There are various opinions on who said “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war”, some say it was George S Patton, some opine its Hyman G. Rickover. Well, whoever said these famous words, these apply so aptly to the importance of training in every realm of our existence.

I will cover the aspect of training under two major sections here. The first part of this article will talk about the pre-service or Induction phase training and in the second part I will touch upon the in-service training.

The Shared Mindset

Its 1789. The French and European societies are poised for an epic transformation. Modern France is about to be born. The next ten years will be a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and throughout the rest of Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in just three years and a republic is proclaimed in 1792. It’s the French Revolution.

The modern era unfolded in the shadow of the French Revolution. The growth of republics and liberal democracies, the spread of secularism, the development of modern ideologies, and the invention of total war all mark their birth during the Revolution. Events that can be traced to the Revolution include the Napoleonic Wars, two separate restorations of monarchy Bourbon Restoration and July Monarchy, and two additional revolutions 1830 and 1848 as modern France took shape.

In the French Revolution, the sans-culottes were the radical partisans of the lower classes; typically urban laborers. Though ill-clad and ill-equipped, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars. It is this fact that is most remarkable about the Revolution. An entire revolution led by people. People who had had no formal training in war and weaponry yet they delivered on their promise. Masses, groups of people who have never seen each other, yet they fought the wars in unison and brought glory upon themselves.

The singular factor that made the ill-clad, ill-equipped and ill-trained masses deliver was the ‘Shared Mindset’. The masses united against the isolation and indifference of the royal court towards their hardships. People united against the non-enactment of much needed reforms by King Louis XVI. In short there was a cause and there was a shared mindset of achieving their cause that made these inadequately prepared masses to not only wage a war but also sustain it and be victorious.

The power of a ‘shared mindset’ can never be undermined. It is what drives the breakthrough teams, it is what makes people lay down their lives for a cause and if driven the wrong way, it is what creates disasters like 9/11. A successful team thrives on this shared mindset where each team member works in unison towards a common objective and puts in all that is required to achieve the objective. The level of cooperation and coordination in such teams is exemplary and the team members compliment each other to overcome the shortcomings if any.

Induction

The corporate world constantly endeavors to create this shared mindset among it’s employees but often miss the starting point which is the all important induction phase. Most companies do have an induction program for the new hires but this program is more about making the new hires ‘familiar’ with the company’s management, mission, vision statements and a download on core values. This is followed by more ‘familiarization’ of the company HR policies and the major thrust of induction training revolves around individual’s job profile. Mere familiarisation with the company’s culture is grossly inadequate and the individual’s on-boarding is actually only partially accomplished this way.

In my opinion, the company has already missed the bus with such an induction program. A new hire is most receptive in these initial days as he/she wants to get familiar and get started on the job. Irrespective of age, the individual is willing to imbibe every bit of information, every instruction at this stage. This is the time and opportunity to mould the individual into the company’s thought process and culture. Whether it is the HR department or the training department or both, responsible for on-boarding the individual, this is the right time to bring the individual completely in sync with the company’s mission, vision and core values, right down to the departmental mission and goals where the person will be employed, while the individual is in the highest state of receptiveness.

Most organisations actually fall prey to the Pareto principle here with 80% focus of the induction training being on job related training and just 20% on actually bringing the individual onboard at the mental level, creating a shared mindset with the company’s vision, mission and objectives. At the end of induction, the individual rarely carries home the vision and ends up becoming just another cog in the organisational machinery. As the individual takes on the responsibilities of the job, he drowns in the clutter clatter of daily routines, drifting away from the quintessential shared mindset and the ever so important understanding of “Why am I doing, what I am doing?”. He is never really connected or feels engaged with the larger picture.

If you constantly feel that your staff is disconnected, disengaged, take a peek at your induction program. These questions will assist:

  • Does your induction program spend enough time on creating a shared mindset?
  • Does the induction program lay emphasis on making the larger picture clear?
  • Is the Company Mission & Vision just a download or a complete session explaining the ‘Why’ clearly?
  • Does the Induction program explain how the individual’s job contributes towards the larger picture?
  • How effectively does the program deal with core values of the company? Is it just points to remember or each core value is truly explained in depth and it’s profundity?

