Monday, November 18, 2013
Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is: An Affordable, Comprehensive Work Readiness and Customer Service Training Program
Sunday, July 15, 2012
- People who can not get jobs and need to start their own business to earn money.
- People who are under-employed and need to start part-time businesses to supplement their income.
- 50% fail in the first year
- 10% to 33% are left standing after five years (depends upon the study you read)
- No business plan
- Poor management
- 80% of all entrepreneurs indicate a business plan is important
- 20% of all entrepreneurs have a business plan
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
There has been a lot of activity on my blog recently from search terms indicating a need for a work readiness training program. While different programs and recommendations can be found in past entries, I thought I would write a quick summary of an easy to implement, but very effective work readiness training program that can used by any business. Of course, since this is my blog, I will be recommending my tools. However, if you feel comfortable implementing all the steps below, all you need to do is buy a copy of my book. This is not a program where I am recommending using my consulting services where my I have made significantly more money from very satisfied clients. That of course is an option for you as well.
Training approach: demonstrated competencies
It is not enough to teach employees and have them pass assessment and/or certification tests. They need to demonstrate what they learn in the workplace.
Training manual: “How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid on the Job” (http://www.outskirtspress.com/Goldberg)
This book should be purchased by supervisors (or the training department). The first chapter does not pertain to training existing employees, however, all the other chapters do. The supervisor (or training department) should read each chapter to help him/her teach the information in that chapter to his/her employees. Each training session should be for one chapter in the book. The book uses examples outside the workplace to help illustrate key points. It also explains why specific behavior and skills are valued in the workplace, which is the key in getting employees to actually buy into modifying their behavior.
Employee accountability: After training is completed, hold employees accountable for demonstrating what they learned every day at work.
First, have all employees initial that they attended a training session and understood the material that was covered. Next, write competency statements on the behaviors and skills covered in each chapter. The competency statements need to be in the format of: demonstrate a behavior or skill in a specific and measureable way as evidenced by a specific person/report/etc . For example:
The employee will have zero unexcused tardiness as evidenced by never being late to work, never extending breaks, always taking only the allotted time for lunch, and never leaving early, as evidenced by supervisor observation (could be as evidenced by time clock reports, etc.).
You could also add: unless prior arrangements were made with the employee's supervisor and/or unless there is an emergency situation out of the employee's control.
Another example is:
The employee will demonstrate that he/she is a positive influence in the workplace by being pleasant, courteous, and respectful to all of his/her co-workers at all times, and never starting or engaging in gossip about a co-worker as evidenced by supervisor observation.
Note – supervisors need to document all incidences where he/she observes that an employee is not meeting this competency statement.
A third example is:
The Customer Service Phone Representative will demonstrate that he/she is ready and available to receive calls by having a "plugged into the system" percent of 90% or higher during non-scheduled-break and non-lunch times as demonstrated by a score of 90% or higher for percent of time plugged into the system during non-lunch and non-scheduled-break times on the Daily Representative Summary Report generated by the ACD System.
If you need help developing meaningful competency statements, contact me at JayGoldberg@DTRConsulting.BIZ. Please be aware that I am a business consultant and there will be a fee for writing competency statements.
Employee performance review: Make meeting the competency statements a part of every employees formal performance review process.
Tie all employees’ annual raises to meeting their demonstrated competencies, which should be part of all employees formal annual review process. This formal process (from training to review) can also be used to help support fired employees who legally challenge their terminations.
Good luck with your work readiness training.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I have written about training in depth, so in this blog I will concentrate on service.
With businesses struggling, they are becoming more and more dependent on offering products and services at reduced prices to generate sales to keep themselves afloat. However, businesses must have a strategic plan centered on low prices for this tactic to work. If not, they could be causing long term damage that will be difficult for their business to recover from.
Remember the following "Jay Goldberg" truths:
People brag about getting low prices.
People recommend when they receive excellent service.
So low prices bring businesses bargain hunters through word of mouth;
while excellent service bring businesses customers through word of mouth.
Conclusion: If your business is a discount provider of goods and services, then the low price result fits into your business model. However; if your business is not a discount provider of goods and services, then low prices could be causing long term problems for your business.
Providing superior service, therefore, could be a good alternative to reducing prices; especially for a business looking to be around for the long haul.
However, be aware that customer service is a science, not an art. There is a right way and a wrong way to provide customer service.
Most businesses employ a "seat of the pants", or a "this is what I would want, so this is what I'll give my customers" approach to service delivery. That usually doesn't work. Remember, the goal of providing superior customer service is to add to the business' bottom line; not to feel good about what you are doing. There is a trade-off between service levels, expected revenues, and costs. And proper customer service needs to be taught to employees, not left to their discretion.
As a first step, my book, How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in a Job (click here for more details), has a chapter on customer service. That chapter includes some basic skills you can learn and teach your staff. To learn more about my background in customer service (former Service Director for Citibank where I was employed from the late 70's to early 90's) and some services offered by my consulting firm, click here.
See you in my next post.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
My entries here have ranged from:
- Advice for the job seeker, the employee looking to grow in his or her job, and current or future managers;
- to my views regarding the proper way to teach work readiness skills, the future of training, and the effectiveness of different training methods;
- to some (hopefully not too much) self-promotion for my book How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in a Job and my consulting business, DTR Inc.;
- to much more.
For example, in our pilot episode I discuss the difference between normal conversation and active listening. I also provide exercises that people can do at home to develop or improve their active listening skills, a skill that will make them a more valuable employee, and a skill that will help them immensely during an interview. On the same show Jill talks about the accountability ladder, and how interviewers view perspective employees based on where they place them on the ladder, which is valuable information for anyone looking for a job.
In Episode 1, I talk about ethics, while Jill discusses the pluses and minuses of using a recruiter in your job search.
