13 Oct 2016

At work, there’s an age old saying: To have and to hold, from this day forward. … Oh, hang on a sec, that’s what people say as they are getting married. It should be used by all recruiting managers though, it makes sense. New staff coming and going can really sting your profit margins, its a time waster also. It takes time and effort as well as costs money to research, interview and vet potential new company members. At best they need invest around six months and many other peoples manpower to recruit and jump start a newby, bringing them up to speed to become a fully contributing member of the team. This initial investment often includes their product/service training, eradicating past bad habits, and more steep learning curves of knowledge that they need to absorb. The last thing you want to happen after investing so much time in these individuals is for them to turn around and quit for another companies slightly higher salary package.

business training china

Ultimately, you expect all your new hires to be grateful of their new found position and come whistling into work each day. Thereby bringing in business and increasing your earnings. However if your business is suffering from RDS more commonly known as Revolving Door Syndrome, you will soon find yourself squandering company profits just to keep things ticking over. Put simply, until you get to the source of your staff retention problems and remedy them, you will just keep losing your profits to the recruitment websites.

Average figures suggest that it takes seven months and around RMB180,000 to find and place a new sales rep into his job role. These costs may be a flash in the pan if your organization is in upward motion. Growth is after all the best issue to be facing so long as you are prepared, however this growth can be crushed if turnover is excessive in your recruiting cost areas, here lies a systemic problem. When the leavers are your top performers moving on to better opportunities you know you really do have a problem. Suddenly as a boss you feel as if you are sinking slowly, frantically trying to plug leaks in your ship which the rest of the crew seem to be jumping out of.

From Outset: Be Honest About Expectations
Just as you want to be completely clear of the new sales rep that you are introducing to your company. So do they need to be sure also of work environment they will be entering. Generally managers are great at selling as they have built in communication abilities that have enabled them to get where they need to be. They can sell the role. However on the new starters first day if they gradually realise that the post that they have signed up to is not what they had bargained for they may grow ever more disgruntled day by day and become cynical, they may even quit within the first few months. This looks bad to your other staff and will also be demoralising and a let down for you. Therefore to avoid this fiasco occurring, it is best to set realistic expectations right from the outset. Ideally at the interview stage when you see qualities in the potential staff member you wish to employ. Don’t talk up the job role. Or the company. Say it how it is. Be aware that this staff member will be one of your team, you are placing them in a position of trust. Trust must be reciprocated. Therefore always be completely honest with prospective hires about the work they will be doing, the progression they can attain if they work hard and also their working environment. Ideally also show them around and introduce them to their team. They may decide it’s not for them at this stage, however that will be far more beneficial to you as you will save time. Also more importantly you will be able to rest assured that when you do place the ideal candidate into the role you will have a more dedicated employee. Be sure to be upfront about the challenging aspects that they may face, how you like it to be and also what to expect from their direct line manager. If they are going to be good they will already be forming their own ideas on how to progress. It is also essential to reaffirm by asking their views on what they have see throughout all the processes above before making a selection.

Setting Realistic Goals and Monitoring Progress
Because sales folks are a competitive bunch, they thrive when you set goals for them. They need to be challenged. The goals need to be attainable though, they should see the carrot and be able to grab it. It is essential also to provide guide them with the resources necessary to reach those goals. Give them what they need so that they can get the ball rolling straight away. Arrange follow up meetings to keep tabs on progress. The initial period is the time that requires the most focus. The more support provided at this stage will become fruitful for the individual members of your team as well as the complete team unit. Arrange one-to-ones thereby opening the lines of communication with your team. This will motivate them and also gently push them to becoming focused, they will see you are serious about this project succeeding and will get on board too if they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. With regular meetings also areas for further development may become apparent.

Establish Realistic Goals and Coaching
Moving on to the topic of coaching … one of the best investments you can make throughout is building your team’s coaching. Surveys and common sense shows that people take jobs for three main reasons, not necessarily in this order: what they will learn, how much they will get paid, opportunities for progression. By signaling to your workforce that they are worth the company money and time spent in investing in they will be far more reciprocating in their contribution to your company. Ongoing learning for all of your team members is essential to keep them happy, they will see it as a perk of their job and even boast about it to their peers. This will quite rightly make them feel good and keep them happy. A happy employee is a productive and healthy employee. They will want to be at work rather than feeling that they have to come in to pay the rent. We have seen it many times before, failing to nurture any employee often results in them looking to other companies who will offer them better opportunity to grow in skill.

