Tag Archives: management

Why You’re Not Getting the Most from Your Training Dollars and How to Start Getting a Better Return

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate Zabriskie

Each year, organizations waste thousands of dollars on training that doesn’t deliver what the people who bought it thought it would. Consequently, many of those remorseful purchasers determine that either training has no value to their employees, the training facilitators don’t know what they’re doing, the program designers are out of touch with reality, or all three.

If only the root causes of training failures were as simple as those. Even with willing learners, great content, and strong facilitation, you can still encounter a host of problems that will keep you from realizing strong returns on your training investment. If your training isn’t delivering what you think it should, you may be suffering from one of three major problems that plague organizations big and small.

Problem One: Training isn’t part of a larger learning ecosystem.

Just because people participate in a workshop, it doesn’t mean they will change their behavior back on the job. In fact, even if while in class they demonstrate an ability and willingness to do whatever is being taught, all may be lost once participants exit the classroom.
Why does this happen? Good workshops usually fail to deliver because they are treated as a training solution instead of a component of one. In other words, a workshop isn’t the answer in itself; rather, it should be part of a larger apparatus or ecosystem.

Think about the incentives you can put in place to encourage behavior change and the barriers you need to remove to encourage success. Click To Tweet

Solution: Creating a strong learning ecosystem is an ongoing and often complex endeavor. It takes time to build a holistic structure that supports continuous development. That said, start small. For example, ask yourself:

  • Prior to training, do managers explain to people why they will attend a course and how they are expected to use what’s learned after the session?
  • Will someone with authority (other than the facilitator) launch the session by explaining how the workshop ties into the bigger picture?
  • Are there check-in opportunities after training to ensure that participants are implementing new behaviors?

If you answer “no” to any of those basics, do what you need to do to shift those answers to “yes.”

Next, think about the incentives you can put in place to encourage behavior change and the barriers you need to remove to encourage success, and the corrective action you will take if what’s happening in the classroom isn’t replicated on the job.

Once you start thinking holistically and view courses and workshops as a component of learning versus learning in its entirety, you will have taken the first step in getting the most out of your training dollars.

Problem Two: Continuous learning isn’t part of the culture, and training isn’t treated as a priority.

You have great content, you have a skilled facilitator in place, and half the people scheduled to attend the course don’t attend because training isn’t a priority.

When training occupies a position of “nice to have” and not “need to have,” getting the most from it becomes problematic. This most often happens when people are survival mode instead of on a growth trajectory. In other words, they are scrambling to get through the work instead of thinking mindfully about the work they’re completing and how they’re completing it.

In practical terms, if people are always putting out fires and don’t regularly ask “what have we learned” and “how can we improve,” why should they care about learning new skills?

Solution: Shifting from a reactive culture to one that is deliberate about its activities takes months or even years. However, it’s not difficult to make big strides over time when you begin by asking the right questions up, down, and across an organization.

Start the improvement conversation at multiple levels and at different times. Frequently ask, “what have we learned,” “what do we need to do better next time,” “what do we wish we’d known earlier,” and other such questions after projects, meetings, presentations, and so forth. In the rare instances when something goes perfectly, remember there are still questions to ask: “How can we replicate what we just did,” “why did that work well,” “is there any reason this approach won’t work again in the future,” and so on.

When questioning becomes the norm, the solutions offered via training should have stronger importance and value. For example, if turnover is an issue, a learning organization wants to know why and may ask several questions: “Are we hiring the wrong people,” “are we expecting too much,” “is there something better for the same money somewhere else,” “do our managers not manage well,” “do we need to provide people with better tools,” and so on.

Then, when learning and improvement are a priority, you’ll hear such things as, “Today is a training day for me. I’ll be unavailable until 4:00. If you have an emergency, please see my supervisor Melissa. The workshop I’m attending is of top importance and part of my effort to reduce the turnover in our department.”

Who can argue with that? The logic sounds right and ties into big-picture improvement goals.

