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Sounds simple enough, but in principle it can be one of the most important investments a business can make from the outset, ensuring it not only grows itself, but grows the people who are needed to provide this in the first place.
For any business the staff it employs are the foundation and gearing of its overall productivity and therefore if a company recognises that training and development is an investment and not a cost, the initial obstacle is overcome.
Even before any training is implemented it needs people. There are obviously various ways of ascertaining the influx required, yet again the route and channels taken to do this can be varied and subsequently seen as a cost, rather than again the investment that it is.
Acquiring people to join your business
- Word of mouth
- Direct Industry Knowledge of Talent
- Networking Events & Trade Shows
- Employer- Employee – On-boarding days
- Promotion from within
Whichever way you source the new employees from the varied routes listed above, some will be inexpensive and some at a cost, yet all of the above will achieve the same in providing you new staff for the role(s) required.
Personally I like using targeted industry recruiters and have worked successfully with many to secure, train & develop many good people joining sales teams i managed over within my career. It is fair to point out that some of the routes above will therefore hone in on specifics, taking both investment in time and money, but reaching the same goal, people acquisition.
The decision on which route is taken is personal and specific to the business, but whoever is eventually on-boarded through any of the acquisition routes aforementioned will need to be trained in your business.
After investing to get them, it is time to invest in them. We have to remember that this is probably a new company to them, yet not to the employer, to succeed they will need training and support of the business from day one.
This initially needs to take the place of a planned induction.
When new staff or promoted staff are set start date of their new role, its imperative that they are transitioned effectively and smoothly, into their new place of business or role. In order to achieve this it very much about ensuring that they feel the culture as much as read about it.
From experience over the years I have seen and heard about a mixture of inductions. All these being different, some effective through careful planning and some well just ‘cobbled’ together pretty much on the day of the employee starting!
An induction should ideally be the foundation of the training and development that the new employee will embark on. They may well be an excellent & accredited Director, Buyer, Marketing Manager, Sales Manager, Logistics Driver or Warehouse Operative, yet their skills are what are being brought to the company they are joining, even though it may not be a new industry to them, they will need to be ‘re-tuned’ into a new company and the way it operates its business procedures.
Therefore, the requirement to engage them and fully immerse them in the following areas has to be seen as the next part of any businesses investment.
Basic fundamental training and development ideally should all be provided as part of the induction, before any client or account is even spoken with, because without the following areas being covered, then the business is falling short on its investment made in the new people it required.
- Logistics & Service
- Company Values
- Specific Role Training – Ongoing
This is the functionality of a business, how it comes together, as an employee, company director or owner, you will know this from experience, it will be second nature to you. For the employee its like driving a different car, fundamentally it has an engine, pedals and a steering wheel, yet where is the fuel release or rear window control? It is not that the new employee cannot drive, it is more that they need to become aware how your car (your business) works.
- What reports that can be run and what value do they offer?
- How are reports created?
- How are orders placed, created, packed, picked, delivered?
- What bays are products kept in the warehouse & why?
- How are product, service or delivery issues dealt with?
- What is the SLA or Warranty policy?
- How are Account Payment issues dealt with?
- If products are delayed what are the alternative options?
- How does our social media and promotions work?
- Reports, documentation, signatures, required by what date and by who?
These are merely some examples, yet the true processes will be company specific, yet just as important to be communicated.
Products & Services
Every business has a product or a service, but without the knowledge of these then it is very difficult for people to discuss openly and confidently to clients and potential new business. The products hold the key to the revenue that the business makes, so the time and money spent on training all staff across the business in what you provide is vitally important.
- Manufacturing – How & where?
- Key Product Features
- Range Architecture
- Brand Architecture
- Price Architecture
- Product Channels – Routes to sale/supply
- Customer Brand Specific Products
- Promotions – Period and Offers
- Availability – Lead Times?
- Products made to order or Ex Stock?
Products are updated, re-launched, re-sourced therefore, at every stage all touch points of the businesses staff should be immersed in these changes, clear communication on whats changed, why it’s changed and how it will affect the business.
If trained on the processes and the product, they also need to know the people who they are working with. These are the key people to ensure that they keep momentum in their new role, are supported and become fluid in their daily operations, through working closely with the team around them.
- Who are the ‘GO-TO’ people in the business?
- Which department does what?
- How will the new staff avoid a ‘congestion‘ or ‘backlog‘ if they do not know the people who are involved in the process?
- Who are the Heads of Department?
- Who are Departmental Champions – Knowledge and Experience?
- Where are they in the Building, Warehouse or around the World?
As part of all inductions adequate time should be offered with each of the departments and the key people, new starters should for a day or two, live and breathe the work they do. Understand the areas that could be supported by them and also look for ways of adding value to the existing process.
Logistics & Service
A strong understanding of how the product or service will be delivered is going to be another key requirement of the training process. It may well have been ordered correctly, paid for and awaiting delivery, but how does the product actually get delivered?