Compensation Packages
Money is on the mind of all the best sales reps. Most work on commission. When recruiting sales reps if you ask the question “Are you motivated by money?” and they say NO. Alarm bells should ring. If they work on commission and money is not an incentive as a sales person they are clearly in the wrong place. The top performers are not looking for free office coffee or dress down Fridays. They want to earn and earn it quick. If you provide that for them they will stay otherwise they may move to pastures greener. The targets and packages need to be continually optimised to ensure their interest in achieving them. Continually reexamine your compensation packages, before doing this though ensure that their contract maintains this flexibility for you on an annual basis. As we all know in China there are set points in the calendar where staff tend to leave. Be sure not to fall victim to this. Stay one step ahead of the game. We can help you with this also in the training courses we offer. It requires being continually fully aware of what is being offered at competing organizations. Tiered plans work best especially with top performers, the dangling carrot scenario. Once they get that low hanging fruit they want the bigger one. Ensure it is there for them to grab. When making these decisions run this through the thought and costing process of thinking: How much is the company saving with slim streamlined compensation compared to how much better it could be by splashing out a bit more to keep those valued employees on your side.

Incentives
It’s not all about money. Finding and developing fun and creative ways to show your team you appreciate them has no boundaries. Focus on your most valuable staff and your company will run far smoother. Motivate them to stay with you and make it beneficial also for those valued staff to become even more valuable by giving them extended responsibility where possible. If and where possible also find the most cost effective and beneficial incentives for them also such as language learning, gym memberships, flex time, additional paid holidays and the like. Often even an in-house concierge works well to build loyalty. These in turn also promote a stress-free happy work environment. If in sales then periodically, weekly, monthly or even quarterly if your teams are far away, meetings should be held. Quarterly meetings should ideally include occasional sales contests where praise is delivered in all the right places, this will motivate your ever determined sales staff to always work to achieve their best.

Where Did It All Go Wrong?
Occasionally, despite a company’s best efforts to perfect the working environment they will lose top employees. In this case the question to be asked is “Why?”
By the time a member hands in their resignation they have usually found another job so convining them to stay might be hard, although not impossible. The priority here is to establish the reasoning behind it. Ask them why they are choosing to break the relationship. Get them relaxed, relate to their feelings and just find out why. Again this is something that our training covers. When you become aware that they are leaving speak to their supervisors also, many may become defensive at the loss of a member of their team therefore you need to put them at ease too ensuring that you do not demoralise them. Effective questioning and rapport is key at this stage. Softly softly. Find out the reasons why so that it does not happen again or lead to a mass exodus. Often if one influential member leaves others will follow. Be extremely careful. Ideally, the exit interview should be held by an experienced member of the HR team.

Always remember, when it comes to retaining the best employees, it’s one thing to get them to say “I do” however it’s another to hold and keep them.
Have a look though our courses. Everything discovered here is content that we cover and can help you with.

13 Apr 2016

corporate training china

At work, there’s an age old saying: To have and to hold, from this day forward. … Oh, hang on a sec, that’s what people say as they are getting married. It should be used by all recruiting managers though, it makes sense. New staff coming and going can really sting your profit margins, its a time waster also. It takes time and effort as well as costs money to research, interview and vet potential new company members. At best they need invest around six months and many other peoples manpower to recruit and jump start a newby, bringing them up to speed to become a fully contributing member of the team. This initial investment often includes their product/service training, eradicating past bad habits, and more steep learning curves of knowledge that they need to absorb. The last thing you want to happen after investing so much time in these individuals is for them to turn around and quit for another companies slightly higher salary package.

business training china

Ultimately, you expect all your new hires to be grateful of their new found position and come whistling into work each day. Thereby bringing in business and increasing your earnings. However if your business is suffering from RDS more commonly known as Revolving Door Syndrome, you will soon find yourself squandering company profits just to keep things ticking over. Put simply, until you get to the source of your staff retention problems and remedy them, you will just keep losing your profits to the recruitment websites.