To get larger returns from training, use questioning to drive improvement. The answers will help people connect the dots and understand why training is a priority and not just something they do because Outlook tells them to show up in a classroom.

Problem Three: Few annual development plans exist.

The world doesn’t stagnate, and your employees shouldn’t either. If they’re doing their work the same way they were five years ago, and nobody is encouraging or demanding change, why should they care about training or think you care about them?

Solution: Regardless of level, every employee should have a development plan and some learning and growth goals that connect to the big picture and enhance their skills.

“I want to improve XYZ skill to drive ABC result, and 123 is how I plan to grow,” is a quick and easy format to follow when setting development goals and three to five goals is a good number for most people.

Better still, if you can tie those goals to performance reviews, you’ll be amazed at the interest people develop in improvement, training, and implementing new skills.

As with the other two solutions, start small. If your company, for example, has no development plans, choose a department and pilot them.

Act Now

Whether you suffer from one, two, or all three of the problems described, take action now. When thoughtful goals and development plans are put in place throughout an organization, people are conditioned to ask the right questions and drive toward improvement, and a strong learning ecosystem supports learning, it is almost impossible not to realize a stronger return on your training dollars.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

The 3 Disciplines of Strategic Thinking

By Rich Horwath

Rich Horwatch

Do you get it? Translation: Are you strategic? How often have you overheard a group talking about a leader and saying, “She/he just doesn’t get it”? Do they say that about you?

Well, are you tactical or strategic? Does it even matter? A survey conducted with 400 talent management leaders found that the number one most valued skill in leaders today is strategic thinking. Unfortunately, research with 154 companies found that only three out of every ten managers are strategic.

So, yes, the ability to think strategically is essential. The real question is how can you continually hone your strategic thinking skills in order to thrive in today’s ever-changing business landscape? The fact is most managers are now required to be more successful with fewer resources. All managers have resources (time, talent and capital) to varying degrees within their organizations. So, technically, all managers are strategists. The reality, however, is that not all managers are good strategists. Herein lies the pearl of great opportunity: the deeper you can dive into the business and resurface with strategic insights, the more valuable you’ll become to your organization.

Strategic thinking is defined as the generation of business insights on a continual basis to achieve competitive advantage. Strategic thinking is different than strategic planning. Strategic planning is the channeling of business insights into an action plan to achieve goals and objectives. A key distinction between strategic thinking and strategic planning is that the former occurs on a regular basis, as part of our daily activities, while the latter occurs periodically (quarterly, semi-annually or annually). Strategic thinking is using a new lens to view the business. It’s not about adding more work. It’s about enhancing the view of the work and improving one’s ability to perform it.

To maximize your resources and profitably grow the business on a consistent basis, there are three disciplines of strategic thinking you can develop to continually ground your business in solid strategy:

Strategic thinking is different than strategic planning. Click To Tweet

1. Acumen: generating key business insights.

2. Allocation: focusing resources through trade-offs.

3. Action: executing strategy to achieve goals.

Discipline 1: Acumen.

One of the interesting paradoxes of strategy is that in order to elevate one’s thinking to see “the big picture,” one must first dive below the surface of the issues to uncover insight. A strategic insight is an idea that combines two or more pieces of information to create new value.

One of the reasons most people don’t enjoy strategic planning is because the plans don’t contain any new thinking. They are repeating Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity by doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. A key premise in business is that new growth comes from new thinking. Carve out time for you and your team to sit down and strategically think about the business, using the group’s insights to identify new approaches to the business. 

Acumen Question: What are the key insights you’ve learned about the business and how are you using those to achieve your goals?

Discipline 2: Allocation.

While it’s one thing to have a neatly written strategy on paper, the truth is the actual or realized strategy of an organization is a result of the resource allocation decisions made by managers each day. Therefore, it is critical to have a firm understanding of resource allocation and how to maximize its potential for your organization. With multi-billion dollar companies going through bankruptcy on a regular basis, it’s obvious in today’s market that having the most resources guarantees nothing. It’s how we allocate resources that truly matters.