Episode 2 is scheduled for Super Bowl Sunday, February 7th at 9:00 AM EST. This is the first show where we will answer questions from our listeners so go to the show’s web site to submit a question (www.jobtalkwithjillandjay.com) or join the show live at (www.blogtalkradio.com/jobtalk) and call in. Our topics for this show are deep thinking versus surface thinking, and what you’re appearance reveals about you. Please note that all shows are around 30 minutes. We now set the timer for the show at 45 minutes in case we are in a good discussion and want to run over a bit.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
While this can be confusing, one of the keys to being an effective manager is to have an approach and philosophy that you believe in and follow so your staff knows what to expect, how to behave, and how to succeed in the workplace. The worst thing a manager can be is inconsistent. Workers get frustrated if the rules change or of they believe that they are being treated unfairly as compared to their co-workers.
I will go one step further and suggest that every business needs to establish a management philosophy that it expects all its supervisors and managers to follow. This eliminates the inconsistencies not only by one manager, but across the entire business.
What follows is my copyrighted take on the ideal management philosophy for a business. These rules can be used as is, modified, expanded, or contracted as you see fit.
- Ensure that there are common goals between management and staff. One way to accomplish this is by defining desired outcomes for the unit/business and measuring the unit's or business' success towards accomplishing those outcomes on a regular basis.
- Explain why. Many supervisors just tell their staff what to do. However, informing them why tasks are done a particular way, or why certain behaviors are required goes a long way towards eliminating worker/supervisor friction, ensuring that the tasks and behaviors are actually done correctly, and that improvements in the workplace occur through suggestions from workers who are performing those tasks on a regular basis.
- Be results oriented. Many workplaces value time over results. However, unless a job function is time-based (e.g. customer service phone representative), reward the results of someone's work more than their face time on the job. A worker who works a normal work day but produces high quality output and new ideas is more valuable than the worker who spends more hours at work but produces lower quality work and has fewer new ideas.
- Promote balance. Many workplaces want their employee's top priority to be their job; over family, over enjoying life, and maybe even over life itself. In my opinion this leads to employee burn-out and many employees eventually working on “auto-pilot”. The best employees are employees who have a balanced life. Whether they balance work with family, playing softball, donating their time to a not for profit, or going to the movies is irrelevant. When an employee has balance and works for a business that promotes balance, when that business needs him/her to go through a period of time where work comes first, they will do it and be effective.
- Demand the best. Don't accept workers being just okay. Remind them that they weren't hired to do a so-so job. They were hired and are being paid to do a good job.
- Hold workers accountable. Your workers are adults so treat them as adults. Don't act like an enabling parent. Don't accept excuses, don't allow them to slide through, don't allow them to point fingers. You'd be surprised how holding workers accountable results in good workers performing at their best and feeling fulfilled at work; and bad workers (probably performing a lot worse than you realize) quitting or starting to look for work elsewhere.
- Reward properly. This means both rewarding the right people and rewarding them appropriately (no big reward for a small accomplish). This includes verbal praise as well as tangible rewards such as raises and bonuses. Nothing disrupts the smooth operation and effectiveness of a workplace more than the wrong workers getting the recognition and rewards. Therefore, you need to be aware not only of the actual performance of your staff, but their perceptions of who are the best workers. Then you need to take steps to ensure that their perceptions coincide with your employees' actual performance by communicating what you value.
- Encourage creativity. Not everyone is creative. Therefore, creativity needs to be part of “going above and beyond” not part of the expected work product unless a person's job is a creative position (e.g. writing advertising copy). That means that creative employees may not be creative on the job since it isn't part of their standard job functions. So encourage creativity by always responding positively to creative suggestions (unless they are clearly ridiculous) and reward useful creativity with excellent rewards.
- Provide ongoing feedback. Don't leave your employees waiting for their annual review to know how well they are performing on the job. Also, don't wait for them to ask how they are doing. Provide ongoing feedback; positive feedback to your top employees (but also include areas where they can improve) and constructive feedback for others (don't just let them know they need to improve, but give them steps to take to help them improve their performances). Also let your employees know that they really need to worry when they are receiving no feedback from you. For the under-performing employee, lack of feedback on their performance means you do not think that employee can improve, so you aren't wasting your time talking to him/her about his/her job performance. This is also a good way to send a message to employees you would like to look for work elsewhere.
- Build an effective team. All managers obviously promote teamwork. However, there are some who build teams of workers who all have skills and knowledge that overlap their own, but at a lower level. Other managers build teams with workers with skills and knowledge that compliment their skills and knowledge. You would be surprised how many take the first approach since they either are intimidated by employees that know more than them in a specific area, or they do not have confidence that they can make good management decisions on topics that they are not knowledgeable on. However, that is not the way to build an effective team. Build your team with employees that have skills and knowledge that you do not possess, and have confidence in your ability to think logically and make solid management decisions.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
IF COMPANY TRAINING BUDGETS CUTS ARE HERE TO STAY, WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE TRAINING SOLUTIONS IN THE (NEAR) FUTURE?
So how could the training landscape look down the road? Who will be the first to take the steps needed to put this valuable resource back in play? And, most importantly, who will pay for the training?
Let me start with the first question. I believe there is a two-fold answer to how the training landscape will look down the road. First, training will be provided as a value-added service by business-to-business providers as a means of maintaining and growing market share. Here business-to-business providers will pay for the costs of the training and its customers will appreciate getting this “free” service knowing both its importance and value. The business-to-business provider has economies-of-scale in regards to the training costs since their training “class” will allow for a single training venue to be used across its full customer base. If its customers like this service they will not leave the company for another that is selling the same service a little cheaper. In addition, this value added service will be a tremendous advantage when looking for new clients.
Now, what happens if eventually all of a business-to-business provider’s competitors offer free training? Well, if that company’s CEO believes in himself/herself and his/her company, the training service offered allows for that business-to-business provider to compete for new business aggressively without having to be the “cheapest on the block”. While many, if not all, of its traditional products and services may have little differential with its competitors outside of product/service cost or product/service return, as those of you who read my blogs regularly know, there are effective and ineffective training methodologies as well as effective and ineffective trainers. There will be a difference in the training product offered by each business-to-business provider, thus a way to separate from competitors other than by cutting fees.
The second trend I see is that supervisors will have to take on a greater role in training their employees. While they usually do this now for the tasks and procedures specific to completing work product for the company for which they are employed; they do not train or train but are really not equipped to train on the basics (e.g. work readiness, customer service skills, generic sales skills, ethics, supervisor/management skills, strategic planning, budgeting, etc.).
