Commonalities In Training
by E. L. Zimmerman
From service to sales, from medical to manufacturing, there are commonalities associated with any company's annualized training efforts. If, in your organization's training efforts, you're not committed to even a simple exploration of these guiding, fundamental principles, what honest assurances can you provide your senior officer that development is equal, effective, and distributed throughout management?
Knowing and accepting the commonalities that bind all organizations together is the first step; creating an annualized training agenda around these steps comes natural.
Simply, The Law
The CEO should know it. The CFO should know it. The departmental manager with a track record for writing up poor performers should know it. While they might at times appear confusing or demotivating, laws are still 'the law.' Laws regarding Affirmative Action, ADA, FMLA, FSLA, discrimination, harassment, etc., are the backbone of any 'policy-and-procedure' organization. Don't take my word for it; ask your legal department. If you're assuming that your senior officers know the law, you may be in for a rude awakening when your first EEOC complaint arrives and the OFCCP determines that an audit is warranted. Train for the basics, not the boredom. Associate the laws with good, solid, healthy business practice. Your goal should be for management to have a working familiarity (not a casual indiscretion with) of those labor laws that impact daily operations.
In my work life, I've read volumes of performance reviews, quarterly and annual. I've perused scads upon scads of written warnings. I've reviewed enough personnel records and/or supervisor's working files to fill a small library. Quite frankly, I often go on-the-record with demonstrating how many 'bullies' have never outgrown the schoolyard. Subtle and intimidating language is the bully's hallmark. These bullies are not just a 'working liability' to your organization ... they're, more likely, bad managers. While they may not be violating any laws, they might be drafting corrective action statements that, if handed to a jury, will be your organization's Achilles' heel. Train management on using positive, proactive, and productive language in effective performance reviews and written warnings. Eliminate those words and phrases that might be 'construed' or 'interpreted' as intimidating. Corrective action is a difficult enough process by itself; changing a word or two, here or there, and making it consistent with company practice is simple ... and essential.
Despite what they might be moaning to you today, managers prefer policy. It's their 'heavy.' It's their 'out.' They can blame policy for their respective ills. Policy provides management with a protective umbrella they can collectively hide under when the rain starts to fall. However, as PRACTICE becomes POLICY, I've always trained on PRACTICE. If your company has a policy manual, rename it your 'practices manual.' Then, you should create ongoing (monthly, if possible) training modules and exercises around these guiding principles. How many times have you heard, "I didn't know we had that policy?" In the circles I travel, the number grows higher and higher every day. While that might guarantee me a fair amount of job security, it certainly doesn't position me to "work smarter" because I and my staff are always "putting out fires." Ignorance of policy or practice is a symptom; either the Training Department isn't doing it's job, or management is failing to read policy statements the company issues. In addition, it's safe to assume that if management doesn't know our practices, they're probably not acting, enacting, or enforcing them. Train, train, and train on good business practice.
Recruiting & Hiring
There's a war out there. It ain't pretty. It's a war in finding, contacting, questioning, screening, selecting, stealing, and retaining the best possible workforce. The best workforce isn't a guarantee that we're going to stay in business; however, a highly kinetic workforce has statistically demonstrated higher morale, higher tolerance for workplace frustrations, and lower turnover. If you're not in the battle, then you're losing the war. Your management should be trained in the subtle nuances of recruiting ... seeking out new life forms and new civilizations to employ as the challenge to incent and retain quality workers will only grow in severity in the years ahead.
CEOs, CFOs, and executive officers either admire or despise me for the simple fact that I profess all organizations, despite the business make-up, need only one goal. What is the one, controversial goal? Simple. "To stay in business." How do we do that? Simple. "You make profits." "Sure, but how do we do that?" Simple. "You concentrate on performance." Departments can have separate strategies toward achieving the one goal. Managers can have varying interpretations of the importance of the one goal. How do we stay in business? Simple. "We produce." Without fail. Without argument or obstacle. Without surrender. Your organization should be managing for performance (quota, results, bottom line, production, consumer satisfaction, whatever, etc.). If the various departments of your organization are not all focused on this single result, then who knows how many directions the separate departments might be spiraling out-of-control in? Train to the one goal, and consistency will follow.
A training foundation is crucial for organizational success. Understanding the key elements binding together companies from across all business spectrums is a springboard for future benchmarking ... however, if you're not regularly training your staff around these key, definable elements, I'll bet you 'dollars to donuts' that their next employer will.
Caught wearing a stuffed shirt and tie as few times as is possible, Ed Zimmerman has served the noble profession of consultative management since 1988, both from the retail and corporate perspective. Presently, he provides HR consulting services and continues to shake up the corporate culture of a global wireless provider, maintaining his territory in AZ, NM, & West Texas. An avid Star Trek fan AND not afraid to say so, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.