The definition of strategy begins with “The intelligent allocation of resources…”. Resource allocation is at the core of strategy. Discussions of strategy boil down to how to allocate limited resources to maximize business potential. Where are you currently investing your resources—time, talent, budget—and are they focused on your goals and strategies? While everyone has a to-do list, only the best managers also have a not-to-do list. Remember that great strategy is as much about what you choose not to do as it is about what you choose to do. 

Allocation Question: What trade-offs will I make to focus resources?

Discipline 3: Action.

How often has your team invested time in developing a plan for the year, only to see that plan slip by the wayside once the fire drills begin? Fire drills come in the form of customer complaints, competitor activity and internal issues that are urgent, but not important. The key is to let these fire drills flame out and stay committed to the plan you’ve developed by focusing on your priorities, not the flavor-of-the-month tactics.

Action Question: What are my top three to five priorities and am I focused on them or fire drills?

The most important level of strategy is not corporate, business unit, or functional group—it’s YOU. The individual level is where strategy is actually created. Unfortunately, 90 percent of directors and vice presidents have never had any learning and development opportunities on strategic thinking. The good news is that by developing the three disciplines of strategic thinking, you can elevate yourself from tactical to strategic. The better news is that in doing so, not only will you become more valuable to your organization, you’ll separate yourself and your business from the competition. Do you get it?

Rich Horwath is a New York Times bestselling author on strategy, including his most recent book, StrategyMan vs. The Anti-Strategy Squad: Using Strategic Thinking to Defeat Bad Strategy and Save Your Plan. As CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute, he has helped more than 100,000 managers develop their strategy skills through live workshops and virtual training programs. Rich is a strategy facilitator, keynote speaker, and creator of more than 200 resources on strategic thinking. To sign up for the free monthly newsletter Strategic Thinker, visit: www.StrategySkills.com.

Job Candidate Ghosting: Three Ways to Minimize the Risk

By Jeremy Eskenazi

Jeremy Eskenazi

The Urban Dictionary describes ghosting as “the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date.” While dating and interviewing candidates is not the same thing, they are very similar in the early stages and can elicit very similar behaviors. Candidate ghosting is when you are actively engaged with a prospective employee, and at some point before their first day of work, they cease all communication. Ouch!

The market for talent is hot right now and this goes across all industries and career levels. It means candidates have more choices than ever and might be entertaining multiple offers. Even if you assume that job candidates have the best intentions during the recruiting phase of the relationship, sometimes good manners and their own candidate brand fall to the side when there is a lot of interest in their skills. When candidates stop communicating with you, it’s not only frustrating—it’s costly too.

Your candidate experience is so critical to your success. Click To Tweet

To avoid being ghosted, you must focus on the overall candidate experience. While there is as much head (clear processes and accountability), as there is the heart (being respectful and kind) in this process, there are efforts you can make to minimize job candidates ghosting you. Let’s start with these four areas:

  • Go deep on expectations. Provide a level of detail which includes who is on the interview panel (share LinkedIn profiles) and how they contribute to the decision process. Share the timeline for reference checks and background screening and the role the candidate will need to play, and any tests that might be part of the hiring process with a detailed description of the reason and approach.
  • White glove travel experience. If the candidate will be traveling for their interviews, make it seamless and build your policies with their experience, not your cost at the forefront. For example, don’t ask the candidate to pay for their travel and wait a period to be reimbursed. Book direct flights (not the cheapest that involve a connection), and book them at reasonable times. A day trip with a morning flight, back to back interviews, and a red eye return flight is not an ideal way for a candidate to learn about your brand or put them in a good headspace to think about entertaining an offer from you. 
  • Stay connected. Check-ins and pre-selling during all points of the process is critical. After every step, you should be asking the candidate how they feel the interview went, what they are thinking in terms of the company and the role, and how interested they would be in getting an offer at this point. You can use scales to ask them to rank from 1 to 10, and then follow up to understand why their interest is where it is. This shows you are invested in their success and they are not lost in a tunnel of endless interviews. 
  • Ask about shopping. Building trust with the candidates and then boldly and directly asking about their interaction with other companies is critical. Ask what other roles they are considering and what about those roles is potentially more appealing than what you might offer. This will help you be more effective at making an offer that targets their needs and is more attractive.

