The indirect benefits of training

The indirect benefits of training should be regarded as important.

Good training leads to improved skills and productivity gains. Good training leads to behaviour that matches the job and customer requirements.

But what about the indirect benefits? What messages do you give team members when you provide them with training opportunities?

The indirect (or intangible) benefits are often overlooked.

People like to feel valued. They like to feel important. Although managers should not treat training as a reward, staff members often see it as recognition, if not a reward. The messages received include:

  • “I am valuable.”
  • “The organisation cares about my development.”
  • “They are recognising me as a person.”
  • “They really do want me to learn.”

A lot depends on the type of training provided. As e-learning has become more prevalent, and the emphasis has tended towards technical competence and compliance requirements, the training has become less personal. Although important, this type of training will not have the same benefits unless there is a very high level of collaboration.

tnaiconThere is nothing better than being with your peers in a learning situation, whether they are your colleagues or people from different organisations who share similar needs and challenges. The opportunity to discuss and clarify thoughts and ideas really matters. Realising the similarities or differences that exist really aid understanding and learning.

When considering training solutions, face to face (training room) training may be a better option. Unless e-learning is very sophisticated with lots of collabouration opportunities, or distance cannot be overcome, the indirect benefits of face to face training should also be part of the training investment calculations. Time is a very precious resource. Training time should be well used.

Following Means Leading

Much ink has been spilled on writing about effective organisational leadership in the past twenty years, but only recently has the theme of followership been given the attention it ought to have. Increasingly organisations have come to realise that establishing an environment for the right kind of followership is key to accelerating employee engagement.

The new breed of followers

In the past, “followers” have often been perceived as “passive,” “conformist” and “order takers.” But as command-and-control, top-down hierarchies increasingly fade away, flatter organisations want a new breed of followers — engaged employees who can think independently, even if it means occasionally pushing back on peers and senior staff.

Of course, for this to happen, some staff members will have to say goodbye to the heartfelt belief that they alone have good ideas. They will need to accept that good ideas can come from virtually any source, followers included.

Besides, is it not in the best interests of an organisation to let creativity flourish anywhere, anytime — to turn itself into an innovation engine?

Conversational culture

Employee engagement thrives in organisations that value conversation, where order-taking gives way to robust discussion, and where give and take among all levels of staff is actively encouraged. The ancient Greeks knew this long before we did. To capture this observation, they coined the word “dialectic” — roughly translated as “conversation.” They understood that by encouraging conversation with different points of view and by ignoring a person’s social rank, a conversation could yield valuable results: better and more formulated ideas; the exposure of ideas that didn’t make sense; and, in the end, a greater consensus.

And it seems to make sense. Haven’t we all had the experience of changing our viewpoint after a spirited conversation at the water cooler — even with a “subordinate?”

Indeed, encouraging conversation and feedback on a regular basis blurs the line between leadership and followership. What becomes important isn’t who came up with the good idea, but carrying it out together and achieving the outcomes that the good idea enables.

The best leaders and the best followers understand this instinctively and promote an environment in which conversation and employee engagement can thrive. In this respect, true leaders establish their legitimacy not over, but with and through their followers, turning them into engaged employees.

The end of the order-taker

What’s more, once it becomes apparent that an organisation is willing to embrace a conversational culture, more and more followers will rise to the occasion. Refusing to assume an order-taker status, they will work synergistically with ready-to-listen leaders.

A “follower,” for example, will no longer execute on his or her part of a strategic plan without first conversing with peers, mulling it over with leaders, and polling “subordinates.” Leaders, for their part, will do the same thing. What’s to be done, how it’s to be done, and agreement on the outcomes will be thoroughly aired in a 360-degree conversation.

When this Conversation happens — yes, let’s give it a capital “C” — what remains isn’t so much a divide between leaders and followers but the emergence of a single team of engaged employees — one whose focus is on making outcomes happen. What we see is a leadership-followership feedback loop — one in which the leader’s authority is built on a continuous Conversation with followers, and in which a shared identity is gradually established for the whole organization. This is discussed in the book The New Psychology of Leadership by Reicher, Platow and Haslam.

Unfinished business

Engaged employees value the opportunity to participate in creating this shared identity. They see their organisation, not as a pre-packed thing, but as a living organism whose ongoing survival demands their involvement.

Of course, the organisation to which they belong may already have a shared identity — an established legacy of which they can be proud. But the best followers treat this legacy as a trust to be administered in order to bear interest. They understand that in all organisations “unfinished business” is a continuous way of life — that the Conversation must and will continue.

Another way of putting it is that engaged employees can be leader-followers and follower-leaders at the very same time. Leader-followers because they can advance the agenda within their own sphere of engagement and follower-leaders because they can support the leader with direct and honest feedback.

Seen this way, the best followers make the best leaders and vice versa.

Emulation and imitation

Engaged employees are comfortable not only with the dual roles of leadership and followership but also draw a sharp distinction between emulation and imitation. Emulation is creative and imitation is not.

They understand that mere imitation — even of a leader they happen to respect — adds no value. It’s like the difference between a band that writes an original hit and one that performs a cover tune. The best followers feel the difference. Engaged followers want to work with teams on innovative solutions and are reluctant to follow ready-made, top-down blueprints.

