May 17

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Why performance gets worse before it gets better

By Ian Johnstone

May 17, 2019


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.

Hints & Tips 

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 agree? or Do you have a different perspective? if so then leave your comments and feedback below.

Ian Johnstone

About the author

Ian is a Sales & Service Coach & Trainer with a background in over 20 years of 5-star Hospitality and Customer Services within Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. He works with businesses to consistently achieve great results by designing and delivering interactive, engaging and memorable training programs, tailored to meet the needs of each business, their teams and their customers.

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