When planning for the steps above speed is paramount. We live in a world of instant feedback and immediate reaction. While the interview process can take time, if you focus on the candidate experience, they can assume you’re not interested and stop replying. Much like waiting for someone to call after the first date, what used to be a four-day standard is now more like a same-day follow up. Candidates need and deserve to know how long you will take to consider them for the next step in the recruiting process, and that you will get back to them either way.

Now, let’s assume you have made it past the interview stage and extended an offer. A certain way to get ghosted is to make an offer that is less than competitive. In hourly jobs, 1 dollar makes a big difference. For top candidates in middle management, certain perks are now standard, and multiple offers are common at all career levels. Sending an offer that is too low or not at all competitive increases the chance that you will be ghosted and remove the opportunity to even improve the offer or negotiate. This is where market data and non-salary perks become important as well. Not every company will be able to get into a salary war for their desired candidate, so knowing what other non-compounding benefits you can offer to sweeten the deal will help your chances of keeping the candidate engaged and interested through the recruitment process.

Suppose you got through the first two milestones and your candidate is ready for their first day. Would it shock you to learn that candidates today are increasing their first-day ghosting tactics? What a horrible experience to expect a candidate on-site for their first day of work and they never show up! All the work that has gone into welcoming and planning for their onboarding is for naught. Many employers try calling, emailing, and even try to contact the new hire through social media—they are often perplexed as to why someone would just not show. At this stage, the reason for ghosting often is because of a terrible onboarding program. After spending weeks of cumbersome processes and silence once signing their offer, they no longer want to be part of your brand. It’s possible they received another offer in that time while your team was not fully invested in them. While it’s certainly not good for their personal brand to ghost, it seems to be the non-confrontational option of accepting a role where they feel more valued. It was too hard before they even started.

Unfortunately, ghosting seems to be a growing practice. You rarely see it coming and there is no profile to predict who will ghost and who will not. Therefore, your candidate experience is so critical to your success. If you aren’t already, have a look at your practices at all the key touchpoints. Pressure test your process and think about how easy and exciting it is (or isn’t) for a candidate to move through. Think about how you can drastically reduce your chances of being haunted by the ghost of offers past! 

Jeremy Eskenazi is an internationally recognized speaker, author of RecruitConsult! Leadership, and founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique Recruitment/Talent Acquisition Management and Optimization Consulting Firm. Jeremy is not a headhunter, but a specialized training and consulting professional, helping global HR leaders transform how they attract top talent at some of the world’s most recognized companies. For more information on Jeremy Eskenazi, please visit: www.RivieraAdvisors.com.

Is Your Office Air Filter Installed in Error?

Dirty Registers, ‘Popping’ Sounds among Signs You’re Using the Wrong One

By Jonathan Carson

Jonathan Carson-HVAC System

As a business owner, you understand the need for routine maintenance to protect the equipment you use every day. One of those valuable investments is your HVAC system. Part of your routine may be to change your HVAC filters before winter starts. So, when you match your system with a filter that is the right size according to specs and seems to fit just fine, you are all set for the year, right? That’s what a lot of people would assume.

But there are four ways to know you are using the wrong air filter on your HVAC system—and the wrong filter wastes energy, and in turn, increases utility bills.

1. You hear a “popping” sound while installing the new filter.

Indoor air often is dirtier than outdoor air.  Click To Tweet

If it takes any real effort for you to remove the old filter—especially if you hear a “popping” sound when you do so—that is a sign the filter was too dense (e.g. too thick). This makes the HVAC system less efficient, which means it costs more money to operate and may lead to expensive repairs.

