Business Performance Blog
We share our news and reflections on the world of business.
Join our discussion on the latest research, reports and opinion.
Submitted by Leslie Allan on June 4th, 2014
This is the third in a series of mini-case studies showing how three different companies used their rewards system to motivate employees to apply new skills after they completed a training course. The first in the series illustrated an accounting firm rolling out harassment prevention training while the second involved an electronics company implementing a new inventory management system. In this final case study, the two owners of an auto repair shop are introducing self-managed teams.
Many organizations fail to get the maximum benefit from their training programs by neglecting to provide that extra pull that can be got from a well-designed rewards program. In fact, poorly designed incentive schemes often reward counterproductive behaviors. Not all employees catapult ahead with high degrees of internal motivation. And those that are self-motivated can have their motivation dampened by organizational roadblocks. Many employees change their way of working and go on to perform well because of the incentives placed before them. Through the actions that it recognizes and rewards, organizations send a very clear message about what it truly values.
This final case study concerns a large mechanical repair shop planning to reorganize the work of mechanics and support staff into self-managed work teams. The owners wanted each team to comprise of five mechanics specializing in particular types of motorcar, a parts inventory clerk and a scheduler. By dealing directly with customers, scheduling their own work, managing their own performance issues, selecting and recruiting new members, and so on, the owners were expecting improved customer focus and increased efficiency. To kick the process off, each employee was scheduled to attend a Working in Teams training program over a two week period.
The owners recognized that in the short-term company performance will worsen as everyone gets accustomed to the new way of working and strives to hone their skills. They put in a lot of thought about how the changes would play out. In an effort to accommodate the sizable adjustments that everyone would be expected to make, they pushed out their previous “bottom-line” 30% improvement in pre-tax profit target to three years hence. The owners also considered a move to profit sharing with senior managers beyond year three of the program. Introducing profit sharing before that, they felt, would only encourage senior managers to perpetuate the old structures for short-term gain.
Furthermore, the owners expected employee attrition to peak as people who find the more collaborative way of working distressing leave the company. With that in mind, the owners targeted their goal of reducing voluntary turnover by 20% on current levels for the following year. Employee attrition became just one of a number of high-level leading measures in the mix of criteria for determining senior manager end-of-year performance bonuses.
For the lower levels in the new structure, the owners employed a number of leading measures to provide a window into the depth of the underlying changes to systems and behaviors. These measures and the resulting targets were not heavily business focused, as the owners wanted to concentrate on encouraging people to experiment and get comfortable with the new required behaviors.
Two “outcomes” for which the owners wanted to financially reward each team were:
- at least 90% of team members successfully complete all of the training modules
- increase the number of repeat customers by 40%
The plan was to reward each team achieving these targets with a certificate of achievement and a cash bonus during an end of year company-wide celebratory dinner.
Other leading measures introduced by the owners focused on the demonstrated behaviors of team members. A paper-based 360-degree questionnaire was distributed to all team members of each team to elicit the extent that team members were displaying the new behaviors. These behaviors included ability to listen, managing customer expectations, punctuality at meetings, providing honest feedback, and so on. The information gained from the survey will be used to provide valuable feedback to each team member. Teams that achieved a minimum average score of 4.0 and teams that showed the most improvement since the last survey will be awarded special certificates and treated to a team dinner by a company executive.
The company owners also appreciated that regular feedback to each team member and informal displays of appreciation from the team leaders are essential for ingraining the new team behaviors. An important part of the team leader training consisted in skilling them in providing timely and accurate feedback and drawing out the best in team members through using a variety of motivational techniques.
This case study illustrates again a multi-faceted approach to motivating employees. A combination of financial and non-financial incentives was targeted at managerial, supervisory and front-line employee levels within the company. Businesses can increase the chance of success for their training program through having a well thought-out and consistent system of incentives. Properly designed employee rewards magnify the benefits of the other elements of workplace performance support.
If you want to create the right learning environment for effective transfer of training to the employee’s workplace, then check out Leslie Allan’s high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer. Find out more about From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.
Submitted by Leslie Allan on May 21st, 2014
Once your training program has been delivered to your employees, providing post-training coaching support is an excellent way of ensuring that your employees overcome roadblocks to using their new skills on the job. Some employees may need to develop more confidence, others may be facing organizational impediments and some may be stuck on where to apply the skills. Yet others may just need some more practice with a guiding hand. A coach can help in all of these scenarios.