Training on this area of the business will not only offer confidence in the end to end service that their product receives, but also provide a level of conviction and confidence when they are customer facing. They will at some stage be required to provide answers and knowledge to those fact-finding questions.
This training should not just be about the delivery itself , but actually the whole experience from pack, pick, load, ship, deliver.
Only by this way can a visual imprint of the business processes of delivery be recalled.
- Where do the products come from?
- How are they stored in the warehouse?
- What is the delivery time frame from date of order?
- What delivery frequency do they go the customers area?
- Which delivery route is the hardest and why?
- How are products loaded to protect them in transit?
- What happens with damaged goods?
- What are common damages and how are they avoided?
- What is the cost of a delivery, does it vary?
- Whats the after sales process?
- What makes us different from the competition through our SLA?
Some of the biggest findings within any business and its operation actually will come from getting out and about, experiencing the customers journey, as much as they will be experiencing the product journey.
If it’s a painful experience full of questions for staff, then it is even worse for your customers. Training new staff this way opens the door for regular feedback, but also the opportunity for new ideas and shared experience to be passed across.
As part of the induction process and with any new training in a new business, will come the meeting of new and existing customers. of course with all the process, product and service training in place the knowledge and confidence when speaking via phone or in person will be both felt by the customer and team alike.
The area that needs to be trained still within any new starter or new to a department role (promotion etc) has to be who are they customers
- What customer channels do you supply?
- Who are the key accounts responsible for 80% revenue
- Who are the main contacts?
- What are customers specific requests?
- ‘All deliveries into plot’
- ‘No promotions at branch level unless Group Buyer sign off’
- ‘All deliveries to central stores, no branch deliveries’
- ‘No returns policy issued’
- Packaging requirements by channel or brand supplied
- Payment/Credit limits – Good & Bad
- Displaying Stores/Retailers – Best/Worst
- Frequency of contact required by customer/ actual needed by team
- Events and Trade shows – Who supports – who attends
- Prospects list
- Who are the business looking to work with?
- Where are the weak areas of the business to grow?
- Opportunities in process
Ideally everyone that joins a new business from that day 1 forward, needs the basics of processes & systems within the operation.
Training should be ongoing and geared to being progressive and ever evolving.
Alongside all of the aforementioned though there is another area, that should be shared, both for understanding, but also for ‘engagement’ and ‘buy-in’ from new staff and the existing team. This is its Core Values and Culture.
A company will retain staff that are both of the above, as if they feel trained, empowered and can see that the company values are adhered and led by its senior board, then this will be cascaded throughout the various business units.
A business may well have core values written down, or pasted around the estate to aspire, but if their actual culture is way out of kilter, then new employees can and will pick up on this. The danger is if management visibly do not embrace the core values and live and breathe these, then any goal or aspirations of where those values sit will simply be diluted and ignored through the business. This is why the training and development ongoing is so important, to ensure that your new staff as well as existing do not stagnate.
Core values, KPI targets and a purposeful mission statement with all company employees led towards a common goal by a management board will drive positive change. However it will not if the business has an old-fashioned silo mentality and negative culture. This can cause the opposite and the retention rates will plummet.
Training and development is one area, Company culture is another, both need to be carefully balanced. The culture of a business, however good its training may or may not be needs to be solid robust, yet embrace and engage all touch points of the employees it has within it. A business clear on communication with a positive culture, strong training and its people’s qualities recognised, will continue to retain staff.
Specific Role Related Training – Ongoing
People clearly develop with training, the process and systems do the same, ultimately a better service will provide increased happy customers, providing increased revenue for the business, due to the trained staff. It becomes a reciprocal solution when it is recognised top down through management and bought into bottom up through the staff.
The basics once trained should only be seen as the foundations being put in place for a new starter. This is to ensure that everyone receives the same levels of input at the start of their employment, so that this benefits them and the business they’ve joined in the long run.
Over and above these foundations are to work and train the individual for the future.
- What are their specific role requirement needs?
- What areas have they showed an interest in developing?
- What other departments could they have transferable skills?
- Have they ever had to recruit staff as a line manager?
- Have they ever had any management training?
- Maybe managers by sales performance yet need the people skills training to develop further?
- Excellent ware house operative, yet could have Warehouse manager training?
- Succession Planning??
Training is an investment if provided correctly. Staff feel engaged, empowered and valued if their career is invested in as well. The better they become the better the business will become. Retention is a cost if the rate of leave is high.
Three areas at some stage we will find ourselves having to make quick decisions within our business activities.
Similar to the fight or flight reaction, the directional course is subjective to the individual and how they adapt to their decisions and outcomes.
What we know is within the business world we work in there will always be:-
- Won & Lost customers
- Strong & Weak markets/channels
- New product, companies and USP’s
- Price fluctuations up and down ↑ ↓
- ‘Acts of God’ simply unaccountable
- Innovations in channels
- Trending or Non trending products & services
- Good and bad service
- Good people coming and going
- Strong or weak cash flow
- Economic crisis or fluctuations
These are just a few to mention, but ultimately all are factors that we have to deal with in some way or form. They may arrive as individual scenarios, or they could all be apparent at once.