Unless the requisite emphasis is laid upon on-boarding the individual at a mental level, at the end of the induction you would have just another working hand doing a 9-5 routine. Post induction, it’s all about productivity, efficiency and deliverables. It is rare for companies to continually make efforts on creating a shared mindset among it’s employees during their tenure. The only exception I have come across to this is Zappos.com.

Zappos have a remarkable culture and every employee lives and breathes the Zappos culture. The company constantly endeavors to create and maintain a shared mindset of delivering WoW to it’s customers. The core valuea of Zappos are resonant of human nature and they leave no stone unturned in inculcating the core values in each Zappos employee through concentrated training efforts in this direction. The results are phenomenal. Each Zappos employee is a living testimony of the company’s core values. One of the Zappos’s core values is ‘Deliver WoW with Service’ and today, the customer service of Zappos is legendary.

The training department and HRD need to be in complete sync here and should deliver equal weight-age to job specific training and mental on-boarding of new hires. Who does what is insignificant, what they do during induction is of paramount importance. If you miss the bus here, it would be an uphill task later to bring a person in line with what the company stands for. The strong winds of performance and delivery expectations will sweep the individual into an impregnable tangle of targets, to-do lists, reports and meetings making it nearly impossible for anyone to reach out and open his mind to new thoughts of culture, mission and vision. The trick therefore lies in catching them young, as in young in the organization.

All Aboard

Really! Is everyone truly aboard? Think again, reassess and reevaluate the level to which people in the organization are aboard not just physically but with their minds and souls included. Overindulgence with technicalities, perfectionist tendency and inclination towards logic of things has shrouded the fact that to begin with, we are not just logical but psychological beings. The need is for the CEO’s and managers to lift their gaze from the charts, graphs and data strewn on their physical or virtual desktops and take a moment to look at the people behind it, as people. The need for every member of the team to be engaged at a mental level cannot be over stated.

Adrian Gostick has said in his book The Orange Revolution, “Successful teams pick up on the leader’s passion and share the desire to win”. Take a moment to pause here and try to answer these questions:

  • Do you share your company’s mission and vision?
  • Do you understand how what you do helps the company get closer to it’s mission and vision?
  • Are you sure your team shares your vision?
  • Are you certain that each team member understands the ‘Why’ behind his job?

To begin with, as a leader you need to be connected with your company’s cause. Unless you yourself are in sync, it would not even be viable for you to assess if your team shares the mindset or not.

The French Revolution, the Indian Independence and many such history altering events have all been a result of people sharing a mindset and becoming a force to reckon with despite all oddities. Few had even heard of Anna Hazare until he rose to fight corruption and became a formidable power overnight as people from all across the nation joined his crusade against corruption. Such is the power of a shared mindset.

We continually indulge in defining new processes, implementing new methods, generating new reports to better our business results. How often do we stop to think about the people responsible to bring these changes on the floor? How concerned do we feel that the people on the floor understand the meaning behind their job and how it affects the company’s cause? The new methods and processes might change the results a wee bit but you would still have a team that looks at the clock as it nears shift end, people who come in, do their 2 cents worth and wait for the day to get over, people who have no idea why they do what they do and are internally isolated with the company’s cause and vision.

Then the focus turns on training. Lower productivity almost immediately turns the spotlight on lack of training, the wheels start to turn on TNI and TNA and a search is launched for an external agency to come in and help enhance internal productivity. This is so ironical. It’s almost laughable. Companies want an external agency to come in and they get willing to shell out big money for something that is truly intrinsic to the organization… a culture of shared mindset.

The obvious is so easily missed. If you can connect with the people’s hearts, you would probably obviate the outflow of big bucks to a large extent in the name of “training for productivity”. I have always believed that every individual has a tremendous potential for growth. An engaged and connected employee automatically does what it takes to ensure that the bottom lines are met and targets are never missed. The point is that every individual goes through a rigorous screening before the hiring happens. This is usually followed by an induction program and training for the job the individual is going to perform. Therefore unless your hiring process is a complete disaster or your induction training is a sob story, you already have the right person for the right job. If there is still a major productivity issue on the individual’s part, the obvious explanation is a lack of shared mindset.

