Our 2014 Budgets, strategies, and plans are now in effect. And, we will manage the heck out of those spread sheets, perhaps allocating more energy to those line items rather than our patrons, for those money managers, the bean counters, watch, measure, and broadcast our every move. Fortunately, interspersed throughout that corporate leadership, there are thoughtful executives who do understand the direct correlation between developing human capital and their service potential with profitability. They certainly believe in treating their employees respectfully and investing in them, through competitive compensation systems, Training and Development initiatives, and providing opportunities for growth. But, and this is a huge BUT, these same executives serve many masters.
As the year progresses, they must make decisions about resources, revenues and costs, and those imperatives get pushed down to their regional and business level management, who incidentally are for the most part very big believers in their people. Yet, the Boss wants this and that, and, lest we forget, our annual bonus is based upon meeting certain goals, primarily financial. So, we do what we have to do. We begin to eyeball costs of the variable nature and start to make our cuts. This could be personnel, hours, and, naturally, Training and Development activities. As the year closes, we have effectively scorched our opportunity to build solid performing teams and develop that potential in exchange for that additional percentage of profit.
We are pleased, because we receive a bonus, as does our manager, and right up the chain. The money managers are thrilled. Our stockholders want more. Everyone wins! Pardon me, but not everyone. What about our employees and our Customers and Guests. You may have heard from them, if you use survey tools! Return/reward, the contradiction, the dilemma and the conundrum historically confront us, and, once again, we have short-changed our organizational resources.
We have seen what short term thinking has done for business around the world. Lean and mean, neutron management, rightsizing, outsourcing, consolidation, bankruptcy – the list goes on. Retail is different, though, because we create a relationship with our Customer and Guest, and that requires the right individual, style and substance. We may have the most wonderful product and facility, but poor service is the lasting and irrevocable memory. If we pay minimally, that is what gets delivered. We are not manufacturing, where you push a button on a panel; we “touch” our Customer. We are not in India, providing technical answers to the world. We cannot outsource Customer Service, much less our linen, offshore. We are front and center, the Ambassadors of good will, care and attention.
Ergo, how does the Retail Industry, which probably has the worst record, reputation and investment for Training and Development, make such an investment in their people? The reality is that business needs and demands do change, almost daily. However, there are certain steps that can be taken to keep Training and Development in the forefront of your business as a commitment and an on-going strategy.
Create the Training Plan. You have gleaned needs from the company Strategic Plan, from discussions with management, and, most certainly, from your employee performance evaluation process. Layout what this looks like for the entire year: the topics, the audiences, the location, the vendor, and the approximate cost. Theoretically, you have been given a budget, based upon employee population. If not, this above exercise establishes same. Also, have in mind some quantitative “pay-back” measure for training dollars committed and executed. This is immensely helpful in selling the Training Plan.
Understand that not all activities will take place, as planned and forecasted. Fortunately, training programs and means are now blended, which does impact costs. It is no longer strictly classroom with an instructor. The blend now includes classroom, the internet and home study. Technology has removed all excuses. Lastly, “front-end” the activity earlier in the year, so you do not get caught in that last quarter frenzy to “make the numbers”.
This investment can be made. You can still make money. We have some corporations who have this commitment as part of their culture. And, that is what it really is – sharp management, which knows the business and knows what makes the business run smoothly. Perhaps, that is the key word – culture, what your Brand represents, as delivered by your people. Now, that is leverage!
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.
Today, we are a growing company operating in more than 120 countries throughout the world, servicing our clients from offices and resources in the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions and helping clients such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the National Football League, Avis Budget Group, Madison Square Garden, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group deliver exceptional customer experiences. Every touch. Every time. For more information, visit www.LRAworldwide.com.
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