The single constant is that they need action, implementation and strategic planning to ensure that you are fluid at adapting with them, not static, just allowing the causes to eat way into your business.
This activity simply cannot be avoided in the business.
Whilst many brands and products have stood the test of time, they have done this through evolution of their products or services. Evolving doesn’t mean changing everything, it simply means adapting what already works to suit the changing circumstances that you now are facing.
An example evolving can be seen in cooking appliances.
To cook we need heat, that is a given, yet evolving this manufacturers have added cool touch doors, Wi-Fi connectivity for ease of control, soft close doors and LED lighting.
The cooking is still done with heat, but the consumer and the market are driven by evolution.
Therefore, the products still cook, but customers have aspirations now around form and function because of what they see. If manufacturers just provided a box that heats up it would cook, but it would be left behind by the competition with their evolving innovations.
Evolving is only necessary when the situations requite it.
They say don’t try and fix it if it’s not broken. It is however always worth in whatever situation you are in being prepared for it to break!
If you are then when it does you will have a plan B to follow through.
The other option available is to evade in business. This is not a weakness or a easy way out, if anything, this is one of the harder decisions to make in business, yet can provide the best results.
If a business was to mirror every change to every product or service that was in competition with them, evolving each of their own products to match, this would be simply not cost effective.
- Are all the products in their market channels?
- What’s the sales opportunity on each product or service?
- Do they need additional product lines?
- Working capital tied up in stock?!
- Investment costs to change?
- ROI from all this evolution?
- Market or channel focus and effective leadership?
- Taken seriously by customers or just seen as a ‘me too’ supplier, who copy other businesses ideas?
Therefore this is where to evade is actually an opportunity.
Evade the products and trends that do not mirror your customers or core market channels. Maintain focus on what delivers your growth, build on this and explore the opportunity within.
Grow market share by focussing on the competition and evolving the products and services that are your current KSL’s (key selling lines)
The benefit of evading every trend in your market is that you can really focus on evolving what works and listening to your customers feedback, as to how these can be improved. This way you ate leading evolution from factual feedback, not following the crowd.
Aim to capture, not be captured
For anyone business is what we make it. The opportunities are out there and just need to be sought out and captured.
Whilst we are out evolving and evading, we are also being hunted down…by the competition. We could just evade our business and market share being captured, but that would be short term as defending your estate protects what you have, but it doesn’t grow your business, it just maintains it.
As mentioned above in the evolve section, customers can and will move on, so defence of your business, products and services is only part of the jigsaw to fill.
Therefore, to capture is to advance forward and grow your share.
- Take share from the competition within the existing estate
- Build strong and multi person relationships throughout your customers
- Look for areas where you can add value and ‘acquire’ incremental business
- Don’t just defend your existing business, go on the offensive in search of new
- Where are the competition strong, which accounts underpin their business?
- Start to build relationships, acquire small areas of impact and grow your position
- Search out weak points and evolve to these areas which will provide advances in share and revenue
- Concentrate not just in one area specific, take your competition off guard
- Coach the teams to search out as well as defend in every area
- Always have a support plan for each of your major accounts, if they were to stop trading today
- Focus on you and your products strengths
- Defend your existing customers daily from competition taking share
- Evolve your offer to add value and capture incremental share in existing accounts
- Evade getting bogged down with unnecessary changes with no opportunity
- Evade losing relationships through complacency, build and strengthen them
- Capture new share from the competition, piece by piece.
- Hunt out areas that add value, find USP’s and build new relationships
To see how your team could develop growth through effective questioning, contact Stormley Consulting for more information.
Working to improve and empower your people to grow your business to the next level.
A strategy sets the focus for the goals to be achieved.
The measurement and review frequency of a strategy are paramount to the success of it.
- Is the strategy still reflective of the market it was written for?
- Are the team able to carry out the strategy effectively?
- Are the team trained to the standard that the strategy requires?
- Is the business actually on board with the strategy?
- Where is the strategy starting from and where will it end up?
- Does the strategy now need bringing into the ‘new world’
- Who’s measuring it, and how is it performing?
- Does everyone understand where they are going with the strategy?
A great article posted by Mckinsey is well worth a read to explore some of these crucial questions.
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Restructuring your team ?
It’s important to regularly check that your business is structured the best way for success.
Having the right roles structured the right way means you can meet the needs of your customers and take your business to the next level.
A great thought provoking post from (New Zealand govt) highlights these considerations.
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A very interesting read from a post in My Customer
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Great post, very clear information to simply acquire fact and details.
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As this article highlights it is how teams open up conversation and question to understand.
All questions should build a picture for exactly what your prospects and existing customers needs are.
Even when a customer has been loyal for many years, good communication through questions can lead to fresh opportunity and growth.
To see how your team could develop growth through effective questioning, contact Stormley Consulting for more information.
Working to improve and empower your people to grow your business to the next level.
A great read from Larry Kim on Inc.com today
Click the link below for the full article.