The propensity of treating the obvious as unimportant seems to be the order of the day. The obvious gets ignored because it is known and holds no charm. The modern age corporate culture is such a proponent of “unless you are trained, you can’t do it” theory, that managers at all levels now seek to get trained even of the basic elements of human interaction. The enormity of pressures of delivery, professional and technical excellence, peer competency assessments and cut throat competition has made the human forget the basics of being human. Even the obvious traits of being a human have drifted into the misty realms of the unknown and it is now in vogue to be spending big bucks on corporate training just to bring back the basics of human interaction from oblivion to reality. Bringing in a culture of delivering wow in service, open and clear communication and of unrestrained appreciation is what is needed. There is an obvious need for a reality check on how engaged is the leadership and their teams with the departmental, organizational objectives respectively and taking a call on whether you need an external agency to come in take charge of your productivity or is it something purely intrinsic to the organization.

Here are two questionnaires for you to help do this reality check. The first questionnaire titled “The Connect Questionnaire” is purely for your leadership. After-all if the leadership itself is not connected, there is little you can expect from their teams. The second questionnaire called ”The Reality Check Questionnaire” has 2 parts. Part 1 is for the team members and Part 2 is for the team manager. It would work the best if you let the people answer it sitting together but not discussing the answers.

The Connect Questionnaire

1. Please state the following:
a) Company’s Mission Statement
b) Company’s Vision Statement
c) Company Core Values

2. Mention 3 things that you have done in the past 1 year to further company’s mission and vision.

3. Mention the activities conducted by the company (indoor & Outdoor) in which you have actively participated in the past 1 year.

4. Mention at-least 2 changes that you were instrumental in bringing in to make work more interesting and fun at department level in the past 1 year. You can mention all in case you have brought in more than 2 changes.

5. Mention the changes that you were instrumental in bringing in at organizational level for improvement of a process and/or making the Company a fun place and/or making us a great place to work.

6. Mention the steps you took in the past 1 year to further inter-departmental coordination to bring in more efficiency and faster resolution of issues.

The Reality Check Questionnaire

PART 1 (For Team Members)
Name:                                                                   Designation:

All questions are compulsory. You can write “Do not know” in case you do not have an answer to a particular question.
—————————————————————————————–

  1. Please state the vision of Training Department.
  2. Please state the mission of Training Department.
  3. State your KRA’s and KPI’s clearly.
  4. State the objective specifically that you try to achieve through the training you provide.
  5. Mention how you get to know if the objective has been achieved or not.
  6. Do you think you are achieving your objective? (Yes/No)
  7. If you answered ‘Yes’ to question #6, justify in detail. If you answered ‘No’, please state what is stopping you from achieving your objective.

——————————————————————————————-

PART 2 (For Manager)

Name: Designation: Mgr. Training

All questions are compulsory. You can write “Do not know” in case you do not have an answer to a particular question.
——————————————————————————————-

  1. Please state the vision of Training Department.
  2. Please state the mission of Training Department.
  3. State the KRA’s and KPI’s clearly for each designation in your team.
  4. State the departmental objectives specifically.
  5. Mention how you get to know if the objectives have been achieved or not.
  6. Do you think you are achieving departmental objectives? (Yes/No)
  7. If you answered ‘Yes’ to question #6, justify in detail. If you answered ‘No’, please state what is stopping you from achieving your objective.

————————————————————————————————-

The example above is what I used with my training department. You can replace the name of the department and tweak the questions as appropriate.

There is really no explanation required on interpretation of the answers you receive to these questionnaire. The answers I saw the first time I gave out the questionnaire were an eye opener for me. I am not assuming but I am quite certain that the answers would be an eye opener for most organisations when you receive the answers. The results only emphasize the need for continual training or I would rather call it interaction on aspect of creating a shared mindset.

At Synergy Education International Pvt. Ltd., I made it a point to take a session on explaining the ‘Why’ with all the call center training batches in our initial years. My intention was to let the new hires understand why we do what we do and how our business impacted the lives of our customers. It used to be an hour long session where I tried to share the big picture with the trainees, explained in depth how they fit in this picture and most importantly, how their job helped the company achieve it’s mission and vision. Establishing this connect and giving a meaning to their job went a long way in better productivity and lower turnover of the agents. The training team used to be part of these sessions as I wanted them to be able to take these sessions later on. For a long time the training department insisted that I took these sessions. They argued that they were unable to deliver the impact as forcefully in their session as I was able to.