For maximum impact, you will need to choose the right coach for your situation. Your choices here include conscripting the participants’ manager, the course trainer, a subject matter expert, an internal employee, an external contractor or the training participants’ peers. I invite you to use my article on things to consider when selecting a coach to help you make your choice.
Once you’ve chosen your coach and have ensured that they have the appropriate coaching skills, you might be wondering how best to use them. I’ve drawn upon the experiences of three different organizations to illustrate how coaching can be used in a variety of post-training scenarios.
My first example concerns an accounting firm that had unsuccessfully rolled out harassment prevention training. After the training course had finished, the owners realized that they needed to do more to create a harassment free workplace. Their single-point solution – rolling out classroom-based training – proved insufficient to prevent an expensive lawsuit that had been looming for some time.
An important component of their revised solution involved the Human Resources Manager acting as coach to the newly appointed Harassment and Discrimination Officer. Here, the Manager agreed to attend the first few interviews and mediation sessions until they were confident that the sessions were being conducted efficiently and professionally.
In addition, the firm conscripted the external training vendor that had conducted the original training sessions to provide telephone support to the Officer in her new role as required. The Officer was also encouraged to join the local chapter of the national human resources association and to contribute actively to the employee discrimination and bullying Special Interest Group. As you can see, in this instance, coaching was provided in three different ways: manager as coach, external telephone coaching and peer support.
My second scenario revolves around a consumer electronics company that had implemented a new inventory management system. In this case, the classroom training conducted for the warehouse and production planning department employees was later supplemented with task and role analyses and new procedures. Nonetheless, the new software and inventory management methods proved daunting to many employees.
To assist employees apply the skills they learned in the classroom, the company nominated one “Black Belt Expert” in each of the two departments to act as a contact person for all questions and challenges. Each of the experts was chosen principally for their communication and interpersonal skills. Spurred by the pride they took in being selected as an “expert”, they quickly worked to overcome any technical deficiencies they had. Their expertise was further developed through having to prepare monthly sessions, to be delivered in the canteen. These were a kind of “tips’n’tricks” session in which people could also bring their latest questions for discussion. This is an excellent illustration of two complimentary ways that training participants’ peers can be used to support employees back on the job.
My last example involves a mechanical repair shop in which a hierarchical management structure was replaced by self-managing teams. A Working in Teams training program was rolled out to facilitate this change. Not only was this change pervasive, impacting every aspect of the company, it also meant a fundamental change to the working life of shop floor staff and managers alike. Over the years, everyone had grown accustomed to a “command and control” management style, so moving to a participatory style shook some people to the core.
For this reason, the owners were careful to set up ongoing workplace support for all involved. The training vendor was asked to provide individual coaching support for the new Team Leaders. This took the form of one hour coaching sessions arranged monthly. The vendor was also asked to provide a facilitator to attend each team meeting. The purpose here was for the facilitator initially to observe in a passive role and then to encourage the team to reflect on team dynamics. The facilitated sessions became less frequent as each team developed the skills to reflect and regulate their own behaviors.
For managers having to give up much of their authority to the new structure, they were also provided with individual coaching sessions by the training vendor. And likewise, once per month, a facilitator would attend the weekly management team “ops meeting” to discuss potential and real roadblocks and to review progress. This example once again illustrates a multi-faceted approach, with a mix of individual and team coaching sessions at multiple levels in the organization’s hierarchy.
Whatever your training program, if you are serious about improving performance, engage at least one kind of human support back in the workplace. People are people, and where trainee motivation following a training program is lacking, words on a page and automated help systems are no substitute for human interaction. When employees face personal frustration, the positive encouragement that results from an impersonal email from the CEO trumpeting the benefits of the latest change shrink in comparison with hearing that voice that says, “Hi, I’m here to help you.”
Whether it is with the training participant’s manager, the trainer or an external coach, or through active participation in a professional association or online forum, discussing live issues with interested individuals will keep up the employee’s enthusiasm and commitment to applying their new skills for the betterment of the organization.
Have you implemented some kind of coaching support in your organization? Or perhaps you have received coaching support? What have been your experiences? Let us know what has worked best for you.
