Why Training Means a Lot to Millennials

By Evan Hackel

Evan HackelWhen baby boomers took their first “real” jobs upon entering the workforce, their demands and expectations were ridiculously low by today’s standards. On their first day on the job they got an employee handbook that they took home and scanned while eating dinner or watching TV. Company training, if there was any, was minimal.

For the most part, they accepted the idea that it was normal to feel ignorant and unskilled in the first weeks or months on a new job. They expected to “learn the ropes” by making mistakes.

When it came to promotions, most boomers were equally willing to proceed by trial and error. Nobody told them, “Here is just what you need to do to get ahead in our company . . . here is the next position we’ll be considering you for.” One day in the hazy future, they hoped that their bosses would call them in and say, “We just gave you a promotion . . . you may leave early and take the family to dinner to celebrate.”

Was there feedback? Of course, there was. There were quarterly, semiannual, or yearly job reviews that usually followed the script, “Here’s what you’ve been doing wrong, here’s where you need to improve—so do it, session over.”

In short, many baby boomers were happy to toil away in black boxes, learning jobs and building careers in a loose way that would seem absurd to the members of today’s younger millennial workforce. Training is the place to build millennial productivity and retention. Click To Tweet

Millennials Have Far Different Expectations and Demands: Boy, have things changed. Today, most millennial workers would object strenuously to the same kind of conditions that baby boomers (and members of the generation that preceded them) thought were normal. If today’s millennials start new jobs and discover conditions like those in a new workplace, they are going to start looking for new jobs in a matter of hours.

Ample research documents that millennial attitudes are different. One major study from Gallup, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” reports these findings:

  • 60 percent of millennials say that the opportunity to learn and grow on the job is extremely important. In contrast, only 40 percent of baby boomers feel the same way.
  • 50 percent of millennials strongly agree that they plan to remain in their jobs for at least the next year. That might sound like a big percentage, but 60 percent of members of all other groups plan to stay in place for at least a year. Baby boomers and others are planning on sticking around, while millennials are weighing their options.

Learning and Training Are Key to Retaining Millennials and Maximizing their Productivity: Findings like those—and you can easily find more—document that millennial are more likely to be engaged and to stay on their jobs if they have opportunities to plan their career paths and learn.

Here are the trends:

  • Millennials like to feel capable and confident in their jobs. Millennials do not like to feel like rookies. Many think of themselves as leaders—or as leaders who are waiting to be discovered. They want to look good, and thrive on being able to confidently contribute from the first day they arrive on the job. The right kind of training—both for new and current millennial employees—makes that happen.
  • Millennials are usually skilled students. They like to apply the learning skills they built while they were in school. To them, learning feels as natural as eating three meals a day. As the Gallup study found, they are eager to learn. In contrast, getting baby boomers to believe in training can be a harder sell. They tend to view training as a burden, something they have to endure. Millennials say, “Wow, when can I start?”
  • Millennials are tech-friendly. Most of them love to be trained on their mobile phones and tablets, which are the most powerful training options available to many companies today. The result is better knowledge transfer, even to groups of employees who work in multiple or far-flung locations. Baby boomers, in contrast, are more tech-resistant. They are likely to freeze and resist when they hear they are going to be taking company training on their smartphones.

Training Is the Place to Build Millennial Productivity and Retention: A lot of training focuses on teaching needed skills. It should. But training can accomplish a lot more than that, if you use it to establish some of the following things that many millennials are looking for:

  • Mentoring relationships with their supervisors. Gallup found that 60 percent of millennials feel that the quality of the people who manage them is extremely important. With that in mind, your training for new employees can set up mentoring, not reporting, relationships between them and their managers. Explain how often check-ins and job reviews with their managers will happen, and what they will cover. And schedule frequent check-in rather than “on the calendar” pro-forma reviews that both managers and the people they manage find boring, or worse.
  • A sense of belonging on an energized and innovative team. This is a bit of a contradiction, but at the same time millennials think of themselves as individualist entrepreneurs, they also expect to be part of an interesting team. Letting millennials get to know their teammates during training, and fostering a sense of team/group identity, can help convince them that they have joined the right organization.
  • A well-defined career path. Consider creating a personalized career development plan for all new employees (the exception being seasonal or other short-term workers who will probably not remain with your company for long). Another idea? Enroll new employees in management training programs from their first days on the job. In retail, for example, you can enroll them in training that will enable them to manage their own stores in two years, or after another stated period. Millennials like to know their next steps as they build their careers, and training is a fine place to explain them.

