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Tag Archives: training employees

Garbage in, garbage out: poor inputs result in poor outputs

garbage in, garbage outGarbage in, garbage out is a phrase I learned in one of my first-year Computer Science classes, back in my university days.  It was used to express the important concept that incorrect or poor quality input will always produce faulty output.  I learned this phrase in the context of computers, but it’s a phrase that is just as easily applicable to the world of work.  Except, in recent times, I think we might have forgotten it.

Whether it’s hiring employees, sourcing out raw materials, or investing in training, I see repeated examples of short-sighted managers focusing only on solving the immediate problem.  Staff shortage? Let’s hire the first warm body that seems to have the required modicum of skills.  Need to cut costs?  Let’s find the cheapest material inputs.  New software or processes?  Let’s give our people the bare minimum of training and get them back to doing “real work” as soon as possible.

The problem with “Garbage in, garbage out”

The problem of course with all these approaches is what I said earlier – garbage in, garbage out.  When you are desperate enough to hire the first applicant simply because he meets the required minimums, you’ll never get off the turnover treadmill.   When your entire focus is on trying to find cheaper average inputs, your final product will always be of poor quality.  When you shortchange your people on the training they need, you’ll find yourself having to waste time and money doing it again later. Continue reading

All our audio CDs are over 80% off – just $13 each!!

Over the holiday season, I mentioned to a young person in my life how our educational audio CDs on our site don’t sell as well as our digital downloadable products.  “CDs are so 1998!” she scoffed.  I had to laugh at her candour.  There’s a lot of truth in what she said, but I still listen to CDs and I’m willing to bet that some of you do as well.  Yeah, I know, I just dated myself, but I’m okay with that.  Nevertheless, I pride myself in at least trying to stay hip and happenin’!  So in the spirit of staying current in the 21st century, we decided here in my office to clear out our inventory of educational audio CDs.

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Over 80% off the regular price

From now until February 15 (or until inventory runs out), we’re putting all the audio CDs on my site on sale!  For an unheard of price of $13 each!  These are normally priced at $67, so if you are still a CD listener, these are an incredible bargain.  There are 22 different titles to choose from – giving effective feedback, having difficult conversations, juggling your workload, to name just three – and each one covers step-by-step, how-to specifics on just about every common workplace leadership dilemma you might face.  Each CD comes with a downloadable note-taking outline that you can use to capture your key takeaways.

You can’t beat $13!

At this price, this is a very cost-effective way to build your leadership toolkit.  The sale price applies to CDs only, not our digital download products, but if you live in Canada or the continental United States, shipping is still free.  And if you live elsewhere, we’ll advise you of the very nominal shipping charge and get your approval before we ship.

Use code ITIS2018 at checkout

This never-before price is in effect only as long as inventories last or until February 15, whichever comes first.  SO DON’T DELAY!  Visit our Leadership Store and use code ITIS2018 at checkout.

What school teachers already know about employee training

classroomAs a leader, you recognize the value of investing in training for your employees.  A skilled workforce leads to improved performance and productivity, which means that your staff can do their jobs more effectively on a day-to-day basis.  When people understand their roles, they know how to achieve positive outcomes, and operate more productively.  When you equip your employees with the skills they need to embrace new techniques and procedures, you also maintain your competitiveness.  And when you invest in employee training, you positively impact employee morale and commitment, and eventually performance levels.  All of which means that you want your investment in employee training to not only be useful in the short-term but also last in the long-term!

What makes employee training effective?

So what does it take to make employee training effective?  What is it that ensures that your people are able to understand what is being taught AND influences them to take action?  The answer, not surprisingly, can be found in the education profession.  School teachers are well aware of the value of formative assessment tools to help students learn more effectively.  Essentially, formative assessment strategies are a range of procedures used by school teachers to progressively modify teaching and learning activities when working with students.  And these same tools can be just as powerful when it comes to employee training.  Here are four strategies that teachers use with school children that can be just as effective for leaders to use in the workplace with employees. Continue reading

Skills vs talent? Focus on skills

Last week I blogged about how one should hire for attitude, not skills.  My post prompted a few emails from readers, and it got me thinking not just about skills vs attitude, but about skills vs talent.  What exactly is the difference between attitude and talent?  For the definitive answer, I went to my dictionary.

Attitude vs talent

An attitude is a mental position, a feeling, or an emotion with regard to a fact or state.

A talent is a special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude.

So, an attitude is a state of mind, a talent is an aptitude, so innate or a natural ability which is inborn.

Last week, when I talked about skills vs attitude, I said that skills were teachable and attitude isn’t, and I still stand behind that statement.  When I compare talent to attitude though, talent, for the most part, is even more intrinsic than attitude.  At least a person can choose to change their attitude; but talents are there from birth and so while they can be honed and enhanced, they cannot be acquired over time.