Find out more about supporting your employees back on the job for improved performance. Check out Leslie Allan’s high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer to the job. Find out more about From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.
Submitted by Leslie Allan on May 6th, 2014
In an earlier blog post on post-training incentives, I adopted a case study approach to show how one company used external motivators to help encourage managers to apply the lessons from a harassment prevention training course. In this blog post, I want to use the same approach to illustrate how an organization in a dissimilar industry and rolling out a very different kind of training program utilized external incentives to boost the success of their training program.
In this scenario, a consumer electronics manufacturer implemented a new inventory management system. The new system involved a hardware upgrade to the company’s servers and the installation of new inventory management software. The training department invited production planning department and warehouse employees to a demonstration of the new system. The demonstration included some hands on exercises. Over a period of six weeks, the software vendor delivered the training competently to a little over 70% of the eligible employees.
After some initial stumbles with integrating the new system, the company introduced some new procedures, reorganized roles and set clear objectives for the performance of the new system. In spite of these improvements, some supervisors and front-line employees continued to resist using the new software.
The firm’s CEO discussed incentives with the management team and decided to focus management rewards on the achievement of the two key company inventory management objectives. These were:
- reduce average monthly total inventory value by 30% by end of year
- improve delivery to commit by 20% by end of year
The CEO realized that achieving these objectives would require the close cooperation of the production planning and warehouse managers at the highest level. So, the CEO decided to add these two objectives to each of these managers’ goals. These goals were then assessed as part of their annual performance appraisal.
The CEO also emphasized to the two managers that achieving these two goals would improve their chances of promotion. By focusing on these end-of-year results, the two managers became motivated to work on the underlying systems, processes and relationships that would be needed to yield the desired outcomes.
Achieving the above two company targets requires the enthusiasm of front-line employees working within each of the two departments. To focus employee efforts, the two managers set about to agree some intermediate goals with front-line employees. After some discussion, managers and employees agreed the following two objectives:
- 90% of inventory items entered in system by end of March
- reduce inventory data errors to 5% by end of June
The two people in the organization primarily responsible for meeting these targets are the Data Entry Officer and the Systems Manager. The cooperation of their peers is also essential. The managers of the two departments now track progress towards these two targets and produce a monthly chart. This chart is displayed in the main meeting room and is discussed as a permanent agenda item at each monthly department meeting. Where progress is maintained, the managers personally thank all department staff for their contribution and reserve special thanks for the Data Entry Officer and Systems Manager.
Achievement of the targets was also written into the performance evaluation criteria for these two roles. Whenever the targets are reached, a salary increment (above the inflation rate) is guaranteed. At the end of the year, when the good news arrived that the department objectives were attained, the two department managers organized a combined lunch feast at the employees’ favorite restaurant.
What incentives does your organization have in place to motivate employees to use their new skills on the job? Which incentives work best for you? Please share your ideas below.
Are you struggling to make the most of your training budget? Do you want to minimize waste whilst maximizing effectiveness? Then check out our high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer. Find out more about From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.
Submitted by Leslie Allan on April 29th, 2014
I’ve been writing a lot about the importance of forming partnerships with the key stakeholders in your training program. I see many training programs fail because they were only an adjunct to the main play going on in the business. They were treated by managers and employees as being more like a side show instead of being part of the main event.
The danger starts when trainers see themselves as the solo act. What do I mean by this? Some trainers adopt the training role believing that training is about presenting in front of a group of people. I want to say that training is not fundamentally about “putting in a performance”, but about “performance in the job”. The former approach is “trainer-centric”, in which the trainer takes center stage to inform and perhaps entertain.
On the other hand, the latter approach is “trainee-centric”, in which the participants take center stage. Here, the role of the trainer is to facilitate learning through presenting, coaching, consoling, inspiring and collaborating with trainees. The goal is not to “put on a show”, but to help people do their job better or in a different way. The main reason I wrote my book, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance, is to help trainers change their mindset from being simply a presenter to being a performance coach.
I have seen the “trainer as entertainer” style of training from both novices and seasoned performers. Whether you are new to training, having just received your qualifications, or have many years of training under your belt, if you see yourself fundamentally as actor on stage, then I ask you to reexamine your mindset.