Yes, training is important to millennials. They are the most energized, skilled and capable generation ever to enter the workforce. Train them well and they will become your organization’s brightest future.

Evan Hackel is CEO of Tortal Training, a firm that specializes in developing and implementing interactive training solutions for companies in all sectors. Evan created the concept of Ingaged Leadership and is Principal and Founder of Ingage Consulting, a consulting firm headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts. To learn more about Ingage Consulting and Evan’s book Ingaging Leadership, visit Ingage.net.

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The Cost of Poor Performance

Why failing to train your employees costs a lot more than you think

By Evan Hackel

Evan HackelMany people have heard this story, which has become a legend in the training industry. A CEO and department head were having a brief conversation after their monthly strategy meeting, where the focus was on employee training. The CEO said, “What if we spend all this money training our staff and they leave us? And the department head replied, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

A simple, but pointed, response. If you spend a lot of money on people and they leave, that’s not an optimal outcome. But if you don’t train your employees and they stay, it costs you a lot more.

A franchise group, comprised of more than 2,000 stores, experienced this training quandary first-hand. The head of sales had a simplified approach to hiring. He simply hired salespeople who had worked at other stores that sold the same kind of products as were sold at his stores. His assumption was that the experienced salespeople he hired were pretrained and that hiring them would save a lot of time and expense. Plus, there would be no need to acquire the tools that were needed to implement a training system. What if we spend all this money training our staff and they leave us? Click To Tweet

His decision to hire experienced salespeople made sense, but it was flawed. The fact that those salespeople had experience didn’t mean that they came armed with the best-selling skills or factual product knowledge. But after a few years of using his hire-the-experienced approach, he saw that he wasn’t achieving the kind of results he wanted. He sensed the size of each average transaction on the selling floor was too small. Buyers were not becoming repeat customers. Plus, his stores were receiving negative comments online about the quality of their customer service.

Because he could see that the skills of his salespeople needed improvement, he took the plunge and brought in an experienced training development firm that developed a program of e-learning for salespeople to train them to increase the size of the average ticket size, to improve their closing percentages, and to provide better customer service.

The performance of the salespeople his company trained was dramatically better than the performance of experienced sales people he simply hired. Plus, he soon realized that training was giving him another benefit: because he could hire high-energy, high-potential employees, not only those with experience, he was building a much stronger and enthusiastic salesforce.

After a year, the average annual sales made by company-trained salespeople had in many cases outperformed seasoned professional hires by $200,000 or more. When he factored in sales and contribution margin improvement, the people trained in-house produced about $80,000 a year more in profit. With an average five-year tenure for each employee, the training was worth $400,000 more in profit dollars.

That is another way of saying that the cost of not training each salesperson amounted to $80,000 a year for that company. So what really happens if you don’t train people and they stay? It means you’re going to be losing a lot of money.

Why Do Trained Salespeople Produce More Income? There are many reasons. Trained salespeople:

  • Close more sales
  • Generate larger average sales
  • Sell fewer products at discounted prices and more products at list price
  • Make fewer mistakes
  • Sell the right products, reducing the cost of returns and product replacements
  • Build customer relationships that result in more repeat business
  • Generate more positive reviews online
  • Increase your net promoter scores
  • Help keep morale and productivity high among all your employees, because people don’t like to work with untrained people who don’t know what they are doing.

What does poorly trained salespeople cost? Not training people costs money a lot of money.

Training Is Not Just for Salespeople: Training has a major impact on customer service practices across a variety of industries. Consider the often headache-inducing business of at-home product installation—one that would certainly benefit from customer service-focused training. The basics, such as explaining to customers the details of the installation process, an emphasis on clear communication prior to the start of the job, and of course, conveying the importance of punctuality can boost customer retention. Training staff to be cognizant of their customer service practices can also increase referral business, which can be worth extra hundreds, thousands, or even millions to your bottom line.

Every Untrained Employee Costs You Money: ROI on training is dramatically greater than most company executives believe it will be. In simple terms, if a trained worker becomes 100 percent productive and an untrained worker is only 60 percent productive, you are losing $40,000 in value on every $100,000 of business you conduct.

In Closing: Not training is hugely expensive—far more expensive than training. In your company, you should look for all the opportunities where proper training can dramatically increase profits, reduce waste, and provide an outsized ROI for every training dollar you spend. If you start to look, it’s nearly guaranteed you will find many more opportunities than you expect.