Average figures suggest that it takes seven months and around RMB180,000 to find and place a new sales rep into his job role. These costs may be a flash in the pan if your organization is in upward motion. Growth is after all the best issue to be facing so long as you are prepared, however this growth can be crushed if turnover is excessive in your recruiting cost areas, here lies a systemic problem. When the leavers are your top performers moving on to better opportunities you know you really do have a problem. Suddenly as a boss you feel as if you are sinking slowly, frantically trying to plug leaks in your ship which the rest of the crew seem to be jumping out of.

From Outset: Be Honest About Expectations
Just as you want to be completely clear of the new sales rep that you are introducing to your company. So do they need to be sure also of work environment they will be entering. Generally managers are great at selling as they have built in communication abilities that have enabled them to get where they need to be. They can sell the role. However on the new starters first day if they gradually realise that the post that they have signed up to is not what they had bargained for they may grow ever more disgruntled day by day and become cynical, they may even quit within the first few months. This looks bad to your other staff and will also be demoralising and a let down for you. Therefore to avoid this fiasco occurring, it is best to set realistic expectations right from the outset. Ideally at the interview stage when you see qualities in the potential staff member you wish to employ. Don’t talk up the job role. Or the company. Say it how it is. Be aware that this staff member will be one of your team, you are placing them in a position of trust. Trust must be reciprocated. Therefore always be completely honest with prospective hires about the work they will be doing, the progression they can attain if they work hard and also their working environment. Ideally also show them around and introduce them to their team. They may decide it’s not for them at this stage, however that will be far more beneficial to you as you will save time. Also more importantly you will be able to rest assured that when you do place the ideal candidate into the role you will have a more dedicated employee. Be sure to be upfront about the challenging aspects that they may face, how you like it to be and also what to expect from their direct line manager. If they are going to be good they will already be forming their own ideas on how to progress. It is also essential to reaffirm by asking their views on what they have see throughout all the processes above before making a selection.

Setting Realistic Goals and Monitoring Progress
Because sales folks are a competitive bunch, they thrive when you set goals for them. They need to be challenged. The goals need to be attainable though, they should see the carrot and be able to grab it. It is essential also to provide guide them with the resources necessary to reach those goals. Give them what they need so that they can get the ball rolling straight away. Arrange follow up meetings to keep tabs on progress. The initial period is the time that requires the most focus. The more support provided at this stage will become fruitful for the individual members of your team as well as the complete team unit. Arrange one-to-ones thereby opening the lines of communication with your team. This will motivate them and also gently push them to becoming focused, they will see you are serious about this project succeeding and will get on board too if they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. With regular meetings also areas for further development may become apparent.

Establish Realistic Goals and Coaching
Moving on to the topic of coaching … one of the best investments you can make throughout is building your team’s coaching. Surveys and common sense shows that people take jobs for three main reasons, not necessarily in this order: what they will learn, how much they will get paid, opportunities for progression. By signaling to your workforce that they are worth the company money and time spent in investing in they will be far more reciprocating in their contribution to your company. Ongoing learning for all of your team members is essential to keep them happy, they will see it as a perk of their job and even boast about it to their peers. This will quite rightly make them feel good and keep them happy. A happy employee is a productive and healthy employee. They will want to be at work rather than feeling that they have to come in to pay the rent. We have seen it many times before, failing to nurture any employee often results in them looking to other companies who will offer them better opportunity to grow in skill.

Compensation Packages
Money is on the mind of all the best sales reps. Most work on commission. When recruiting sales reps if you ask the question “Are you motivated by money?” and they say NO. Alarm bells should ring. If they work on commission and money is not an incentive as a sales person they are clearly in the wrong place. The top performers are not looking for free office coffee or dress down Fridays. They want to earn and earn it quick. If you provide that for them they will stay otherwise they may move to pastures greener. The targets and packages need to be continually optimised to ensure their interest in achieving them. Continually reexamine your compensation packages, before doing this though ensure that their contract maintains this flexibility for you on an annual basis. As we all know in China there are set points in the calendar where staff tend to leave. Be sure not to fall victim to this. Stay one step ahead of the game. We can help you with this also in the training courses we offer. It requires being continually fully aware of what is being offered at competing organizations. Tiered plans work best especially with top performers, the dangling carrot scenario. Once they get that low hanging fruit they want the bigger one. Ensure it is there for them to grab. When making these decisions run this through the thought and costing process of thinking: How much is the company saving with slim streamlined compensation compared to how much better it could be by splashing out a bit more to keep those valued employees on your side.