Key stakeholders in many organizations are wanting more impact on the ground from training programs. They are by and large satisfied with the programs conducted, but are questioning the benefits and whether the money invested could be better spent on other initiatives. The days of the solo act are fast receding. For training initiatives to be truly effective, managers, supervisors, program designers, sponsors and trainers will need to work in partnership towards a common goal.
Long gone are the days when these key players could work in isolation in their own organizational silos. Training employees is not like programming automata. It never was. Trainees are real people who have frustrations, prejudices, dreams and priorities – inside of the training room and out. And after the training, they have to go back to real workplaces. In many of these workplaces, trainees won’t have enough resources to do the job properly, they will have a “Gestapo” style supervisor or they will worry about making their next rent payment. In some workplaces, they will have every reason to put the training manuals aside and just get on with “business as usual”.
Trainers will need to work in concert with human resources managers, line supervisors, program sponsors and executives to ensure that the work environment to which the training participant returns is a fertile ground for “planting” their new skills. This is the challenge for this new “partnership”; to ensure that the training “seed” ripens to become a full fruit-bearing tree. Managers, trainers, employees and program sponsors all share this important responsibility for making sure that training participants learn effectively and use their new skills on the job to the benefit of themselves and their organization.
What are you doing to foster training partnerships in your organization? What challenges have you encountered? What progress have you made? Please share you stories below.
If you want to build strategic relationships with your key training stakeholders, then check out Leslie Allan’s high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer. Find out more about From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.
Submitted by Leslie Allan on April 16th, 2014
My mantra for the last few years has been about making our employee training more effective. And we can do that by better integrating the training with the employees’ workplace. On this blog, I’ve been illustrating what I mean with some case studies. One set of case studies used the example of an accounting firm rolling out a harassment prevention training program. I shared this example to illustrate the importance of clarifying employee roles and performance expectations and using new policies and procedures in the training.
In this blog post, I want to illustrate another important factor for ensuring that each training program has maximum traction. This factor is about ensuring that the organization’s incentives scheme is designed to encourage the right behaviors. Training programs are only successful to the extent that they change employee behaviors to the new way of working.
I’ve written about how organization’s can use the two types of employee motivation – internal motivation and external motivation – to encourage training participants to apply their new skills on the job. The case study below illustrates how external incentives in particular can be applied in practice.
This scenario involves an accounting firm that had failed to avoid an expensive lawsuit following the rollout of harassment prevention training to all its employees. The training program was prompted by the questionable actions of one of the firm’s middle-level managers. The Human Resources Manager advised the partners of the firm that the cost of litigation would be high if they were taken to court over mistreatment of an employee. Even though all the parties to the harassment claim attended the training, the harassing activities did not cease.
An investigation into the causes of the failure revealed a number of shortcomings in the company’s management and performance systems. One of these shortcomings was the lack of incentives for managers to lead by example. The partners to the firm came to appreciate that the workplace driver for reducing the incidence of harassing behavior is the behavior of their managers.
In this case, the harassing manager sensed that the owners were simply paying lip service to the effort to eliminate employee harassment. As part of the move to revamp weak systems, the owners introduced two new company targets. They then modified the existing manager bonus scheme to encourage the reaching of these new targets. Under the new incentives scheme, each manager will be paid an annual bonus according to a mix of measures decided at the time of the manager’s last annual performance appraisal. Each measure is weighted according to its perceived significance in the overall mix.
The first of these new targets set by the owners was zero employee complaints (including harassment) for each department. The management team agreed a formula with the partners that paid a larger bonus to each manager the nearer the number of complaints about their department reached zero. Because of the heavy financial costs of litigation, the owners assigned a weight of 20% to this measure. They also set a trigger point at 5% per annum. This meant that if the number of complaints about a department for that year was 5% or more of the total number of employees within that department (rounded up), the score for that measure would be set to zero.
For the second measure, the owners set up a measurement system to track the total annual employee litigation expenses. They set aside a pool of money at the beginning of each financial year for employee initiated legal expenses. The second incentive the owners introduced was this: 10% of the amount added to the pool in any one year will be distributed pro rata to managers in the following year if no litigation expenses were incurred for that year.
Peer pressure ensured that this incentive worked especially well. Reports filtered back to the owners that managers were overheard cajoling each other to not let the team down. The owners saved the most significant informal motivator for the end of the financial year management review meeting. Here, the senior partners personally thanked the manager with the lowest record of employee complaints for the year.
