Training / Train The Workplace

Category Archives for "Training"

Why performance gets worse before it gets better

When all employees learn a new skill, process or procedure their ability to do the job will be affected, no matter how much experience they have. 

One of the main goals of workplace training is to improve individual’s and team’s performance.

Let’s assume you want to introduce a new procedure on how to deal with customer complaints. It seems quite logical to assume that after someone has received training they will get better more confident and better at dealing with complaints, and customer service will increase. Right?

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that.

The reality is when employees are learning something new like a new business process or procedure or how to use new tools and technology it is normal for general productivity and performance to drop. Even the experienced employees.

The reason is simple; as the new information or skill is learned the employee needs time to process and practice it in the learning environment before they can practice and adapt it to their job. In many cases, they may even need to unlearn old habits to accommodate for the new way of doing things. 

"the employee needs time to process and practice it in the learning environment before they can practice and adapt it to their job."

Why does it happen?

It doesn’t matter if the learner is experienced or new to the role, all employees will have a drop in productivity as they go thought each of the learning stages from awareness to practice to experience and finally to form the new habit.

The challenge is to ensure that the length of time from discovery to competence is as quick as possible.

To make it more challenging this will be dependent on each employee’s current level of ability and their willingness to change.

As an in-house trainer, our job is to provide effective direction and opportunities for them to practice. We then need to consistently reinforce the positive behaviours and correct the negative ones quickly, by providing regular feedback about each employee’s progress.

So next time you are looking to introduce something new into the workplace like technology, software or new procedures make sure you are supporting them adequately to compensate for potential changes in service speed and quality.

Tips to reduce the time to greater performance

  • Keep customers informed that you are looking to improve your service, and there may be some small changes happening.
  • Give employees chances to learn and practice in a non-customer focusing environment
  • Provide additional resources to support any drops in service or productivity
  • Reinforce learning constantly in team meetings and daily huddles
  • Have an effective way to monitor performance to support your teams
  • Praise positive behaviours/ learning
  • Correct negative behaviour quickly
  • Encourage healthy competition between employees

What are your thoughts, do you have a question or want to share your own experience?  then leave leave it below

Why trainers need to adapt their training style

How well your team learns, depends on how well you can identify what they know and can do and then adapt your training style. 

When adults learn new skills or refine existing ones, they go through 4 learning stages. Each of these stages has two measures. 

  • Awareness – The level of conscious thought on a skill
  • Ability – The level that something can be done.

The ‘Awareness to Ability Learning Model’ also referred to as the Conscious Competence Model demonstrates how each employee goes through the different stages from becoming aware to being able. 

  • Stage 1 - Unable & Unaware - During this stage, an individual lacks the awareness of the skills, knowledge or ability they need to do a certain task. They just don’t know they don’t know
  • Stage 2 - Unable & Aware - During this stage, the induvial becomes aware of their lack of knowledge and skill and ability to do the task.  They now know what they don’t know
  • Stage 3 - Able & Aware - Through practice and repetition the individual develops the essential knowledge and skills to do the task. However, progress is slow and requires a lot of effort and thought. They know what they know and can do
  • Stage 4 - Able & Unaware – In time and after repeated use, the individual can now complete the task without having to think about it (as if on auto pilot).  They are no longer consciously aware of what they known or what they can do.

This is a continuous cycle, and as the employee achieves 4th stage (Able and Unaware), they become good at the task and this then enables them to be able to find more complex tasks to learn.  

Example – Learning how to use a new Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) for processing sales 

Stage 1 - Unable & Unaware

Before seeing the programme in action, the employee/s are unaware of the software’s functions or how it works. 

Stage 2 - Unable & Aware

After attending a training session, employees become aware of the computer programme and its features and functions. They become aware of it but do not know how to use it.

Stage 3 - Able & Aware

After having a chance to practice employees are now able to use some of the functions of the EPOS, however, these take time and effort to do and progress is generally slow.

Stage 4 - Able & Unaware

After using the software daily, employees become both very competent and confident using the EPOS. The employee can use the general features of the programme with minimal thought, completing tasks with ease, almost as though they are on auto pilot.

