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Yaneek Page Business training must be during work hours

QUESTION: I have been reading your articles over the years and they help me a lot so thank you. Now I am asking your help with my problem! I started a company last year with a team of people who need a lot of training. All of them have to be trained in customer service and standard operating procedures SOPs for product, and two in sales. The problem is that the team is small so training during work hours is not possible.

What are your thoughts on doing the training during lunchtime – like a ‘lunch and learn’ – or a breakfast meeting before work and stretching it over one or two weeks. Or is it better to use the weekends? By the way, they will get paid for the time as well.

– Reader

BUSINESSWISE: Thank you for your kind affirmation. Let me first congratulate you on demonstrating vision and positive leadership in prioritising training, particularly in customer service. Investing in the development of your team may provide you with a valuable strategic advantage, given that customers prefer to do business with organizations and enterprises that deliver exceptional customer service.

The research also shows that businesses that prioritise training for their staff and contractors maintain stricter quality control, score higher on customer satisfaction indices, enjoy increased customer loyalty and spend, and benefit more from positive word of mouth. In short, investments in training pay rich dividends, and a lack of investment in training your team may cost the business dearly.

When it comes to business training effectiveness the timing, duration, location and participant readiness are more important than the learning objectives, content, delivery mode and facilitator. As a certified trainer of trainers with over a decade of global experience, I believe one of the biggest mistakes companies make is to ignore participant readiness and openness to learning such as:

o Imposing training on their team members during their personal time;

o Low morale – often driven by labour grievances including poor working conditions and poor compensation; or

o Overwhelm – where employees are inundated with work and view training as an unnecessary distraction and delay that will set them further behind on their tasks.

Imposing training on your team during their personal time can also cause or exacerbate overwhelm, and this drastically reduces training effectiveness, which is what you may be doing based on your proposed plans.

Remember, breakfast meetings require your team to come in earlier than usual, which imposes on personal time to which they are entitled. And lunchtime should be sacrosanct for employees as it provides an important space to refuel and break retreat from their tasks.

In fact, many people use their lunchtime to tend to personal matters, which is their prerogative. You must remember that our society still largely operates within the confines of the regular 9-to-5 business hours, so employees often have to eke out time to handle their personal business with other entities.

Even if they are being paid, weekends and evenings that fall outside the normal work hours for which they are employed or contracted are not suitable to conduct training for your business. Although in your former life in a corporate environment, ‘lunch and learns’ were a staple, they fly in the face of best practice for adult learning because by nature they create a hostile environment that negates the effectiveness of potential learning outcomes. What the company is communicating is that their business is more important, and therefore should be prioritised over the personal affairs of their employees.

You would be squandering your investment on training under the conditions you have contemplated.

In the circumstances, the solution is to first shift your mindset to view your team as internal customers who are valuable, important and whose time must be respected. Next, schedule all training during business hours only. Thereafter, you can consider the following options:

1. Conduct one-on-one training, which may be least disruptive, but is also very costly, time-consuming, and eliminates peer-to-peer learning which is usually helpful;

2. Conduct training in groups of two or three utilising half-day sessions and rotate team members/duty rosters to minimise business disruption. This may require less financial investment than Option 1, however, may result in some business disruption.

3. Explore substitute staffing that can temporarily fill critical positions to eliminate business disruption while training the full staff complement. This requires more financial investment than Options 1 and 2, but will have minimum impact on operations if the substitutes are sufficiently versed. The downside is the risk of exposing your business and customers to outsiders.

4. The final option is to suspend operations briefly, in the same way that companies, for example, would close temporarily for stock taking. While none of these options may appear ideal, this is the nature of on-the-job training. This is why companies tend to conduct the bulk of their training upfront during the orientation and on boarding period, which can last anywhere from two weeks to three months, depending on the rigidity of training, particularly where critical safety measures are to be enforced.

You will need to do your own cost-benefit analysis and determine which option is best for your business. It is important to note that when you have a small team you should conduct multifunction training where they can fill each other’s positions temporarily. Therefore, if someone calls in sick, resigns or is out for an extended period you will reduce the likelihood of business disruption.

Good luck and One love!

– Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, and a certified trainer in entrepreneurship.

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