Evan Hackel is CEO of Tortal Training, a firm that specializes in developing and implementing interactive training solutions for companies in all sectors. Evan created the concept of Ingaged Leadership and is Principal and Founder of Ingage Consulting, a consulting firm headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts. To learn more about Ingage Consulting and Evan’s book Ingaging Leadership visit www.ingage.net.

Know the Difference between Edutainment and Productive Training

By Evan Hackel

Evan HackelLet’s look at two professional trainers—let’s call them Joan and Jack.

Both Jack and Joan are energetic trainers who get their audiences laughing quickly. They will both do whatever it takes—using props or asking trainees to do silly things—to illustrate a concept or get their trainees excited and engaged. And when trainees leave at the end of the day, they feel energized and happy.

But there are significant differences between them. A few weeks after training is over, the performance of the people who trained with Joan has really improved. The performance of the people who trained with Jack hasn’t. They quickly went back to “business as usual.”

In other words, Jack’s training is edutainment. Joan’s isn’t, because it gets results. And that is true, even though someone who peeked into either of their training rooms wouldn’t notice much difference.Think of training as a strong combination of education, engagement, and use. Click To Tweet

How Can You Avoid Wasting Money on Frivolous Training? The first step is understanding that although good training is often entertaining, it is not entertainment. In other words, training is supposed to achieve demonstrable results, not just make people laugh or enjoy themselves. The wrong kind of training can be called edutainment. It’s entertaining, and it does well on the “smile sheet,” but doesn’t actually have long impactful results.

Here are some steps that can help assure that your trainers and your training program reach that goal:

  • Think of training as a strong combination of education, engagement, and use: Training must educate by teaching skills, transferring knowledge, cultivating attitudes and hitting other specific targets. But training that is purely educational doesn’t get results. That is why training must present information in ways that are engaging, interactive and require the learner to think and use the information learned.
  • Apply the VAK Attack model to increase learning: VAK stands for the three ways that people learn, and your live training should make use of all three. Visual learning happens when people watch materials that can include videos, PowerPoints, charts, and other visual elements. Auditory learning happens when people learn by listening to people who might be other trainees, compelling trainers, visitors and others. And Kinesthetic learning happens when people get out of their seats and move around as they take part in work simulations, games, and other meaningful exercises.
  • If you’re hiring an outside trainer, speak with other organizations where he or she has worked: When you do, ask for specifics about what the training accomplished. Did average sales orders increase by a certain percentage? Did customers report measurably higher levels of satisfaction when they were polled? Did thefts and losses decrease by a certain significant percentage when training was completed? Remember to look for hard data about results. Statements like “We loved Paul’s training!” might be nice, but they don’t tell you much about whether Paul’s training was worth the money it cost.
  • Define outcomes and make sure your trainer can reach them: Do you want your salespeople to contact 25 percent more new prospects? Do you want the people who deliver and install appliances for your store to give true “white glove” treatment to customers? Or do you want your hotel front-desk staff to delight guests with exceptional service? Your trainer should explain his or her plans to break those processes down into individual steps and address them directly through training.
  • Help your trainer know who your trainees are: A good trainer will want to know about their trainees’ ages, prior experience, educational level, current jobs, and all other factors that can be leveraged to engage them more fully in training. A concerned trainer will also want to be aware of any factors that might cause them not to engage.
  • Work with your trainer to develop meaningful metrics: If you work together to define what you will measure after training is completed, chances are good that your training will accomplish much more, because its goals are well-defined.
  • Monitor sessions and make sure that training stays on track: If you are a company training director or a member of senior management, you might not want to attend sessions, because your presence could put a damper on trainees’ ability to relax and learn. If that is the case, ask a few trainees to check in with you at lunchtime or other breakpoints to tell you whether the trainer is hitting the benchmarks you created. If not, a quick check-in with the trainer can often get things back on track and avoid wasting time and money.

It’s All About Getting Your Money’s Worth and Getting Results: If you are a training director who wants to record serious results from serious training, it’s important to work closely with professional trainers who don’t only entertain, but educate. That’s the difference between training that’s frivolous and training that offers a good ROI.

Evan Hackel is CEO of Tortal Training, a firm that specializes in developing and implementing interactive training solutions for companies in all sectors. Evan created the concept of Ingaged Leadership and is Principal and Founder of Ingage Consulting, a consulting firm headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts. To learn more about Ingage Consulting and Evan’s book Ingaging Leadership, visit ingage.net

Take the Mystery Out of Training Millennials

Decode the millennial mindset more strategically to train them more effectively

By Evan Hackel

Evan Hackel“What are the most effective ways to train millennials?” is probably the question that training professionals hear more often than any other today.