Here, I believe, training organizations and professionals will evolve from costly full service providers to more of a mentorship relationship. The training professionals will provide training materials, coaching for the supervisor, possibly monitoring of the training process, and be available to answer supervisors' questions. Like the business-to-business providers, this individual will not be an employee of the business for whom he/she is providing the service, but will be a consultant working with multiple clients to keep the cost per client reasonably low. The primary income stream for the Training Mentor will be selling or licensing the training materials (one time expense for the client) which will include an implementation plan (or lesson plans) for the supervisor to follow at work. The coaching of the trainer beyond the initial delivery of the training materials, the monitoring of the training process, and the ongoing customer service function will all be optional.
I know what some of you are thinking. There are already training DVDs, web sites, etc. with training materials that supervisors can use. However, please remember “DTR Inc’s Hierarchy of Training”. The less self-motivated the participant, the more “live” the training has to be to be effective, especially in areas where changing and shaping attitudes is as important as the knowledge being taught. DVDs and pre-recorded web-based training only works well for individuals who strongly want to learn the material they are viewing.
While I answered two-thirds of the questions I posed at the beginning of this blog, I still have to answer who will be the first to take the steps needed to employ this upcoming change to the training landscape. While I cannot pinpoint the specific business-to-business providers; or the forward-thinking companies that will embrace a reshaping of its limited training budget away from ineffective training methodologies to the “training mentorship” approach I have outlined here; I can state that I have re-tooled DTR Inc. and am set up to be the training expert/resource for those business-to business providers and companies to utilize.
I have developed a training lecture series that I see working for banks to provide a competitive advantage via this value-added service that will maintain and grow their business clients. The lecture series can also be used by other business-to-business providers. Here is a link to my new service: http://www.dtrconsulting.biz/dtrbank.htm. In my local market I will perform the lectures. In other markets I will train and manage a local training professional(s) to give the lectures (must be an effective speaker, very knowledgeable about the topic, and able to competently answer questions).
For “Training Mentorship”, I have developed a program I call Custom Scenario Workplace Training. To find out more about this service, go to: http://www.dtrconsulting.biz/dtrscenario.htm.
Finally, to help supervisors teach work readiness skills, customer service skills, ethics and more, I wrote a book, How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in a Job. The book received a five-star review from the Midwest Book Review. An inexpensive, informal training program can be used centered on the book. Use the book in a read and discuss format (employees read a chapter and then have a group discussion on the chapter read with their supervisor). After the read and discuss, when everyone understands the concepts, start holding the employees accountable for demonstrating what they learned on the job. I would include that learned skill/behavior as part of the employee appraisal process. For more information regarding the book, go to http://outskirtspress.com/webpage.php?ISBN=9781432725297.
These are my initial offerings, I will be developing more. I am also open to the idea/needs of specific businesses/industries. Send me an email if you have a need: JayGoldberg@DTRConsulting.BIZ (in the subject line please write “October Blog” to ensure your email is not sent to the junk mail folder).
I can also be contacted at 561-842-9942 (voicemail account only, leave a message and I will return your call).
Thank you and see you in my next blog.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Before summarizing the information below I want to point out that the ethics example used comes from my book, How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in a Job, a work readiness rulebook that received a five-star review from the Midwest Book Review, an entity libraries rely on when ordering books for their collections. In addition, I am now offering a new service for businesses that I will run through my account at wisdompan.com. Every month I will present a fictional workplace case study. Companies will sign up for an account where they will get a private company message board where their employees will comment anonymously on the fictional case study. Towards the end of the month I will comment on their comments (on the board), present the answer, and provide key learning points. At the conclusion of the month a competency statement will be provided to the company based on the lesson learned for the month. From that point forward the employees will be held accountable for demonstrating that competency at work, and their performance of that competency becomes part of their job appraisal process.
The new service is not up yet on wisdompan.com, however, I will only be accepting 15 businesses for this service. Please contact me (email@example.com or leave a message on 561-842-9942; in email or or phone message indicate "your employer work readiness program" to ensure your message gets the attention it deserves) if you might be interested and I will place you on my list of potential clients. I will contact businesses in the order I receive their potential interest to explain the service/process in more detail and to fill up the 15 slots.
PART I – Ethics fictional case study
Situation: A bank has a strict policy that all tellers must have at minimum a high school diploma or a GED. There are no exceptions. In fact, a good friend of yours who was an excellent teller for another bank, just lost his job because of the downturn in the economy, and was turned down by the bank you work for because he did not have his GED or high school diploma. Your friend was told that every teller in the bank has at minimum a GED or high school diploma, and that the bank even uses that fact when soliciting new accounts. Today the teller who sits next to you, someone who is not your friend, not even someone you go to lunch with, turns to you and says, "I can't wait. Next month I am finally getting my GED."
Question: What would you do, if anything, after finding out that the teller sitting next to you did not have either a GED or high school diploma?
PART II –Commenting on the Comments
First, in addition to being the author of the book, How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in a Job, which is a work readiness guide; I also developed a work readiness certification training program that was called the best in the Country by a member of the National Skills Standard Board in January of 2003. I mention that fact because during the initial rollout of that program I trained the teachers. While instructing them on how to teach ethics, I used a scenario similar to the one presented here. I did so because I knew the situation would result in a diversity of answers regarding the correct action for the employee to take, with people digging in deeply to their point of views. However, during all that discussion no one came up with the answer presented by Roosevelt Williams, and I found his response very well thought out. It is both intelligent and cautious. Bringing up the specific situation to his supervisor to help clarify a company policy was brilliant. Management is now aware of a potentially damaging fact, and Mr. Williams was able to bring it to the attention of his supervisor in way where he was finding out about company policies, not directly "talking about" a co-worker.
