Training for the long haul

by Ross Reimer
Ross Reimer, Leading Edge
Ross Reimer has
over 30 years of experience in transportation/supply chain. For the last 15 years he has been President of Reimer Associates, a recruitment firm within supply chain.

Or, give your employees no training, treat them with zero respect and complain nonstop about high turnover. Two opposing business philosophies.

I’ve seen both in action over the years. I prefer Sir Richard’s idea on how to build a business, and since he has more than 400 companies worldwide, his philosophy is worth studying.

Let’s take a closer look at the idea of training. It seems completely self-evident that providing appropriate training for employees is the logical choice. Yet we’ve all seen and perhaps worked in companies where little or no training is offered. In some cases the onboarding process goes something like this: hire the new employee, tell them when to show up and who their boss is. Period.

It’s expected that because of their prior experience, they know how to do the job. So they do their best to use previously acquired skills while observing coworkers to uncover additional clues. Performance for people like this will generally range from unacceptable to reasonably acceptable. This leads to customers receiving far less than superior service.

The underlying philosophy of this kind of culture seems to tell the employee that we are simply too busy to take the time to ensure you fully understand your task, and that you will be measured against an appropriate standard.

What it really says is that the company is far too disorganized and short-sighted to invest the necessary time and money into clearly defining the work process and building the training for each function around that process. While it may seem like the shortest route to profitability since dollars aren’t being spent on training, it actually communicates a complete lack of concern for not only the employees but also for the end product delivered to the customer.

Contrast this with shining examples of a well-trained workforce. I see examples among my clients where literally every task performed in the company is fully mapped out as part of an overall process, and each expectation of the employee is broken down into training that allows the person to be fully measured and coached, and to then achieve outstanding success.

The second admonition of Sir Richard’s speaks to treating people well enough so they will not want to leave. As a recruiter it’s my job to maintain a broad network of potential candidates for my clients. Occasionally I’ll receive a phone call or email from an angry employer, berating me for soliciting one of their employees.

At times like that I’m tempted to share Sir Richard’s philosophy. If your employees are treated very well, including all the training they require, the company doesn’t need to worry much about my phone call. The only employers who need to worry are those that sorely lack foresight and a long-term strategy to retain valuable employees.

Volumes of research as well as a quick study of any long-term successful company will show that treating people well enough so they want to stay pays huge dividends. Employees want and need clear direction, reasonable expectations and a reporting relationship with someone they can trust to give them appropriate and useful feedback on their performance. That’s exactly what Sir Richard is talking about.

Of course there’s another powerful reward for the owner and/or executive who employs this philosophy. Not only is it the most profitable long-term strategy, but it also makes the world a better place. It just feels right in the end to treat people with the respect they deserve and build a company based on core values that go beyond a successful bottom line.

t’s worth noting that even though Sir Richard’s 400 companies obviously put him in the category of big business, his philosophy can be employed successfully by even the smallest enterprises. A friend of mine recently sold his company after some three decades. The business never grew beyond five employees, but provided a great living for everyone involved. Because of his careful attention to training people appropriately and treating them well over the years he never had an employee leave.

In an era when résumés seem to include more movement from job to job than ever before, perhaps it’s time to take a serious look at how to correct that. The vast majority of people want long-term stable employment with opportunity for growth. They actually don’t want to leave. And if we give them the tools they need for success and treat them like they matter, we can largely eliminate the high cost of turnover.