I like that quote, but I don’t consider ‘wishing’ to be a viable strategy! You have to work at being better.
Gaining knowledge and practicing skills will make you more productive, and that means more profitable. Learning and training (assisted learning) make an enormous difference in a business. In larger well-run corporates, training is recognised as important and staff expect to be provided with regular opportunities to improve their skills. Yet in smaller businesses where staff have to be far more multi-skilled it’s common to find zero training.
Audit your past 12 months – out of 365 days, you had
- 104 weekend days
- 8 Public holidays (in the UK)
- 20 days holiday (maybe more)
- = 233 working days
How many days of informal learning did you do? And how many formal days learning or attending training? When I look into most businesses of under 50 staff the answer for the owner and many of the employees is none! And they’re often surprised when they realise.
If you were not thinking about your own business where it’s easy to get caught up in excuses, but looking at someone else’s business, with 132 days of holidays and 233 working days, what would you say would be a reasonable number of days to spend training? As a percentage, 10% learning how to do the work better and learn new things sounds entirely reasonable, but express it as 23 days and most business owners laugh.
Last year I spent 43 days learning and in training. I don’t suggest you do that much, but what would you consider reasonable – 5 days, 10 days?
If you were going to spend 10 days on education over the next 12 months, what would be your priorities? Is it marketing? Sales skills? Planning? Recruitment? Appraisals? Finance? I recommend that you create a Personal Development Plan (PDP). Your staff should all have one too. It would highlight the areas in which someone needs training either to be better at their current role, or prepare to expand or change their role. Once you know the skill gaps, you can work at identifying the relevant training.
Often business owners tell me their staff are not very good. I ask about their recruitment methods and they assure me that they’re good at recruiting – they only employ good people. Yet here they are complaining their staff are not achieving the standards they require. So what happened in between? Nothing – and that’s the trouble. If you employ good people and then just put them to work and expect them to learn on the job, they lack any external input and their opportunity to learn is severely limited.
The thing about training is that it’s never urgent. It’s easy to have good intentions and find reasons to defer. But over a period of time it becomes a serious problem that limits the business profitability, slows or stops growth, and leaves people lacking motivation and enjoyment in their work.
Here’s an interesting question for business owners. Imagine you are owner and chairman of your business, looking at the return that your Managing Director is delivering from your business. Would you fire yourself and get someone better? Maybe you’d tell yourself to get booked on some training courses and get up to standard.
Training is one of the best ways to invest your time and money. Invest wisely and you’ll get a huge return on that investment. Create a PDP and decide how many days per year you need to dedicate to your improvement and that of your staff. Do it today.