Both Monica Diaz Veliz and Jan Teegardin made statements that were true. Businesses often do hire employees below the stated requirements for a job and give the new employees time to accumulate the credentials they lack. While that could be true in other scenarios, I tried to close that door here when I wrote "that there are no exceptions". But more important is that I mention that the bank uses the fact that all tellers have at least a high school diploma or GED to solicit new accounts. If customers found that statement to be untrue, they could become uneasy with the bank. Even if they do not care whether the tellers have a high school diploma or GED, they may question the truth when the bank informs them that its checking account has no fees. After all if all tellers really means almost all tellers, does no fees really mean almost no fees? Losing the trust of customers can lead to customers leaving and to negative word of mouth on the street about that business.
Adrienne Ishmael's answer shows she is an honest, compassionate person. In my experience, I have found that the majority of people respond to this situation in a similar fashion to Ms. Ishmail. Ms. Ismail indicated that she would be reluctant to do anything because she wouldn't want to be responsible for setting the wheels in motion that could eventually get her co-worker fired. However, she was also very insightful in her answer pointing out that it is possible her co-worker lied to get the job. In addition to Ms. Ishmael's reason for not taking any action, I have heard responses from people who would not do anything ranging from, "It's not my job to correct a mistake made by Human Resources", to "I'm not a rat, I'm no squealer", to "If I keep my mouth shut no one will ever know that I'm aware of that fact" to more. I hope after reading my next blog everyone will realize that deciding not to do anything in a given situation is something that has to be thought through. Not acting on a something does not ensure that there are no consequences for that inaction.
Finally, Mirna Musharbash took a point of view I respect and have valued in my employees, but may have gone as the band Madness would say, "One Step Beyond". I like when employees look at situations through the eyes of a supervisor. It means that they care about the business, take their jobs seriously and want the business to succeed. So I applaud Mirna Musharbash for taking that approach. However, there is a fine line between looking through the eyes of your supervisor and taking it upon yourself to make decisions that should really be made by your supervisor. In this case Mirna was basing the decision to bring this fact to the attention of management on how well that person performed in his/her job. First, Mirna is not in the position to evaluate a co-workers' job performance, because I know Mirna is busy working and therefore, not in a position to observe all work completed by any co-worker. Second is that reviewing the overall job performance of Mirna's co-workers is the responsibility of Mirna's supervisor, not Mirna. Furthermore, even if Mirna was correct in the assessment of the co-worker's job performance that may not be the key factor in management's view of the situation. As mentioned previously, the fact that the employee lied on his/her job application and the fact that the bank is marketing that all tellers have high school diplomas or GEDs to its customers and could lose business if customers found out that that was untrue, could be the chief concerns of management in this situation, not job performance.
PART III- My Final Remarks
In my prior two blog entries on this topic I first presented a workplace scenario, requesting comments from readers; and then wrote a blog commenting on my readers’ insightful comments. In this wrap-up blog I will give my view on ethics and my answer to the workplace scenario. To not re-invent (or in this case, re-write) the wheel, I will use some quotes from my copyrighted book, How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in Job.
“A behavior is either ethical (right) or unethical (wrong). There is absolutely no gray area. Being ethical means doing the right thing. What determines if something is ethical or unethical is the behavior itself, not the circumstances surrounding the action taken, not the relationship between the people involved, not an individual’s culture, not a person’s value system, not life’s experiences, etc., etc., etc.”
That said, acting unethically does not mean you are a bad person. For example, speeding is against the law, thus unethical. However, driving 10 miles an hour over the speed limit doesn’t make you a bad person.
“The key to understanding ethics is to be able to define if an act is ethical or unethical. Once you have identified the ethical behavior, then you decide what to do. In other words, to either do the ethical behavior or do the unethical behavior. This is where circumstances, relationships, culture, values, life’s experiences, etc., etc., etc. come into play. You decide in each situation if you are going to act ethically or unethically.
There will be times in life that you feel strongly that choosing the unethical behavior is the right choice for you. However, you must be aware that if you choose to do the unethical behavior there can be severe consequences. Therefore, if you choose to act unethically, know what those consequences could be (obvious and hidden), and be prepared to accept those consequences for making the decision to act unethically.”
In the case of the unethical act of driving 10 miles over the speed limit, for example, you have to be prepared to possibly: get a speeding ticket and see your insurance rates increase; to be at minimum partially liable for any car accident; and may have given cause for a police office to search your vehicle.
Now on to the scenario from this blog:
The ethics of the situation is clear. The bank teller obviously lied during the job interview process and on his/her application which is unethical. So, what would I do?
I would first inform the bank teller that I am very annoyed that he/she told me that they are breaking bank rules and that by telling me of that fact he/she has placed me in a difficult spot; a spot I would rather not have been in, and a spot I am only in because of his/her action. I would next remind the bank teller of the fact that we promote to all potential new customers (and existing customers) that all our tellers have at least a GED or high school diploma. Next, I would tell the bank teller that I will give him/her two days to inform our supervisor of this fact, or that I will have no choice but to tell our supervisor myself.
I know what many of you are thinking. What a rat, especially since by just keeping your mouth shut nothing would happen to you, Jay. Well, let me play this scenario out.
Let’s say that my supervisor finds out that the bank teller did not have his/her high school diploma or GED when he/she was hired. Maybe the bank teller celebrates when he/she finally gets his/her GED, or maybe someone sends him/her congratulatory flowers. When the bank teller is called onto the carpet by his/her supervisor, the bank teller comments that he/she didn’t think it was a big deal and that he/she mentioned it to Jay and Jay did not think it was a big deal either. That statement by the bank teller just brought me into this mess.
As a result of the lie on the application the bank teller gets fired (this is usually a policy; companies can’t start looking into the degree of each lie on a job application). Nothing happens to me. I keep my job and, in fact, have no idea that my name was brought up in the meeting between my now fired ex-coworker and my supervisor. However, my supervisor now feels that my priorities are wrong. I do not have the best interests of the bank in mind. I knew the bank was informing potential customers that every teller had a least a GED or high school diploma, knew that was untrue, and keep my mouth shut. If I thought I would be admired for not “tattling” on a coworker who was untruthful on his/her application, I might be by some misguided coworkers; but I won’t be by people of influence in the company.
