recruitment

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