Skills vs talent

skills vs talentSo it got me thinking about skills vs talent.  According to my definitions, skills are teachable, but talents aren’t.  Or wait a minute … are they?  A leader’s job is to effect change in people, by creating an environment in which people will choose to change.  If skills can be learned but talent is inherent, then as leaders, we should always assume that everything our employees are required to do are skills.  Because this assumption allows our employees to believe that the changed behaviour can be learned.  If we assume that the behaviours we desire are talents, then there is no room for people to learn.

This sounds circuitous, so let me explain why the skills vs talent notion is important.  Continue reading

When the policy manual is a good thing …

Last year, one of my regular columns in The Globe & Mail was titled Three reasons to ignore your company’s policy manual and in it, I made the case for being flexible in the application of company rules and policies.  Which might lead one to think that I’m against policy and procedure manuals.  But regular readers of the blog will know that I’m not; in fact, I happen to think that procedure manuals are definitely worth the effort, particularly when it comes to training employees, or dealing with crisis situations.  CombinationLockThe best way for me to explain this apparent contradiction is to use the metaphor of an old-fashioned combination lock.  If you know the correct numbers and the right sequence for a specific combination lock, then you can be guaranteed that the lock will open.  Sure, you may get a little confused, or your hands may shake while you’re spinning the dial, but if the numbers and sequence are accurate, and despite the fact that you may need several tries, the ultimate outcome is that the lock will open.

Think about your procedure manual as the established record of the required numbers and sequence in a combination lock.  When needed, employees can gain access to this information, and even if they are inexperienced or unnerved, they can still deal with the situation; they can still open the lock to get the outcome they desire. Continue reading

Five things every leader should know about giving negative feedback

The thumb down icon. Rejected and no, negative symbol. FlatIf you’re in a position of formal leadership, then it’s your job to offer feedback, both positive and negative, to your staff. The positive feedback is easy – it’s the thank you’s, the pats of the back, the kudos to the team. But offering negative feedback isn’t so simple, often because many leaders don’t know how, don’t have the time, or both. Yet it’s your job to deliver your message in a way that is constructive, heard and acted upon. So can you effect positive behavior change, rather than create anger and resentment? Sure you can, and in the past I’ve often blogged about it (see Giving negative feedback: focus on facts instead of opinions for one example. But today, I thought I’d summarize five must-do’s that every leader should know about giving negative feedback. Continue reading

“Learning by doing” outshines “teaching”

As a leader, you know that employee training is important. And for most people, training translates to “teaching” – a structured or unstructured process to convey information from an expert who knows to those who don’t. But as someone who has worked for years to help people develop and hone their leadership skills, I can tell you that the best training is not “teaching”, it’s “learning”; in fact, it’s “learning by watching” and “learning by doing”. I know this sounds like I’m splitting hairs, so let me explain. Actually, instead of trying to tell you, why don’t I show you? … Rather, why don’t I let this very illustrative video do it for me …

Watching, and learning by doing, means that people learn how to think. They understand the logic; they comprehend not only the how and the what of their actions, but also the why. And when employees grasp the why, they are better able to deal with things that are outside the norm; if you understand the reasoning, you then GET the implications of taking atypical actions. Continue reading

It’s a leader’s job to actively promote lifelong learning

CGA0910-2013CoverThe ongoing skill development of your people is your responsibility.  Period.  There, I said it!

Yes, it may ultimately be the folks in training or HR who will design and deliver the learning programs that your staff need, but it is your job to create a positive learning culture in your company or department — a culture that supports and insists that learning continue over a lifetime. You can’t just pass it over to another department and then wash your hands of any responsibility! Delegation is appropriate, but abdication isn’t!  Continue reading

Training employees – GPS or paper map?

GirlMapGPSDo you remember when Global Positioning System (GPS) devices were not as ubiquitous as they are today?  I do.  I remember having no choice but to use paper maps; studying one before I went somewhere important, turning it sideways and upside down while standing at a street corner in order to orient myself in the right direction, and looking for other landmarks around me to pinpoint my location (once I realized that I was hopelessly lost).

Yes, I admit it, I love GPS devices!  After all, what could be easier?  A pleasant voice telling me to turn left, drive for 6 miles, turn right, make a U-turn and then arrive at my destination.  And if I happen to miss a turn, the just-as-pleasant reprimand — “recalculating”.  Continue reading

Why (negative) feedback is so important (another leadership lesson from “Kitchen Nightmares”)

Last week I blogged about the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares in which host Chef Gordon Ramsay walked away from Samy and Amy Bouzaglo’s failing restaurant, ultimately unable to help them turn things around. Today, I want to reflect on that episode again, but this time with another lesson for leaders. First, watch these two clips from the show.

Continue reading