To training professionals who were born before 1980—the year when the first millennials were born—the question can seem mysterious and complex. We look at millennials and see a group of young people who seem addicted to texting on their phones, who sometimes seem skeptical about the lessons we want to teach them, and who are prone to changing jobs frequently.

That’s what we see, or what we think we see. But do those rough observations really reflect who millennials are? Do they offer useful insights on how millennials should be trained? The answer is, not really. So let’s decode the millennial mindset more strategically and see what we can learn about how to train them effectively.

Meet the Millennial Cohort: The so-called millennial generation (also called “Generation Y”) includes people born between 1980 and 1998. Many older millennials, now in their early to mid-30s, are already established in their careers. Chances are that a number of them are already working throughout the ranks of your organization. They have already taken part in your training, maybe even designed parts of your training, and chances are very good that you already understand their learning preferences better than you expect. Another factor to consider is that some of the millennials who work for you are currently training your other millennials. So while you think you don’t know or understand them at all, you probably do.

Key Traits of Younger Millennials: Let’s focus on younger working millennials—those born between about 1990 and 1995. Chances are they are the group that is causing you to feel the most uncertainty regarding training. Millennials born between those years are the younger workers who might be applying for their first “real” post-college jobs with your organization right now. They’re young and fresh-faced. If you’re a generation or two older than they are, it could be that you’ve hit some roadblocks when creating training programs that work well for them.

Although generalizations tend to be flawed, here are some attitudes that training professionals have found to be shared by significant members of this cohort.

  • An entrepreneurial mindset – They want to stake out a business identity and space for themselves, even in larger companies.
  • Risk tolerance – Many are self-confident, able to take risks, and willing to help their employers take chances too.
  • A love of technology – They tend to be highly mobile and like to access information and training on smartphones and tablets.
  • Social consciousness – They tend to be compassionate and respond positively to working for companies that embrace and support social causes and “do good in the world.”
  • Openness – Many welcome being part of diverse workforces. Furthermore, they are more welcoming of alternative lifestyles than preceding generations were.
  • Career mobility – Your assumptions that millennials are job-hoppers could be correct. Many do not hesitate to change jobs as a way to achieve personal goals and success.

Critical Steps to Take when Training Millennials: Here are some ways to make your training more compelling and effective with younger millennial workers:

  • Deliver lessons and modules in short “digestible” chunks that millennials can absorb quickly. They are generally fast-moving and can tune out as soon as training seems irrelevant.
  • Use animations, videos and other moving images to deliver key concepts. They often work better than words or text to convey important take-away concepts to millennials.
  • Deliver training on platforms that millennials prefer and already use, including smartphones and tablets. Remember, millennials grew up using mobile devices.
  • Ask for their ideas and suggestions before and during training, because millennials think like entrepreneurs, value autonomy, and like to shape the content of their jobs.
  • Express your company values in your training. You can explain, for example, that your organization is trying not just to generate profits, but to support employees and do good in the world. When younger millennials see that their work supports those objectives, they are more likely to believe in company leaders and initiatives—and more likely to experience levels of satisfaction that make them want to continue working for you in the long term.

Remember that Training Fundamentals Still Apply: Don’t let the fact that you are training millennials worry you. Even though they may differ in some ways from your other trainees, the fundamental principles of all good training still apply. That means knowing who your trainees are and what they do, understanding the results that you want to achieve, identifying metrics to measure before and after training and delivering it in empowering and interesting ways. No matter who you are training, those principles still apply. So be brave about training your millennial newcomers, go out, and get the job done.

Evan Hackel is the CEO of Tortal Training, an executive coach, speaker and author of Ingaging Leadership: A New Approach to Leading that Builds Excellence and Organizational Success. Tortal Training specializes in developing interactive eLearning solutions to make effective training easier by specializing in engagement. As CEO, Evan promotes the Ingagement philosophy, which has helped countless organizations create a culture of partnership and common purpose to drive success. For more information on Evan Hackel, or to purchase his book please visit www.tortal.net.

Four Ways You’re Paying for Training… Whether You Know It or Not

Evan HackelBy Evan Hackel

Every company pays for training. You can either pay for it up front or you pay for it through poor results at many times the cost of doing it right. People don’t think about it this way, but maybe they should. Let me tell you a story about a company where a lack of training was costing $1.68 million a year.

There was once a chain of nine floor covering stores that was doing $12 million in annual sales. They had an overall goal to increase profits, which were sitting at an average profit margin on products sold of 34%.