Incentives
It’s not all about money. Finding and developing fun and creative ways to show your team you appreciate them has no boundaries. Focus on your most valuable staff and your company will run far smoother. Motivate them to stay with you and make it beneficial also for those valued staff to become even more valuable by giving them extended responsibility where possible. If and where possible also find the most cost effective and beneficial incentives for them also such as language learning, gym memberships, flex time, additional paid holidays and the like. Often even an in-house concierge works well to build loyalty. These in turn also promote a stress-free happy work environment. If in sales then periodically, weekly, monthly or even quarterly if your teams are far away, meetings should be held. Quarterly meetings should ideally include occasional sales contests where praise is delivered in all the right places, this will motivate your ever determined sales staff to always work to achieve their best.

Where Did It All Go Wrong?
Occasionally, despite a company’s best efforts to perfect the working environment they will lose top employees. In this case the question to be asked is “Why?”
By the time a member hands in their resignation they have usually found another job so convining them to stay might be hard, although not impossible. The priority here is to establish the reasoning behind it. Ask them why they are choosing to break the relationship. Get them relaxed, relate to their feelings and just find out why. Again this is something that our training covers. When you become aware that they are leaving speak to their supervisors also, many may become defensive at the loss of a member of their team therefore you need to put them at ease too ensuring that you do not demoralise them. Effective questioning and rapport is key at this stage. Softly softly. Find out the reasons why so that it does not happen again or lead to a mass exodus. Often if one influential member leaves others will follow. Be extremely careful. Ideally, the exit interview should be held by an experienced member of the HR team.

Always remember, when it comes to retaining the best employees, it’s one thing to get them to say “I do” however it’s another to hold and keep them.
Have a look though our courses. Everything discovered here is content that we cover and can help you with.

30 Aug 2015

The Nightmare

The elevator doors are about to close, but you just manage to get a foot in, and barge your way into the already overcrowded metal box as you hear several not-so-subtle sighs coming from the people behind you. Panting and sweating, you look at your watch, it’s 8:55am. It’s OK, you’ve still got five minutes, the class can start on time, the client will be happy. Sure, you really need the toilet, but that’ll just have to wait. If only the traffic wasn’t so bad!

The elevator doors open, and like a sprinter to the sound of a gunshot, you rush out, taking a right turn as you leap towards the receptionist who then points you to the training room. You barge open the doors with your sweat stained shirt, fully prepared to apologise to the group of eager participants. But low and behold, there are only two people there typing away on their laptops and they barely notice you.

Over the next twenty minutes, trickles of trainees stream in in groups of three to five. You keep on starting and then restarting the icebreaker as yet more participants stream in. Finally you wait until most have arrived and start the icebreaker for one last time. But by this time, half of the room has done the icebreaker several times already and return to their seats out of boredom. The others give up too. Looking slightly embarrassed, you say “OK, good, lets stop there and I’ll introduce myself”.

As you start talking, laptops open, and phones magically appear in hands. You rush your introduction and get straight into the course. The trainees bide their time by playing with their phones and pretending to type emails on their laptops whilst actually browsing their favourite online stores. You finish your talking part and get straight into an activity. This should keep them busy for some time. Thank god, a chance for you to go to the toilet.

Ten minutes later, with your business all done, you return to the room only to find three quarters of the participants missing, and the rest sitting there on their computers again.

Suddenly your eyes open and you sit up taking a deep breath. You’re in your hotel bed, covered in a cold sweat. It’s OK, it was just a bad dream. It’s 6:30am, and you have two and a half hours to make sure none of that happens.