Later the training department did take on the responsibility but with a trade off. The productivity of the batches dropped and the turnover increased. This trade off was really not acceptable and consequently I continue to take these sessions even today.

Training for Effectiveness
If the above has given the impression that I am against training, let me put the records straight. I am not against training, au contraire I started this article with the famous quote on importance of training viz. “the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war”.

Training is an integral and important part of growth at all levels. What I have meant until now relates to the importance of identifying the gaps leading to diminished productivity and having the wisdom to understand which gaps are due to lack of shared mindset and which ones need to be filled with appropriate training. In other words training may not be the singular solution to enhancing productivity and efficiency.

Product training, technical training and training for career advancement are extremely significant. My disconnect arises at the way this training is usually delivered. A series of sessions, powerpoint presentations and expectation from people to be able to remember and follow bullet points at every step has the same futility as supplying ice to eskimos.

I choose to classify training into two broad categories viz. technical and practical.

Technical Training:
For the ease of understanding let us define technical training as any training that has a human at one end and a process, procedure, product or machinery at the other end. These types of trainings are purely technical in nature and do not involve interaction between people. Assessing the effectiveness of such training is rather straight forward. The only human factor involved in imparting a technical training is limited to making the delivery interesting and easy for absorption. Usually technical training include class room sessions (theory) followed by a hands on experience with the product, procedure or machinery. This is also referred to as On Job Training or OJT and is the practical aspect of technical training.

Practical Training:
Any training involving effective human interaction for it to be meaningful is practical training under the purview of this discussion. Every form of soft skill training would fall under this classification. Training on topics like team management, people management, leadership, communication skills, interpersonal skills are all practical trainings. Most of the time it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of such training and the trainers tend to adopt a download and forget kind of approach while training for soft skills. It is very important to train on soft skills and is an essential component for career advancement, however the delivery of soft skill training should not be limited to presentations and bullet points to be memorized. Trainer’s skill and ability to train at a human level is of prime importance with such trainings. Soft skill training is more about being able to change the way people think and interact with other people. It’s more about a paradigm shift and the ability of the trainer to connect with the minds of the trainees plays a vital role on the success of such training.

Advise to Trainers

Before you sit down to cramp up megabytes of information for any training module think of the following:

a) Is the aspect technical or practical?
b) Content : What is need to know and what is good to know. Filter out the good to know.
c) Content Delivery: Is it designed for humans or robots. An effective trainer talks to the human mind. Does not expect the trainees to remember bullet points but aims at changing thought patterns.
d) Interest & Impact: Would the trainee feel like saying “Beam me up Scotty” anytime during the session?
e) Trainee Delivery: How easy, practical and palpable is the content and its delivery to ensure that the information would be absorbed, imbibed and used by trainees. In short, will the trainee be able to actually deliver on what has been taught?
f) Measure: how will you measure the impact of training?

I recommend a training methodology that transcends the stagnancy and futility of “download and forget”, the “routine and rudimentary”. This encompasses the entire training team. The trainers needs to open up their minds, improvise, adapt and get close to training for permanency of post-training results. The trainer should know how to deal with the human nature and tendencies and aim to bring in a change there. One sure fire way of achieving this is to bring in a plethora of real life examples that the trainees will relate to. That will make the idea stick and bring in the change in their behavior pattern and thinking process.

I would strongly suggest that if you have an internal training department, hire the trainers very carefully. In my experience the most effective trainers are not necessarily the ones who have vast experience on technical training. If you find a candidate with very effective communication skills, someone who can understand and converse with your mind, he is probably a better choice than someone who has been training for years on technical aspects. For any form of training to be effective, it is very essential that the trainer is able to connect with the trainees at the mental level. Such a trainer will do full justice to technical and practical training.

To Summarize:

  • The power of a shared mindset is what drives breakthrough teams.
  • Induction is the most essential period to create shared mindset in new hires
  • Training and HRD should always work in tandem to deliver induction training with equal weight-age to job specific training and mental on-boarding of new hires.
  • Do a reality check to understand how much your frontline leadership and their teams are in sync with company’s cause.
  • Creating a shared mindset will lead to productivity enhancement.
  • Trainers should have the ability to connect to the trainees minds.
  • All soft skill trainings are about bringing in a paradigm shift in the trainees and changing their thought patterns for effective interaction with other people.

Shalabh Agrawal

A Tryst With Training

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