What? You Don’t Believe In Training Employees

You can’t teach people to be passionate, and you can’t teach them to be ambitious. They either are or they aren’t. But you can give them opportunities to grow and improve!

I once asked a business owner—let’s call him George—what kind of training he had for his employees. He immediately replied, “I don’t believe in training.” I was stunned and asked why? He said that he wasn’t prepared to take the loss. He figured that if his company spent money on training an employee who left to work elsewhere, particularly for a competitor, then his company had paid for training that benefited another business.

George was worried that a properly trained employee might leave, but what about the consequences of an untrained employee staying? Essentially he is saying by not doing any training that he wants unqualified, unproductive, inefficient, uneducated employees who can’t contribute to the success of the company and probably offer poor customer service. George thinks he’s saving money and protecting his business, but he’s really asking for a lot of headaches and is putting his business at risk.

It is amazing that owners see the obvious need for preventive maintenance for their equipment, but even though salaries can be anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent of their expenses, they spend less than 1 percent of their budget on training. Keeping and improving employee skills is more valuable than equipment maintenance. You might say, “If the equipment fails, we can’t do the work.” But what happens if the employees can’t do the work or do such a poor job you lose business?

Employees in most small businesses tend to be good, hard-working people who prove that business owners take hiring seriously. A few bad hiring decisions will convince any owner of the importance of hiring good people, but the people that a small business can afford don’t necessarily have the qualifications and experience that a huge company can draw. This is why ongoing training is essential for your business, so you can raise the level of your employees’ qualifications and skills, in just the way you want and need.

How can your employees improve at what they do or how they interact with customers, vendors, and coworkers without training? How can they understand how they can help the company reach its goals, and what’s in it for them, without training? When you provide training, you are saying to employees, “You are valuable, and I see a future for you at this company.” If you have an employee who you wouldn’t consider training, do you think you have the right employee?

Is every employee trainable? It’s a matter of attitude. If people believe they can learn something, they are right. You can learn virtually anything if it is critical to your success or well-being.

Alligators don’t want to be trained except perhaps about coming to dinner. One of my BNI friends, Steve Anderson, is in the property management business for gated communities. In our area, alligators abound in ponds and lagoons, and they like to bask in the sun. A lawyer renting a home in one of Steve’s communities wanted to get a picture of his ten-year-old daughter standing next to an alligator, so he told the girl to walk up and stand close to it. If you are thinking that this was a bad idea, you’re right. The alligator hissed and snapped its jaws, and the terrified girl ran away.

The lawyer then went to Steve and complained angrily, saying that Steve needed to do a better job of training the alligators. He refused to believe it when Steve told him that alligators can’t be trained. Alligators can learn where to look, what to look for, and how to use what they find. Beyond that, there isn’t much an alligators can learn.

But your employees can learn a great deal. Not only are there important skills that will help them be more productive, but there are also people skills that can help them interact with other employees, vendors, and, of course, your customers.

Training is not an expense. It is an investment in the future of your organization that will pay dividends for years to come.

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