Create a Sense of Purpose

I’m not going to advise you to arrive early to the venue. In my experience of training in Beijing, it doesn’t matter how early you depart, there is still a high chance of being late. But what I will advise is that no matter what time you arrive, it’s important to create a sense of purpose from the very beginning.

In an ideal world, before the course has already begun, HR will have set certain expectations about the course, and you will have spoken to several of the trainees. The benefit of this is that it focuses their expectations in the right area, and gives them a chance drop out before the course has even begun if it appears it’s not relevant to them. Of course this doesn’t always happen so I’ll just move on.

Now that you’re in the training room, take some time to get set up. First get your equipment set up and make sure that whatever you need is there. Next, make sure the trainees are mostly there. There will be some late starters, so make sure at least 80% have arrived before starting anything. Chat with the trainees if that’s your style, get to know them, make friends with them. If that’s not your style, just let them know that you’ll be starting in roughly X minutes, giving them a chance to go out and take care of some other tasks in the meantime.

If necessary, set ground rules from the very beginning, and be strict with them. If trainees have laptops open as you start the class, that is a sign to clamp down. Distractions are like cancer, they spread, and if you don’t kill them early they gradually grow to an uncontrollable level. Tell them to close their laptops. If they need to work, they can do so during the breaks or outside of the class. Stand over each individual until they politely shut their laptops. You won’t need to do this all the time, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You also don’t need to be an arse about it.

Now it’s time to create purpose. There are so many icebreakers that you can choose from, but the most effective for creating a sense of purpose is the type that extracts from the trainees their expectations. You can use questions such as the simple “What do you want to learn today?”, or more carefully crafted types of questions that subtly pull out trainees’ own case studies for you to refer back to throughout the day. This kind of information is gold for you as a trainer or facilitator, especially at the very beginning of the course. You know exactly what’s on their minds, and can start to identify the most and least relevant parts of your training, and begin the process of on-the-spot customisation.

A question that trainees may have is “Why am I here?”. The longer this questions stays in their mind, the less involved they will be, because they still have not realised the value for them. Exterminate this question at the earliest possible opportunity. This is why you should introduce the agenda at the very beginning of the day. Share the topics you will be covering, and for each topic refer to a relevant example that was drawn out in the icebreaker. This will show trainees the value, allowing their minds to transition from questions and concerns about the course to anticipation about the course.

Create a Safety Net

I once sat in on a facilitation session that started off great, but gradually turned into a shambles. The facilitator had prepared a series of questions to be used as the basis for discussion. After each set of questions, there would be a sharing, and then a further discussion based on the learning points shared from the previous discussions. And this would go on for about 3 hours. At least, that’s how he hoped it would have gone. What actually happened was they did not arrive at the learning points he was hoping they would, so when they moved on to the next set of discussion questions the participants had very little to work with. They started to make things up, and their discussions wandered off into the realms of casual chit-chat. Yet he still continued with his original plan. Eventually he got so far through the process without extracting what he was expecting, that the trainees could no longer even force learning points out. They started off by politely saying “sorry, we don’t understand what we’re supposed to do now”. Yet he still continued. Eventually, most participants walked out of the room, the session finished a lot earlier than expected, and the facilitator had an upset client and a damaged reputation.

Your activities will not always go to plan. And when you depend on one activity after another going exactly according to plan and building on top of each other, you increase the chances of failure. You need to step in at the earliest possible opportunity and change things around. Either retreat back to the first activity and see if you can get it working according to plan, or change the process altogether from there onwards.

Some trainers may argue the “be tough” approach, and say that it’s your job to force the process. My personal belief is that if they are distracted from the original plan, so long as their focus is still on points relevant to the learning objectives, then go with the flow. The more you align your activities with their focus area, the higher the levels of participation you will enjoy.

The more experienced you become as a trainer or facilitator, the easier you will find this. You will have a catalogue of activities and discussion points stored in your mind, ready to pull out and utilise whenever necessary. If you are less experienced though, you will need more of these activities. Take advantage of any experienced facilitators around you and ask their opinions of your process. Ask for their suggestions as to back-ups that you can do. Spend as much time as you possibly can preparing as many activities as you possibly can. This will improve your confidence, as well as helping you become more adaptable.

