Training and marketing are often the first things cut out of a budget because companies are understandably focused on survival. Making payroll and paying the necessary overhead expenses becomes the priority. Things like training and marketing don’t appear to have an immediate result. And immediate results are what matter, right?
Through my corporate days (before owning my own companies) I would get so disenchanted by the corporate mantra of: “What are you doing to generate revenue today?” because they really meant it when they said “today” because they needed the money in the bank that very day. And we were all just pawns in the game, saying the same phrase to the people below us. The message came from above and we were all being held accountable to someone. All of this just creates anxiety, fear and frustration for everyone in the chain. And as a business owner I totally get it. There’s no one more concerned than the people signing the FRONT of the check.
This has gotten worse in a society where we want immediate satisfaction for our efforts. If we make sales calls today we’ve been conditioned to be believe we must be converting a certain percentage of those calls into revenue TODAY. If we pay for advertising we expect immediate responses and sales TODAY. If we invest in training with our spend-it-or-lose-it budget at the end of the year we either expect immediate behavioral change or we have an attitude of “we needed to spend it so we have it in the budget next year.”
Our company is going through a name change and re-brand as a result of how companies perceive training. We’ve heard the “pain points” around their needs for ROI but more importantly we recognized the real disconnect going on in training – companies fear investment because they fear the lack of return and fear they will look incompetent to those around them for making this training decision. This is not rocket science, right? That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense to training companies is when the client asks:
“What will you do to ensure sustainability of your training program?”
In my first few years in business I would jump through hoops of fire and rattle off a zillion things I would do in response to that question in fear of not getting the contract. (Have you picked up on the word “fear” yet? Another topic altogether).
Many years later my response is now:
“What are YOU going to do to ensure our program sticks?”
We’re not magicians with tricks up our sleeves to make your problems disappear or doctors who can guarantee a cure to your illnesses. We’re like Home Depot – we sell you tools, we have workshops (training) to show you how to use the tools. If you want us to build a sunroom, you can hire us for that but it’s kind of out of our scope when you hold the architectural plans and don’t allow us to help you build your training culture from the ground up.
This question of “What will you do to ensure sustainability of your program?” came up recently from a Fortune 500 company we were bidding for. The question was actually more detailed than that. It was “What will you provide to managers to ensure they can hold participants accountable to the training?” Fair and awesome question. We have deliverables for that, no problem. My first response, which seemed like a normal question to me, was:
“Will those managers be in all of the training sessions or will we do a separate session for them, like a train-the-trainer kind of thing?”
And the response to that was “They won’t have time to participate in these training sessions.” MIND. BLOWN.
Were we on “Candid Camera” or “Punk’d”? No. They were serious. And I was sick to my stomach. Now this might be normal in your organization and my reaction might seem off base to some. But my biggest revelation was “You are not our ideal client.” Of course I did not say this out loud during the pitch.
Training doesn’t stick if the leaders and managers aren’t part of the training solution in some capacity. It doesn’t happen overnight or “TODAY”. The best recipe for the best ROI is the investment of time AFTER the investment of money. Yes, everyone’s busy. But if you can’t walk the walk and talk the talk you cannot expect your employees to do the same. You cannot reinforce learning if you’re not somewhat familiar with what your team should be practicing. Be a leader. Set the example. Be accountable. Be in it together. Training sticks IF you’re willing to be the glue.
By Gina Trimarco, Chief Results Officer