A year later there is a promotion opportunity in the bank. I believe I am perfect for the job. I don’t get it. The same thing happens nine months later, then fifteen months after that. Unfair I think. However, it all goes back to me deciding to act unethically. It is the fact that management in the bank does not believe they can count on me to do the right thing for the bank that is preventing me from advancing in the company. And by this time I have totally forgotten that offhand comment by my ex-coworker; and never got a chance to explain my side of things, although I doubt that that would have made a difference anyway.
There are often hidden consequences to unethical acts. People who say “Why doesn’t anything ever work out for me?” or “I constantly have bad luck” may just be living the hidden consequences of prior unethical acts. Here, I would not be willing to risk my advancement in the bank, possibly being stuck in the same relatively low-paying job for a long time, because a co-worker acted unethically (lying on a job application) and brought me into the mess; most likely on purpose to have an ally in case the situation went bad.
See you in my next post.
Monday, June 22, 2009
- Training’s place in your company’s strategic plan
- Selecting the proper training method
- An effective informal approach to training for budget-conscious businesses
- The effective informal approach applied to work readiness training
In the business community today, training is the new customer service. Back in the day (wow, I can’t believe I’m old enough to use that phrase without blinking), customer service was viewed as only a necessary expense. Then businesses started looking at providing superior customer service as a way to grow and maintain market share. In fact, when I was employed by Citibank in the 80’s, I developed a Bankcard Customer Service Profitability Model that quantified the additional revenues earned by providing superior service. During the research phase of the project I was also able to quantify the revenues earned thru the use of effective customer service to solve issues for customers who experienced problems.
Today, training is looked at by many as primarily employee development. However, when establishing and managing your company’s strategic plan (objectives, strategies, tactics, goals), training needs to be viewed as both a cost-cutting and profit-generating activity. Below is a simplified example for work readiness training:
Objective: reduce temp expenses
Strategy: lower employee absenteeism
Tactic: work readiness training
Tactic: hold employees accountable for their behaviors after training
Goal: reduce temp expenses by at least 20%
Goal: reduce employee absences by at least 30%
For more on this topic check out http://workreadiness.blogspot.com/2009/01/effective-training-results-in-lower.html.
So step one on the path to implementing a low-cost, informal training method in your workplace is to recognize the importance of not only training employees, but training employees effectively so that the training results in employee development and cost reduction/revenue generation.
II. Selecting the proper training method
When money is tight, training budgets are often one of the first line items cut (or eliminated). This sends managers looking for viable, less-expensive training methods. Taped media such as DVDs, online material (e-learning site, taped webinars, etc.), books with CDs, et al., are often substituted for live training events. Below is a list of training venues. The key to the list below is that the further down the list you get; the more self-motivated the participant must be for that training method to be effective. During live events the instructor has the responsibility for ensuring that the material is understood and good instructors also help motivate participants. When I teach/train, I can look in the participants’ faces and immediately know if they are lost, or if they at least think that they understand the concept being taught.
- Live Training Program
- Live Training Course
- Live Informal (Workplace)
- Live Webinar
- Pre-recorded Material
Now, many believe that having tests after participants view pre-recorded training media is one way to “Hans and Franz (Saturday Night Live) it” (pump it up). However, if the goal of the training is to modify behaviors and change attitudes as well as teaching knowledge, tests are inaccurate measures of whether or not the behaviors/skills learned will actually be deployed in the workplace (http://workreadiness.blogspot.com/2008/07/there-is-right-way-and-wrong-way-to.html).
Also, this encourages note-taking. When taking notes, participants turn their attention away from the training media. And that is usually done during the most important parts of the lesson, when the lesson turns to explaining the why so the concept being taught sticks. After all, tests are about the facts so that is when the future test-taker pays attention, and notes are written lagged to that portion of the lecture.
III. An effective informal approach to training for budget-conscious businesses
Okay, thanks for reading the set-up portion of the blog. Now I will present a generic training approach that by now you would expect will contain at least some live element.
One of the keys to determining an effective approach is to understand the difference between assessment-based training (e.g. schools) and competency-based training (e.g. workplace training). I am a big proponent of competency-based training, especially for the workplace where the goal is not knowledge, but use of that knowledge on the job. However, to use demonstrated competencies, you must craft air-tight competency statements. If your competency statements are not pinned down precisely, then no one can rely on them. If you need help crafting competency statements or developing/implementing/running a training program, call my voicemail 561-842-9942 and leave a message or email JayGoldberg@DTRConsulting.BIZ and write “training blog” in the subject line to assure the email is not discarded as junk mail
Jay Goldberg’s 6-step approach for an effective informal training program
- Define the outcomes for the training event (knowledge, skills, modified behavior, changed attitudes, etc.)
- Determine approach (live, pre-recorded, mixed; participant motivation is a key)
- How will the success of the training be measured (assessments or demonstrated competencies)
- Specific tools to use (video, book, web site, etc.)
- Tools implementation (training process)
- Accountability of participants after the training is concluded
- Modify behaviors and change attitudes (therefore need to explain why and use examples outside the workplace that participants can relate to)
- Participants are not highly motivated so must be at least some live element
- Demonstrated competencies are required, not assessment testing
- Use the book, “How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in a Job” (http://outskirtspress.com/webpage.php?ISBN=9781432725297); this book received a five star review from the Midwest Book Review; not only teaches the what and the how for workplaces but the why; and uses real life examples to help illustrate key points
- Have the participants read a chapter and then hold a meeting to discuss that chapter; repeat for all chapters
- Have a participant checklist to ensure everyone takes part in the discussion; have everyone acknowledge that they understand the material in that chapter; generate competency statements based on the material in the chapter being discussed; inform the participants that from that point forward they will be held accountable for demonstrating that competency (becomes part of the performance appraisal process)
See you in my next post.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I know what some of you are thinking. My school has a work readiness program. Well, to parrot a very smart man I knew who worked for the National Skills Standard Board and was knowledgeable of work readiness programs all over the U.S.; “many of the programs do more harm than good.” How am I aware of this quote? Because he said it right after stating that the work readiness program I developed was the best in the Country. The quote came during a presentation of my Program in Jacksonville, Florida on January, 14, 2003.