Tips for encouraging an effective followership culture to foster employee engagement

1. Review your corporate culture and ask yourself: How open is it to continuous conversation.
2. Talk with each other across organisational silos and through organisational levels. Develop feedback mechanisms to ensure that all voices are heard and feedback is captured.
3. Encourage grassroots followership initiatives even if, occasionally, some of these fail. Innovation without setbacks is simply not possible.
4. Give employees opportunities to develop their own leadership capabilities and reward creative followership behaviors linked to organisational goals.

Get started today. Encourage the development of conversational culture that will transform “followers” into engaged employees who lead your organisation to even greater success.

How the choice of words can make a speech very powerful

Do you want to get your message across? Do you want to be an effective speaker?

Public speakers have many tools of the trade. Our tool box includes the:

  • Visuals/aids that we use.
  • Way to stand.
  • Way to move around.
  • Way to use our voice.

Some of the greatest speeches have been given by ordinary people with ordinary voices.

So as speakers or presenters, we also learn power of words – words that inspire, words that make us sad and words that encourage us to take action.

Words can take us on a roller coaster of emotions.

There are many famous speeches.

One of the most famous was Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. This was for a dedication of a war cemetery to the thousands of soldiers killed there.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

“…. that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Another famous speech was delivered by then Prime Minister, Paul Keating in Redfern, Sydney, to mark the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People in 1992.

“It was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life.
We brought the diseases and the alcohol.
We committed the murders.
We took the children from their mothers.
We practiced discrimination and exclusion.
It was our ignorance and our prejudice, and our failure to imagine that these things could be done to us.”

Words express powerful thoughts. They convey their message. Both Lincoln’s and Keating’s speeches were “stand and deliver” type speeches. Both stood and read or used notes.

They did not need movement or exaggeration. They both let their words convey their message.

Some speakers use big words. Big words are fine if people understand them.

But if you want everyone to understand, then you use straight forward words. You avoid jargon.

Visual words are very powerful: bridge, stepping stone, ladder of success, closing the gap.

You were “Busy as a bee”.

The night sky was “Black as coal”.

Positive words are good too.

“Be as brave as a lion” is better than “don’t be a scaredy cat”

As speakers, we often use positive stories to reinforce our points. Our speeches can be full of powerful stories. Stories that convey our messages very clearly.

To summarise:

  • Words can make an ordinary voice very powerful. Use them well. Tell stories. Create visual pictures.
  • Use words that people can understand. Be positive. Use positive language.
  • Sometimes what we say is more important than how we say it.
  • Advice for speakers from Franklin D. Roosevelt:

    “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

Increasing email and/or message effectiveness.

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Communication needs to be close

You almost need to be a professional copywriter to achieve ‘break through” with your emails and other messages (web pages, blogs, etc.).

The words used to contain your message have to have impact. The way you describe your product/service and its benefits are the key to the success of your organisation.

Written communication may be the only contact you have with most of your customers or clients. You have to maximise the opportunity, remembering that many people are in a hurry. You need to gain their attention quickly.

Writing in a newspaper/magazine style can sometimes help. This means putting the key information first, sometimes in a summary form. This is how journalists write. You read the key information, even if you do not go as far as the end of the article.

Your content should:

  • Have an effective, attention grabbing headline that immediately creates interest.
  • Quickly draw the reader in with exciting benefits and values that encourage interest – WIFM (What is in It For Me).
  • Establish your credibility by creating confidence and trust – be professional, using good .
  • Describe the benefits of your product or service and explain why your visitors need it.
  • Provide clear statements about the action required, e.g. “Click here to subscribe to our free newsletter”.

“What can you do about productivity?”

The human species can be negative.

We criticise our politicians from our armchairs.

We complain because Apple computer is not inventing something new all the time.

Apple have been very good at inventing products that we didn’t know we needed until they invented them – iPod, iPad, iPhone.

There is an international development organisation – JCI. JCI’s motto is: “Be Better”

But how? How can I improve my productivity?

I believe there are three questions that we should regularly be able to answer yes to:

1. Being more personally productive.

I mentioned the iPhone.

I have one. Am I going to buy a new one – not now.

Why? There is little difference between my model and the current model. I am not using the current phone to its fullest capacity yet. I improve my personal efficiency by using its features better. I do this my experimenting and trying new things when the need arises. I Google “iPhone how to …” when I get stuck.

2. Helping others to be more productive.

I am fortunate. As a training consultant, I believe I help people learn better, more productive ways to operate.

In discussing computer systems and processes, many training participants tell me their systems are underutilised. Sometimes people do not know how to do things properly.

I remember talking to one supervisor in a Train the Trainer program. People were not setting up production jobs correctly the first time. It took a number of attempts before the job was correctly set up. Apart from the production time lost, the waste was costly. Later in the day he revealed that production wastage had been calculated at $4 million annually.

3. Have I made a contribution?

“Be Better” as a citizen as well as an employee. Help organisations to make right decisions. Encourage your organisations to increase their focus on sustainability.

These three action items show that it is possible to “Be Better”.