On a side note, this is also one of the main advantages of focussing on one specific area in your training career. Trainers who try to be a jack-of-all trades will not have as much subject-specific knowledge or as many relevant activities to apply to their workshops. If you are a real expert in your training subject, then you will have spent a significant amount of time learning lots about the subject, preparing multiple ways of explaining the various knowledge points, collecting an assortment of anecdotes and case studies, and designing a plentiful supply of relevant and engaging activities. Eventually, you will even get to the stage where you do not need a PPT or even a structure to your course. You will be able to completely wing it. But, you will still need to create a sense of purpose from the very beginning.

Open and Restrict the Process

For some trainees you will struggle to get them to speak up, whereas for others you will struggle to get them to shut up. Whatever type of trainee they are, you will be able to control them better if you modify the process to suit them.

Picture the scene; you reveal a discussion question on the PPT and ask the trainees to discuss in groups. One group goes completely quiet as several trainees stare down at the table looking like they’ve just been given the death sentence. A few others pick up their phones again and pretend they’re looking at their emails. One even shamelessly starts taking a selfie. In another group, two of the participants are talking amongst themselves, whilst the others observe silently not daring to speak. As for another group, they’ve completely finished their discussion, in ten seconds flat, “Yes” is their answer.

The above example is the outcome of a process thats too open, combined with a difficult group of trainees. If you have a great group of trainees, sometimes you don’t even need to give them a discussion question, they’ll happily discuss something of relevance amongst themselves, and allow everyone to participate equally. Alas, unfortunately we do not always live in a dream world. And when you are faced with the above scenario, you need to restrict your process.

A restricted process will break down the activity into relevant steps. These are great for discussions with difficult groups. Here is an example:

  1. Write down answers individually
  2. Share answers with the person next to you
  3. Share answers with the rest of the group
  4. Appoint a scribe to write down the key points from your discussion
  5. Appoint a spokesperson to share the main points of discussion with the rest of the class
  6. Allow each group to share their key points one by one

Of course, you could restrict that process even more if you wanted. You could go through the whole process for one question, then repeat the process again for the next question. Or you could get one pair to focus on another question, and another pair to focus on another question. The more you restrict it, the less room for error and chaos there is. And this is a fantastic option for groups that are not participating as much as you would like them to. But if they are already a highly participative group, then open it up as much as is necessary to release
relevant learning points in an engaging way.

Another way of restricting the process is to use props. Throw a ball at relevant trainees to indicate it’s their time to talk. Give a box of matchsticks to each group and distribute an even number of matchsticks to each participant in the group. Every time they want to talk they have to take one of their matchsticks from the ‘not-yet-spoken’ pile and then move it to the ‘already-spoken’ pile. When they’re out of matchsticks, they shut up.

Use More Limbs

I once ran a brief experience sharing session with over 90 hotel managers to help me collect case studies for a course that I was designing for them. I had prepared a series of discussions that would draw out the case studies I needed, but by the time the third discussion came around, it was obvious that they’d had enough of discussing. So I applied a simple yet highly effective principle; use more limbs.

This particular discussion was to see if they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements. So instead of getting them to stay in their seats, on their round tables with ten to a group, I got them all to stand up and revealed the statements one by one. If they agreed, they were to move to the left side of the room, and the right side of the room if they disagreed. Suddenly they became much more involved, and shared some fascinating insights. They even started to interrupt each other and talk for much longer than I was hoping they would do. And everything they discussed was relevant to the learning objective.

It is such a simple principle to apply, yet it has a huge impact on levels of engagement. Instead of writing their answers in their books, get them to stand up and write their answers on flip-charts. Instead of getting them to answer all questions on that one flip chart, write down different questions on different flip charts located in various parts of the room. Instead of getting them to share examples of the challenges they have whilst sitting down in their chairs, get them to write the challenges on post-it notes and then match them to different categories of challenges again located in different parts of the room.

Summary

Learning only happens when we do. The more participatory your workshops are, the more participants will learn. So always make sure you get off to a good start, have plenty of backup options, and know exactly how to adapt to match the circumstances.

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