I preach about the necessity of training and the value that training brings to business, but I do not practice what I preach with the degree of consistency or depth that I believe are appropriate.
Oh, I don't utterly abandon my staff without any instruction (well, not all that frequently), but I do not sufficiently engage in training the way I think it ought to be done: deliberately, repeatedly, and with a clear expectation of the outcome, both about "what" and "when." One of my resolutions this year, which I intend to keep, is to ensure that I clearly articulate to my staff what I expect them to know and to do and when. Beyond that, I intend to provide them with the tools they will need to meet my expectations.
Now, lest you think this post is not a serious one, let me clearly say that training is vitally, critically important. Were it not for superb training, Sully Sullenberger almost certainly would not have successfully ditched US Air Flight 1549 in the Hudson. Had Captain Sullenberger simply been told, "Fly the airplance safely and be sure to respond well in emergencies," the outcome of his well-publicized emergency would have been catastrophic.
A staff member failing to understand what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and under what conditions can be catastrophic for any business. An untrained staff member can deliver a ruinous member service experience or can destroy an important document without knowing what he or she is doing. Failing to file governmentally-required reports can be financially devastating. Misunderstanding the amount of time it will take for a shipment of boxes to arrive at a conference site can ruin the conference experience. Ignoring the need to renew property and casualty insurance in a timely manner could be utterly devastating in certain circumstances. Suffice it to say that a lack of adequate training can be cataclysmic to an association.
Now, the concept of "training" is a rather broad one; it includes on-the-job training, classroom training, hand-on-workshops, participation in webinars, information about where specific procedures can be found, online education and testing, and many, many other forms of teaching or otherwise ensuring that a person knows what to do in a given set of circumstances.
Fortunately for me, I have staff who know when they don't know enough to do the job...and they ask. And that's part of training...teaching staff that it's expected that they will know when to ask for help. But what I need to do on a more regular basis (and what I preach to others) is this:
- Clearly articulate to staff their duties and responsibilities;
- Quantify, and share that measure with staff, the way in which the success of training programs (whatever form they take) will be measured;
- Provide time for staff to participate in training, and make sure training takes multiple forms (because different people tend to learn in different ways);
- Take advantage of the fact that some staff have, or appear to have, inborn talents at teaching and training others;
- Develop and implement procedures and processes so that there is a consistent "way we do this" for staff to latch on to;
- Recognize and reward exceptional performance compared to the standards you have set for "acceptable" performance;
- Talk about training and what training is needed...not from your own perspective, but from your staff's perspective;
When your staff performs during your organization's own emergencies as capably and as flawlessly as Sully Sullenberger performed, you will see the value of training as clearly as you possibly can. And your staff will appreciate your recognition that they have achieved a level of performance that is far more than just "acceptable."