In addition, a filter that is too small will be sucked into the filter holder—and again you may hear a “popping” sound. In a case like this, you should either install a larger filter holder or add a second holder. Or if you have a pleated cotton filter that appears bowed when you are removing it, that lets you know that it was the wrong size.

Depending on the type of HVAC system, you may not be able to add a filter holder. In some cases, all you can do is slide in the new filter. In such cases, you can monitor the volume of air coming out of his ductwork by removing a grille. If you feel a rush of air after removing the grille, then you have the wrong filter. The airflow should be constant—a rush of air means the filter is too dense.

However, regardless of the exact HVAC system, it cannot be overemphasized that an incorrect air filter size will decrease airflow and increase strain on the air handler. This leads to the following:

  • Higher utility bills
  • Shorter equipment life span
  • More frequent repairs

2. How to “read” your filter and see if it is worth your “salt”.

If you can read the newspaper through your filter, then you know it is not dense enough to capture most dust and dirt. Another good test is to shake some salt on the filter. If the salt goes right through the filter, then is not keeping out dirt and other particles the way it should. This sometimes occurs when using a cheaply made, woven filter (often these are blue in color). While inexpensive, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Pleated filters made of cotton—usually 1 inch thick—are recommended for most standard grilles, as they keep out more contaminants.

Remember that a filter that isn’t dense enough is just as bad as one that is TOO dense (thick)!

  • The coil and ducts get dirty due to the dust and dirt passing through the filter.
  • A dirty coil and fan lead to more energy consumption (and higher power bills).
  • The increased number of particulates and pollen getting through the filter and stirred up by the HVAC system leads to poor IAQ.

3. Your air registers are dusty or dirty.

The supply and return vents for your HVAC system are more commonly known as “registers”. Supply registers are the covers for the openings in walls through which conditioned air is blown out into your workspace.

The return vents also have register covers, except they are connected to the return ducts. When your system is running, it sucks the air from the return vents through the ductwork and back to the HVAC system. Return vents are typically larger than supply vents and typically you won’t feel air being blown out of them.

If any of the registers are not clean—supply or return—this leads to poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). The most common reason for this problem is a dirty air filter. With clean registers and a clean filter, you can improve IAQ quickly and easily. This also lets your system work more efficiently, using less energy and saving you money.

4. Your workplace is dusty but it takes more than a month for the air filter to look dirty.

Like the previous point, this is an indication that:

  • Your air filter is, in fact, dirty.
  • Your filter is either too small or not dense enough.

Summary

In conclusion, indoor air often is dirtier than outdoor air. It’s imperative that business owners like you have the correctly sized air filter. Further, keeping registers clean and replacing your system’s filter at least every three months is recommended for most HVAC systems. Considering how much you spent on your system and the cost of running it, a few filters a year are far less expensive than an inefficient and unhealthy system. Well worth it, don’t you think?

Jonathan Carson is an associate with the Lake Wales, FL-based Natural Air E-Controls, LLC. Natural Air E-Controls, LLC designs and builds HVAC control systems that enable the building’s HVAC equipment to provide fresh air and remove pollutants by taking in outdoor air in amounts needed to improve indoor air quality while saving on heating and cooling bills.

Build Robust Customer Relationships by Taking a Proactive Approach

By Jill J. Johnson

Jill Johnson-customer relationship

While today’s sales process can appear streamlined and online, it creates complexities and confusion for consumers who have vastly more options in a global marketplace. The internet has blurred traditional sales territories because consumers can now search the world for the products and services they want or need. Finding the right one requires them to weed through many alternatives so they can make optimal purchasing decisions. Proactively building robust and trusting relationships with your customers provides opportunities to become their top advisor and go-to vendor. Anticipating potential customer service challenges will help develop a framework for resolving these issues in a manner that protects your customer relationship. Software applications and marketing automation also create opportunities for enhanced customer insight and relationship development. 

