I’ll never forget the warmth of the desert sun the day that I was told I did it all wrong. No training, but high expectations in assuming that I knew the difference between oil and water based paints.
Yes, when I was about 7 years old, the eldest of my three elder-sister and her husband took me for a weekend trip to the desert house of my brother-in-law’s father. I was excited to be helpful on the warm Saturday morning. The Father assigned me the task of opening up several partially used cans of paint and combining like colors in single cans.
When I finished the chore, I was quite pleased with myself. The Father checked my work and became angry and agitated. He realized that I had mixed together the water based and oil based white paints. I did not understand the difference in paint bases. He proceeded to tell me that I was a bad boy and could use a spanking.
You might be thinking, “Gosh—the Father should have instructed the 7 year old a little bit better as to the expectations of the job and offered a degree of training.” I agree with you whole-heartedly. Funny thing is, adults do the same to other adults quite frequently in the work place.
In most businesses, training and trust (T&T) makes the difference between high-performance employees and just average employees. This is also evident in seemingly productive environments. Even if your business had a 20% increase last year, do you know for a fact that your increase shouldn’t have been 25%?
Developing a culture of trust must be done on a solid foundation of comprehensive and effective employee training. In all too many companies, I’ve seen the culture of employee training akin to that of throwing a child in the pool and expecting that child to swim to the safety of the pool’s edge all by themselves. You know what I mean, hiring an employee and giving them just enough knowledge to bumble along and figuring that in time, they will catch on. In a recent interview, the folks at Dell Computers even admitted that that’s how they did it in their early days.
Why not take the time and train your employees well from the start? Is it because you do not have a methodical system for training that you can replicate accurately? This would be my first guess. Is it because you are just too darn busy? Is it because you never gave it much thought? Whatever the reason, understand that when employees are not trained well, there is the tendency among supervisory personnel to frequently check up and second guess the work of those under their charge.
This exemplifies mistrust. When a supervisory or management person goes behind the employee, especially a veteran, and either supplements or changes the work or a completed task of an employee, what they are really saying to the employee, and saying it loud and clear is, “I don’t trust you.” If by word or deed, you say too frequently to an employee, “I don’t trust you.” The employee will eventually become demoralized and abandon any emotional ownership that they might have in the success of the enterprise. The result will be just another mediocre employee, that management considers easily replaceable.
Supervisors then find themselves babysitting employees rather than seizing the opportunities for productivity increases and or resource savings. It all spirals into a culture of mistrust between employees and supervisors and management. The result being lost productivity, even if there might be productivity increases—just not the level of increases possible.
The solution is to develop a culture of trust upon the foundation of comprehensive and effective training. Answer for yourself a few questions about how your organization operates.
- Can your training system be replicated from supervisor to supervisor and from department to department?
- Is your training system in writing?
- Do you have metrics for measuring the effectiveness of the individuals that train new employees?
- Do you have a periodic (one week, then one month, then six months) follow up system or mechanism for new employees to offer feedback on how well they feel they were trained to do the required job?
- Do you have a bi-annual system for employees to rate their supervisors?
- Are your supervisors aware that when they do things, change things, and/ or supplement things behind the backs of your employees, they are telling your employees, by deed, that they don’t trust your employees?
T&T is the answer! Training well, and then trusting your employees is the key to high productivity. That does not mean you cannot check up on employees, by all means it is prudent to do that. But don’t do it behind their backs. If an issue is uncovered, go directly to the employee and re-train and re-educate. This will develop a culture of trust. And, in a trusting workplace, employees have a greater emotional ownership in the success of the enterprise.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.
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