The irony of bad habits 

However, there is an irony for employees if they develop bad habits along this journey.  As they reach the 4thstage (Able and Unaware), if they are not made aware of their bad habits and the impact they have, then they slip back into stage 1 (Unable and Unaware). Here they will need to learn how to stop doing the bad habits and exchange them for good ones.

How trainers can support their teams through each of the stages

As each employee progresses through the learning stages, the workplace trainer’s role must adapt from ‘tell and direct’ activities to, ‘asking and guiding’.    

  • Tell & Direct – The trainer needs to give clear and simple instructions, demonstrations and time provide additional support with manuals or how to guides.
  • Ask & Guide – The trainer takes on a coaching role by asking questions that encourage performance or challenge negative behaviours and attitudes.

The trainer's role through each of the learning stages

Tips for the 4 stages of learning:

  • Employees will progress through each of the stages at different speeds based on their current ability and experience.
  • Employees will become most frustrated as they progress from Stage 2 ‘Unable & Aware’, and Stage 3 ‘Able & Aware’.
  • Remind employees it is 'ok' to make mistakes.
  • Attitude is the hardest to change and will require constant reinforcement.

Have a question or comment about this article? Leave it in the comment section below. 

Customer Service Training Vs Coaching

If the fundamentals of customer service are so easy why do most training programmes fail?  

One of the biggest challenges to running a customer service programme is that each of your employees has different levels of

  • ABILITY (knowledge and skills),
  • ATTITUDE (how they think about customer service), and
  • EXPERIENCE (either as an employee delivering customer service or having been a customer themselves).

 This causes problems because a one size fits all approach to training doesn’t work.  

Imagine you run a restaurant and you deliver a great product but your customer service scores are ordinary or poor, and you decide you need to do something to improve them.

 What would happen if went to your experienced team members and told them that you were going to deliver a customer service training? How would they respond? Would they cheer and congratulate you for the great news, or would they roll their eyes, mutter under their breath, or just tell you outright ‘What a waste of time it would be’

Most likely the latter 

On the flip side, what happens if you tell your inexperienced staff they are going to be doing customer service training that involves lots of roll-playing and group activities to help them create real life scenarios to help them deal with customers.

Instant shock, resistance and even in some cases fear.   

Why training by itself doesn't work

The reality is if you put your entire team through the same sheep dip style training programme, your only guarantee is, that it will not work.  

You also run the risk of demotivating the experienced employees who due to their influence in the team, can become negative about the training, which influences how and what the new employees learn.  

So, what’s the solution?

When you design any type of customer service programme you need to consider your team’s needs and expectations. 

  • Inexperienced employees need more hands on and direct training where you provide all the information and directions they require.
  • Experienced employees who already know what to do and how to provide great service, however, for what ever reason may not be doing it, so you need to find out why and help them to resolve it. 

 To do this there are two main types of learning activities you can choose:   

  1. Customer Service Training – When you need to impart new knowledge and skills to the employees (usually the inexperienced ones). 
  2. Customer Service Coaching – When you help employees who have received the training and are capable to do the task to improve their performance.     

You can see in the table below how and when to use each learning activity. 

When do you stop training and start coaching?

As we have discussed training is great for introducing new topics and approaches to employees, however, without repetition, reinforcement and practice employees will either forget, fail  or choose not to use what they have learned at work.

The key to ensuring all employees can and will provide consistently excellent customer service is to:

  • build their ABILITY (knowledge and skills) by providing training when needed,  
  • reinforce and encourage their ATTITUDE (why they choose to do the right thing) through one to one coaching, and giving constant feedback. 

And, over time and with the right EXPERIENCE, they will soon learn the value of delivering exceptional customer experiences, which will motivate them to continue to do it. 

The reality is that adults irrespective of their experience are always learning, either something new or reinforcing what they already know or think they know.

Meet each of your employees learning needs and expectations and you are well on the way to helping them to generate great customer experiences. 

Do you have any questions or comments bout this article?  Leave a comment below.