This leads to the practical gift for the recent grad. In April of 2008, my book, “How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in a Job”, was published by Outskirts Press. This book is a guide to succeeding in the workplace. Unlike the other work readiness books, this book is not written like a text book that simply “preaches” what workers should do at work. This book is written to both inform and entertain, and takes the time to explain why specific behaviors and skills are valued by employers, and uses real life examples to help illustrate key points. For example, the first chapter is titled, “The First Date” and compares dating to the interview process. There is also a chapter called, “What Are the Special Codes for This Game Called Work” that correlates advanced workplace skills to video games. In addition, the chapter on ethics analyzes music downloading before moving onto workplace issues. To find out more about the book, including the book’s table of contents, go to http://outskirtspress.com/webpage.php?ISBN=9781432725297.
I know writing a blog recommending a book I wrote is self-serving, however, I have spent a long time in the work readiness arena and strongly believe that my book will help both the reader/worker and the business community. And I’m not the only one. In July of 2008, the book received an excellent review from John Taylor of the Midwest Book Review, an entity that reviews books for libraries. The review concluded that my book is “is highly recommended to community library jobs and career collections.” To read the complete review, go to http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0SFB/is_2008_July/ai_n27967713.
My last note: the book is currently being used in Programs that are teaching work readiness (ESOL, trade schools, youth at risk, etc.). If you would like to use the book in a Program, go to this web site for more information: http://www.dtrconsulting.biz/dtrbook2.htm.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The Internet is an ever-evolving medium that can offer businesses, even businesses that concentrate on local markets, excellent opportunities for expanding sales, building brand, cementing customer loyalty and showing their staff’s expertise.
First, if your business sells products, it is very easy and inexpensive to sell those same products online. Whether making it convenient to sell to your existing customers, selling to people who knew your store but have moved away, or expanding your customer base outside of your local market, there are low-cost, low-tech, on-line solutions to help you. One place to start is at www.PayPal.com where you can get a merchant credit card account and a shopping cart for free (except for the payment processing charges incurred when you make a sale). PayPal is fairly easy to use so you can set up your on-line store yourself. Of course if you do not have the time, you can hire a company to consult with you and set up your online storefront. When you build your storefront, be sure to include an online customer service function (to deal with customer inquiries) and email notification process (inform customers of new products/services, a monthly newsletter, etc.). These help build customer confidence and customer loyalty.
From a marketing standpoint there are a number of tools you can use to help increase sales. The first is the use of online press releases. Many of the sites that provide press release distribution are free. One good one is www.prlog.org. This site has a very effective free service as well as enhanced services that cost money.
The key to an effective press release is to make an information announcement, and then go on to explain the benefits to your customers. End the press release with a link to your web site.
For example, use a press release to announce a new product, a new relationship with vendor, a special sale, an event the business is sponsoring, a promotion for a key staff member, a new credential for a key staff member, new-found benefits of a product, etc. After informing the readers of the information (e.g. Company ABC is now carrying a new product that helps reduce cholesterol), explain how your customers benefit from the information in the announcement (e.g. facts about product testing showing the significant cholesterol reduction, sample taste-testing at store location during the month of May, product on sale at 25% off during the month of May) and then be sure to have a link to your web site where the reader can get directions to your location, read the taste-test results from the customers that tried your samples, and can purchase the new product on-line.
Another way to market your business is through the use of blogs, feeds and widgets. Blogs are opinion/information write-ups. If you write a blog you can become known as an expert in a specific subject matter, and that could help you retain your customers and bring you more customers. Using the example in the prior paragraph, you could write a series of blogs regarding how to manage health issues (such as reducing cholesterol). The blog would include, but not be limited to products and services sold by your company. Your blog then generates clicks to your web site, and questions from individuals (either via email or posted at your blog site). You then have the opportunity to turn these clicks and contacts into sales.
After writing your blogs, be sure to have them turned into feeds. When blogs are turned into feeds your write-up can be viewed at sites other than your own (many sites carry blog feeds), and people can subscribe to your feed bringing your write-up to them. This extends the reach of your blog beyond the visitors who come to your blog site.
The last topic regarding blogs is widgets. A widget is a box containing the titles of your blogs and the first couple of sentences of each of your blog postings. Webmasters that like your information can place your widget on their web site. Why? Because it is a way for a site to get free, fresh content thus attracting traffic to their site. However, anyone can click on an article in the widget to read the full article, which of course, contains links to your site. Oh, and the best thing about widgets is that anyone reading a widget can capture it and place it on their web site. So widgets are a great marketing tool, but you need a blog with interesting information for your widgets to spread.
For a free blog, you can sign up at www.google.com/accounts. Google also provides a free feed burning service, so sign up for that as well. For a free widget (after establishing a blog and burning a feed), go to www.widgetbox.com.
Blogs and press releases are applicable to every business, and should be used by every business. If you need help coming up with topics or setting up and writing your press releases and blogs, contact me at JayGoldberg@DTRConsulting.BIZ or call and leave a message at 561-842-9942. You can also go to my web site www.dtrconsulting.biz/dtrms.htm.
Now, we get down to the nitty-gritty.
Advertising on the World Wide Web is a major business. In 2008 about $30,000,000,000 was spent advertising online (with a little under $50,000,000 coming from the West Palm Beach area).
The Internet has become the main focus for entertainment. And not just for watching movies and tv shows, and listening to live radio. Many people play games, look for people to date and visit sites and blogs to read about football, politics, television shows, movies, books, celebrities, the news, pets, recipes, science fiction, investments, the environment, health, the weather and more. Advertisers need to reach people on the Internet to have an effective advertising campaign.
While most people think of banner ads, pop-up ads and spam email when they think of Internet advertising, it is the pre-roll ads on video (e.g. the commercials that play before watching a television show online) and audio (e.g. commercials that play prior to listening to radio stations online) that represent the most effective and growing segment of online advertising.