Knowing that they could improve their margin if they focused on training and raised pricing, they trained salespeople to use sales tools and helped customers understand the true value the company offered. They focused on solving customer problems by concentrating more on the customer’s needs and helping them find the right products. By demonstrating value and being better in assisting their customers meet their needs, they increased margin and sales.

As a result, the company increased their margin from 34% to 48% – a 14% improvement. In that $12 million company, the result was a $1.68 million increase in gross profit dollars plus increased sales. The improvement in profit was demonstrable. The reality is that the true differentiator was the training. If they’d simply changed out the merchandising without doing the training, it would have had a much smaller impact.

Another way to look at it is that for years, a failure to train was costing that company $1.68 million a year in gross profit. The cost of training for this company was in essence $1.68 million per year, because they didn’t spend any money on training. You see, every company pays for training. You can either pay for it up front or you pay for it through poor results at many times the cost of doing it right.

Are you too paying for training without knowing it? Let’s take a close look at just how that could be happening to you.

Lost Opportunity – You Can Train Staff to Close More Sales: Let’s say that your staff should be closing 40% of sales, but currently they are only closing 30%. That means you are losing 25% of potential sales; if your company is doing $10 million in annual sales, you are losing $3,333,333 in sales.

With training, increasing a close rate from 30% to 40% is a reasonable expectation. Teach your staff how to be more polite, listen better, present products more effectively – and ask for the order. It is very, very doable. And if you are not doing it, you are paying for training without even realizing it.

Which is more costly, losing $3 million in sales or investing in training?

Lost Opportunity – You Can Train to Improve Employee Retention: Losing employees is costly. According to a study by the Center for American Progress, the cost of replacing a worker who earns between $30,000 and $50,000 a year is 20% of annual salary, or about $10,000. (If you’re losing employees who earn more than $50,000, replacing each of them will cost you even more.)

Let’s assume that you have 250 employees and that your annual turnover rate is 30%. So you’re losing 75 employees a year and spending $750,000 to replace them.

(You’ll also be losing money by paying unemployment benefits, losing sales during the time their jobs are not covered, and more, but let’s not figure that in.)

What if you did a better job of training employees and cut your turnover rate by 5%, from 30% to 25%? That is also very doable. That 5% improvement will pay you back more than you expect. If you have 250 employees, you will be losing only about 60 workers a year, not 70, a saving of about $100,000 a year.

Incidentally, the link between training and retention is well documented. Well-trained employees are happier and therefore less likely to leave. And because they do their jobs better, you will have to fire and replace fewer of them.

Which is cheaper – having a high turnover rate that costs you $100,000 a year, or investing in training?

Lost Opportunity: You Can Train Salespeople to Sell Just a Little More on the Average Ticket: Let’s assume that your average customer spends $25 on each visit to one of your locations. Through training, you can increase that average ticket to $28. Your staff can learn to refer customers to other products, upsell, and apply other simple strategies.

Let’s further assume that you have 400,000 customer transactions a year. If you can train your salespeople to increase ticket size from $25 to $28, you will increase annual sales from $10 million to $11,200,000.

Which is cheaper, losing a $1,200,000 in sales or investing in training?

Lost Opportunity: You Can Train to Improve Customer Retention: If your company does that same $10 million in annual sales and your customer retention rate drops five percentage points, which means you have lost $500,000 in sales. Yet the right kind of training in areas likes sales and customer service has been shown to retain many more customers. Again, it is “doable.” And the result can be a big improvement in profitability.

Which is cheaper, losing $500,000 worth of customers a year or training?

Let’s Review: You pay for training, one way or another. Every company pays for training. You can either pay for it up front or you pay for it through poor results at many times the cost of doing it right.

Your company results are affected by the quality of the training your company provides. Investing in training upfront is going to provide you a 10x or greater return on your dollar.

Additionally, training is the safest investment you can make. If you spend more money in advertising, it may or may not be effective in bringing customers to your business. Training is about improving results with the customers you already have coming to your business.

Question: every business is different, how much is poor training costing you? How could investing in training upfront improve your profits?

Evan Hackel is the CEO of Tortal Training, an executive coach, speaker and author of Ingaging Leadership: A New Approach to Leading that Builds Excellence and Organizational Success. Tortal Training specializes in developing interactive eLearning solutions to make effective training easier by specializing in engagement. As CEO, Evan promotes the Ingagement philosophy, which has helped countless organizations create a culture of partnership and common purpose to drive success. For more information on Evan Hackel please visit www.Tortal.net.