Team Efforts Build Strong Customer Relationships

The most successful salespeople develop strong and lasting relationships with their customers. They focus on solving problems, not just making a transaction. They become an advisor their clients rely on for accurate information and solutions to address their needs. They are responsive and do not leave their clients hanging for answers. With this approach, you can anticipate opportunities for your customers and present new ideas when your customers are most likely ready to consider them.

Improving your customer’s experience will build word of mouth about your effectiveness as a true sales professional—rather than just someone who manages transactions. Click To Tweet

Successful sales and marketing team members work closely together to create synergies among all the communications being used to connect with customers. Production and service teams must also work in sync with sales to deliver the quality order that has been promised the customer. There is nothing worse for the client relationship than a salesperson making a promise that production cannot honor. In most organizations, the production or manufacturing divisions are siloed from sales. Each has its own metrics by which they are evaluated and there is often little communication among them. When that happens, the entire customer relationship can be at risk.

Enterprises that effectively calibrate and coordinate their ability to supply goods and services the customer demands will be the most successful over the long-term. They minimize waste and scrapped inventory because they are creating specific products their customers want and will buy. Sales relationships that have been strategized throughout the enterprise provide the best opportunities for gaining accurate customer intelligence on product specifications and anticipated sales volumes. The same things hold true for those selling services. 

Maintaining Customer Relationships Requires Trust

When working with clients who have a long-standing relationship with your organization, it can become easy to take them for granted. Personal relationships often develop among the various parties on both sides. Frequently this evolves into a high trust relationship.

When there is a glitch in service or delivery, client relationships can be jeopardized. Clients make buying decisions based on trust. If something significant interferes with the trust relationship, the entire account can be at risk. It may be a missed delivery, inferior product quality, service glitches or price-points that are too high. When this occurs, it can be easy for everyone to assume that the relationship will resolve the issue. But when it does not, everyone must remember that business is business. The personal relationships developed with care over time can vanish when suppliers make mistakes.  Both parties have their own jobs to protect and their own internal political challenges.

Often the best approach is for a vendor to operate on a “No Surprises” basis with clients. When they know there might be an issue with service or delivery, the sooner they alert the customer the more options they have to maintain the trusted relationship. Understanding the latitude and flexibility you each have when there is a problem can move you faster to finding a resolution. Perhaps it is offering a price discount for accepting some reduced quality options or including additional merchandise in order to offset the inequity. No matter what, your client problem needs to be resolved effectively before it becomes a social media nightmare or results in the loss of a major revenue stream to your enterprise. 

Effective Client Relationship Management 

Building and managing relationships with your prospects and key referral sources require effort. It is more than simply having them on your mailing list or emailing them newsletters or updates. More personal and consistent one-to-one relationships are a must in achieving your mutual goals. 

You have to move from passive order-taking to developing a customer relationship focused on knowing their interests and requirements. Then match your outreach and communications to move them through their decision-making cycle. Reassess your prospect management to determine if you are relying on stale efforts that do little to move the sale forward or deepen your relationship. 

Years ago, salespeople tracked customer information on index cards. Today, robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has been a game-changer in managing interactions with current and potential clients. CRM integration with email marketing applications can enhance sales productivity and offer options for customer personalization.

Leveraging your CRM tools helps you stay on top of customer follow-up. This requires an investment of time in capturing information into the system. Once you do this, you can take advantage of opportunities to use its robust capability for data capture and market segmentation options. These efforts will help you more effectively manage your client relationships and provides options for efficient and appropriate outreach.

Final Thoughts 

Take time to review the effectiveness of your approach to customer relationship management. Don’t take your client relationships for granted. Just like any relationship, they need to be nurtured to be preserved and grown. Actively managing your customer and prospect interactions create more opportunities for engagement. Each engagement takes you one step closer to closing another sale or selling a bigger deal than you can currently imagine. Being your customers’ subject matter expert, anticipating their needs before they do and doing their homework for them is essential to successful and lasting customer relationships. Improving your customer’s experience will build word of mouth about your effectiveness as a true sales professional—rather than just someone who manages transactions.

Jill J. Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than 4 billion dollars worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.