By Dean Kaplan, President and CEO, The Kaplan Group
According to recent research, 88% of Generation Z employees (today’s teens through 24 and 25 years old, meaning many of your current and future entry-level staff) say they would leave a company if training on new skills weren’t offered. In addition, 23% of current employees have left a job because of a lack of training or inadequate training.
Nothing strikes dread in the heart of a commission-based salesperson like the words “training session.”
Even if you pay your staff for training, they still know they could be making more money doing what they love, selling. As a manager or owner, this presents a paradox. You need to train your staff to keep them. But, if your team is resentful about attending a training session, it’s unlikely they will learn very much. It’s important that you find ideas that can help keep your sales team interested and engaged, and hopefully make the training session worthwhile.
Not every idea will work for every team but trying one or two might make the difference.
Gamification is not quite the buzzword that it was a few years ago, but it’s still a valuable training tool. If there are parts of the training that employees can do on their own, consider turning them into “games,” with rewards for certain tasks accomplished or modules completed. If you are trying to build a sense of team spirit and the ability to work together, be careful not to let “gamification” turn into an internal competition. Make rewards individual and achievable by all to keep people motivated and not frustrated.
Move out of the Office
It’s tempting to conduct training in the office. If you’re in the office, people can check their email and voicemail during breaks. You can be there for a call, “just in case.” However, if you’re in the office, then neither you nor your staff will be fully committed to the training. Getting out of the office can help put people in a different mindset.
Whatever space you use will need to have access to beverages, bathrooms and snacks. Make sure the area is big enough to accommodate your team. Check with the space about your technology needs as well. If possible, consider a place that gives you access to a great outdoor walking space or a gym for breaks.
Spread the Training Out
If you absolutely cannot take the staff out of the office to train for the day, consider dividing the training up into smaller chunks. An hour or two a week spread over several weeks may be a better fit for your staff than one eight-hour mega session. You may want to vary the kinds of training you offer. Training today can be done online, some in person, some with a printed manual.
Hire Someone Else
It’s tempting to save money by doing all the training in-house. However, unless you are a trained facilitator or presenter, you might not be doing as good a job as you think. There are many great ways to facilitate training, especially for salespeople who need to develop listening and communication skills. Many improv or theater groups as well as storytellers now have B2B offerings where they help train staff. Even if you want to do most of the training yourself, consider hiring an outside speaker for part of the session.
Let Your Staff Teach
A great way to keep everyone engaged in training is to give everyone a part. Divide the team into smaller groups and let each group take a turn leading the training session. When staff is allowed to share their knowledge, they become more invested in the company and the training. This technique is especially effective if you are bringing on a group of new employees or have long-standing employees who are looking for ways to take on more responsibility. If you are asking staff to train other staff, don’t forget to pay them for the time they need to develop and practice their materials.
Not every training technique is going to work for every person or team. The only way you’ll know if the techniques you’re trying are working is to ask and measure results. If your leadership team does not have a reputation for accepting criticism and feedback, it’s going to be hard to encourage your staff to share their thoughts. Consider offering ways for people to comment anonymously and safely.
When done well, training sessions can create bonds between team members. Proper training can also help employees reach personal and professional goals. Keep your staff engaged and interested by trying one or more of these techniques.
Dean Kaplan is president of The Kaplan Group, a commercial collection agency specializing in large claims and international transactions. He has 35 years of manufacturing, international business leadership and customer service experience. Today, he provides business planning, training and consultation to a variety of global companies.