This case study demonstrates a dual approach to providing incentives. Here, the owners used a combination of financial incentives with personal accolades. In future blog posts, I will share further case studies showing how incentives can promote behavior change following training. Stay tuned!
Do you need to get more traction from your training programs? Are some of your training participants not using their skills back on the job? Then check out Leslie Allan’s high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer. Find out more about From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.
Submitted by Leslie Allan on April 3rd, 2014
My valued reader in Nepal, Dr Brian Metters, wrote to me after he read my piece on How Training Works. In this article, I explore how we can work the Kirkpartick model of training evaluation in reverse to gain practical insights into how to make our training programs more effective.
Brian explained how his Nepal Education Leadership Foundation (NELF) is using the Kirkpatrick four-level model to improve the standard of teaching in Nepal’s primary schools. NELF was created by Nepal Schools Aid, a UK charity. Brian is currently Chairman of Nepal Schools Aid. All NELF staff are young, well-educated women. They run systematic training programmes for government teachers within a wider School Development Programme. The organisation is wholly funded by personal donations from the UK. I’d like to share with you Brian’s inspiring story. Here is what Brian wrote to me.
By way of background to Kathmandu Teacher Training, teachers in government schools in Kathmandu are undertrained, unmotivated to learn, and yet have jobs for life paid as government employees. NELF is a group of highly trained and motivated young women who have created a School Development Programme that goes far beyond “mere training”.
The key objective of the programme is to increase the quality of education in each school, as measured by a perception test given to all students measuring a number of criteria on an 8 element model. Experience has shown us that the following steps actually work in what is a very hostile environment!
Step 1 (Trainee Attendance)
NELF staff visit the school to meet with the principal who has applied for training, together with the chairman of his/her school management committee. They are briefed on the programme, the standards of attendance, implementation and behaviour during the programme. A second meeting is then held later with nominated teachers.
Step 2 (Trainee Learning)
Each course is a mixture of knowledge acquisition and skill development, based on changing the school into a centre of child centred learning. Courses have been well researched and tested for Nepal consumption. During each course, highly participative methods are used to simulate how classes in primary schools can be run. Courses are organized into table groups for discussion and practice.
At the beginning of each course, a knowledge-based test/quiz is given to each participant to find out how much they already know of topics such as educational psychology, child centered learning. etc. It is done non-threateningly and in table groups. At the end of the course, the test is repeated, together with a fairly typical reactions questionnaire.
Step 3 (Workplace Behaviour)
When the teachers return from the first course in a series of four to six, they find a NELF Tutor already working in their school for 2 days per week. The Tutor is there as a coach to demonstrate/model best practice, to assist with any implementation difficulties and to assist the principal in managing the change. This continues for three months and at the end of the process the school is awarded Child Centred School status and certification.
Step 4 (Organisation Results)
The ultimate result is connected to child performance in the school. But this type of intervention cannot wait for a year to see if there is an improvement in exam results. So, as previously mentioned, we have devised a simple quality education perception test that we give to children BEFORE teacher training begins, then repeat it after three months and six months. The changes have been remarkable, with scores on average increasing from 50% on the QEI (Index) to around 77-85%! We realize that this is NOT the end result, but it gives us intermediate indicators of progress.
This case study again illustrates the importance of the four steps and how all elements are vital. We have not always worked like this, but fortunately (being a true learning organisation) we learned from our mistakes!
What I love about Brian’s story is how NELF is trying to make a real difference on the ground in Nepal. Their QEI questionnaire is proactively measuring benefits even before the results appear. Thank you Brian for sharing your story about how you are using Kirkpatrick to drive real learning and behavior outcomes in this generation of teachers and the next generation of citizens. Find out more about the Nepal Teacher Development Programme and please support Brian and the Foundation whichever way you can.
For a complete step-by-step guide and resource kit for helping you evaluate the effectiveness of your training programs, our popular Training Evaluation Toolkit is excellent value. With this toolkit, you will be able to plan your evaluation exercise, collect all relevant data, isolate non-training factors and then analyze and report the results convincingly to your key stakeholders. The toolkit is packaged with a full set of reusable and customizable Microsoft Word forms and Excel calculation worksheets for all of your measurement and reporting needs. Find out more about our Training Evaluation Toolkit and download the free introductory chapter today.