Now, however, advertisers can use “walk-on ads” on web sites creating a tv-like, pre-roll ad that site visitors must watch as they enter a web site. These ads are great for generating traffic (there is a click through to your site) and for establishing and building your brand. The ads are relatively inexpensive to make and to run, and in many ways are more effective than the current pre-roll ads. For example, if you have a pet product, you can target an age/demographic group with a pre-roll ad for online television/radio shows; but using web sites, you can target a site dealing with pet health or pet-friendly hotels for your walk-on ad. Walk-on ads can also be used on your own site to inform and direct your visitors to new products and special sales.
If you would like to see a sample ad, I made a demo at www.DTRConsulting.BIZ. I am far from a professional model, but I made the ad to understand the process and demonstrate its ease. If you are interested in using a walk-on ad for your business, or if you have a web site and would like to offer walk-on ads to generate revenue, be sure to click on the ad to find out more information and send in the contact form. The direct link to that page (will skip the ad) is www.DTRConsulting.BIZ/dtrwalkon.htm.
And now, finally, I am looking for a few good men and women who would like to sell walk-on advertising. Do you know someone? This is independent contractor status; there is no salary, and no benefits. I am your back office support which includes coming up with a script for your client. You earn commissions for your sales, including residuals when your customers order additional ads. This is not an MLM, there are no fees to join, and you manage your own time. You can do this part time, or full time. In fact, if you are looking for a job this is not a bad interim gig. After all you will be interacting with businesses, so you can network while selling the walk-on ads. If this interests you, there is a box you can check on the contact form referred to in the prior paragraph. You can also call and leave me a message at 561-842-9942.
That’s it (and certainly enough) for now. Catch you in my next post.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Effective Training Results in Lower Costs and Additional Revenue, So During Tough Economic Times Why Are Companies Cutting Training Staff and Budgets?
So when the government looks at economic development solely as an expense, and ignores the revenue generated from that development, resulting in the economic development funds being cut during tough economic times (while funds to social programs remain in tact or even grow), I get discouraged, but not surprised. I mean, I shout at the television, radio, newspaper, or web site where I get that news, “don’t you idiots know that helping small businesses in their time of need succeed and grow results in more revenue for the government (taxes, licenses, filing fees, etc.), and more jobs, or higher paid jobs which reduces government expenses (unemployment, welfare, food stamps, etc.) while also increasing government revenues (taxes from welfare to work, additional taxes from higher paid employees, additional sales taxes due to increased purchases from the higher earnings – which then has a positive effective on the owners/employees of the businesses where the additional purchases are made, additional taxes from gasoline because more people are driving to work, etc.).”
However, the impact of cutting funds to effective economic development centers goes even further. If these small businesses fail, they will create the next generation of people in need of the social programs that are still being funded. Therefore, if small businesses keep failing, the cycle will never end. It’s politically sexy to help someone keep his or her home, or to set up a Rec Center to get kids off the street to help reduce crime. It’s not politically sexy to say you helped a struggling small business succeed which resulted in the owner not being in a situation where he/she could not pay the mortgage, that the business growth resulted in the hiring of a manager who can now afford his/her mortgage, and the business hired a couple young adults who if not working would have been hanging around the streets looking for a Rec Center to help keep them out of trouble. Therefore, I look at effective economic development as the ideal form of “preventive medicine”; stopping major problems while earning revenue.
While I think cutting off/tremendously reducing government funds for economic development, especially in economically tough times is poor policy, I just cannot understand this movement by businesses away from training. The situation reminds me about how corporations used to view service delivery.
Back in the early 1980’s when I was a junior officer at Citibank, a forward-looking Vice President named Mike Cole came to me, placed a book of studies undertaken by a company called TARP on my desk, told me to read a specific study and do something similar for the Bankcard Business. The study showed how good customer service resulted in additional profits for a business. Mr. Cole, being the Vice President of Bankcard Customer Service, knew we were a profit center for the bank, but was fighting the fairly universal perception throughout Corporate America that customer service was just a “necessary cost”. Therefore, customer service strategy was usually reduced to spend as little as you can to provide service at a level where the customers will stay with the business.
I analyzed that TARP study and determined it was a different model than the one we needed. Their model was for a business that did not have to have a help desk, and was set up to conclude yes or no on implementing one. Our customer service center was not optional, so the model I developed compared Citibank credit card usage patterns for customers receiving good customer service to customers receiving poor customer service. I then set about formulating an equation that encompassed all bank costs and revenues associated with credit card usage; collected and analyzed data to determine factors like, for credit card revolvers, what was the average time it took for a transaction to be paid and off the books; and surveyed customers. The results were eye-opening. Since, at that time, cardholders had multiple options for making purchases (multiple cards, cash, checks, etc.), when a cardholder was dissatisfied with Citibank’s service, on average, that cardholder reduced their usage of their Citibank credit card significantly. This was one of the first looks at service as a way to generate profits in Citibank. A few years later, the bank took on the corporate strategy of providing superior service to differentiate itself in the marketplace and grow market share.
Today, almost everyone agrees that superior customer service can grow market share, keep customers and, therefore, is a profit generator, not a just a “necessary cost”. So why isn’t training looked at the same way? Effective training reduces employee turnover (cost saving), reduces workplace errors (cost saving, revenue saving), results in more informed employees (more sales), results in more dependable and reliable employees (cost saving and revenue generating), results in a better team approach (cost savings, revenue generating, business growth), and much much more.
One reason may be that, like service was in the not to distance past, training is looked at just as an expense, not as a positive factor to a business’ bottom line. Another reason could be that companies do not develop a training strategic plan, so they just train employees on work procedures instead of having training goals, with strategies and tactics, aimed at reducing costs and increasing revenues. The third reason is just like economic development and customer service; there is no direct correlation between the actions taken and the increase on the bottom line (through reduced expenses or additional revenues). For example, if a business trains its managers to explain why a process or procedure change is being implemented, instead of just telling his/her employees what the changes are, the results would be:
- Lower employee turnover (cost savings)
- Happier in job resulting in better interactions with customers (more sales)
- A better understanding of the purpose for the change which results in fewer employee mistakes/errors (customer retention)
In my opinion it’s time for training to take the step that service did back in the 1980’s. Service strategic plans were implemented. There were objectives, strategies, tactics and goals. For example:
- Objective: provide superior phone service
- Strategy: answer the phone in a timely manner
- Tactic: measure phone representatives speed in answering calls using the statistics on the ACD system
- Tactic: monitor call traffic in real time/full time to manage call traffic flow
- Tactic: manage phone representatives breaks, lunch times, system plug in time
- Tactic: survey customers to determine customer satisfaction
- Goal: 95% of the calls answered within three rings
- Goal: 95% of customers surveyed satisfied with time it took to get to speak to a phone representative
This same strategy can, and should be applied to training. Training needs to be linked to goals of keeping costs down (e.g. low employee turnover, minimize employee errors, etc.) and profits high (product knowledge to increase sales, management skills to keep good employees, etc.).
If you would like to contact me about developing a training strategic plan, developing effective training courses, or using some of my existing courses please call 561-842-9942 and leave a message, or email me at JayGoldberg@DTRConsulting.BIZ and write “training blog” in the subject line to ensure your email is not deleted as junk mail. Find out more about me at www.dtrconsulting.biz.
At a minimum, if your company has limited funds for training, purchase my book, “How to Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in a Job” (web site) and use it as a work readiness training guide for your business. You can also contact me to arrange for live webinar training in support of the book.
Catch you in my next blog, whether here or at Jobing.com.
Friday, December 26, 2008
For example, when local, state and federal budgets get cut, one of the first things to go are dollars to economic development centers (EDCs). Helping small businesses isn't as sexy for politicians as providing money to individuals in need. But EDCs need government funding because the small businesses they serve are not in a position to pay market prices for the expertise offered at these valuable institutions.
Since effective EDCs (and if they are not effective they should not receive any funds, not even "feel good" funds) result in healthy, profitable businesses, EDCs are one of the few entities that receive funds from the government that actually make money for the government. Profitable businesses pay taxes. Profitable businesses hire employees, who pay taxes. Better yet, the majority of EDCs deal with businesses in economically challenged areas. This means that in addition to the government getting tax revenue from the workers, they are often moving someone from welfare to work, which also saves the government money. But does the government look at the big picture when it cuts funding to EDCs? Do the other recipients of government funds understand that by lobbying to get their agency funded over EDCs that less of them will be funded than if the EDC gets funded?
The answer to both questions is no. Economic development is usually the first area to go during budget crises. That is a shame. That is wrong. Effective EDCs are profit centers, not cost centers for local governments,
Even when there is money for EDCs after budget cuts, the criteria for the leftover scraps is political and relationship based, not profit based. Governments need to measure the revenues being generated by the work being done at EDCs; hold EDCs accountable for adding to the revenue base; and fund accordingly. This would change how the government does its business. EDCs would move away from "funding" and into their own category, "government investing". Governments would have a business relationship with EDCs, who would be expected to be a profit center, not a drain on taxpayer's funds.
What does this have to do with workplace training? Nothing directly. However, just like with economic development, where the long running business model doesn't work, and government must make changes to benefit itself; workplace training finds itself in a similar position.
The difference here is that corporations find themselves in the government role, and relying on education institutions, and using the education model to develop new employees is the long running business model that just does not work.
The goal of high schools and colleges are to educate, not create the perfect employee. The method used to assess the effectiveness of the education is to ensure a baseline of knowledge has been laid for the students, not that the students can utilize the knowledge in the real world. For example, I wasn't the only person to pass statistics who worked at Bankcard Customer Service at Citibank. Why did it take me to move the forecasting model from the unreliable "same as last year" plus a set percent, to a multiple regression analysis that correlated call volume to the season plus ongoing Citibank programs plus ongoing marketing campaigns plus economic trends. The forecasting model I developed allowed for "what if" logic, and was a better tool to ensure the Phone Center was properly staffed.
In addition, education is for the individual. Workplace training is primarily for the business community, and secondarily for the individual. That model doesn't work in schools, and is even tough for Job Centers where the goal is usually to help individuals as much as they can rather than to set a standard of workplace competency required to be an effective employee. If an individual doesn't meet the set standard, Job Center Staff doesn't (can't?) communicate to employers that that individual is not an ideal job candidate.
So relying on schools to get new employees ready for work is just plain silly. And even the schools (and the vast majority of programs) that teach work readiness use the education approach (assessment testing based) which is ineffective for soft skills workplace training. After all, businesses don't want someone who can answer a question about getting to work on time correctly on a test; they want an employee who will always get to work on time. The goal of soft skill workplace training, therefore, is to change attitudes and modify behaviors, not to just impart raw knowledge.
With the current model in place for workplace training is it any wonder that high turnover with its associated high cost is experienced by all businesses?
So, what do I recommend? I believe the time has come for "Workplace Universities", that are sponsored, in part, by the Corporate World, and in part by the participants. The main client is the business community; the secondary clients are the participants. I have the curriculum, I have the program structure, I have the benefits for the Corporate Sponsors (including first crack at the best graduates, i.e. the chance to add individuals who will become their best workers), I have an incentive program mapped out so the top graduates stay with the Corporate Sponsor that hires them for at least three years, and much more. My program is a unique mix of classroom, workplace observation and role play. The program lasts six months. The students can be high school graduates, junior college graduates, and even college graduates that did not have a major that makes them attractive hires.
For those of you unfamiliar with my accomplishments and workplace training philosophies I will briefly mention that I created a work readiness certification program called the best in the U.S. in 2003 by the National Skills Standard Board, and that I improved upon that program throughout the years with the biggest improvement being the addition of my book, "How To Get, Keep and Be Well Paid in a Job" (book web site). The goal of my book is to change attitudes and modify behaviors so workers will implement what they learn. You can read more about my work readiness training philosophy in previous posts, including, "There is a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Teach Work Readiness." For additional information, visit my web site is www.dtrconsulting.biz.
What is the next step? If your company is interested in becoming involved with my first "Workplace University" (I am looking for five corporate sponsors), and would like more information, send me an email (JayGoldberg@DTRConsulting.BIZ) and be sure to write "corporate university" in the subject line to ensure your email is not deleted as junk mail, or call 561-842-9942, leave a message, and I will get back to you.
Thanks, and catch you in my next post.