"A lot of us have been here a long time."
I didn't know if I would laugh or cry on the phone when a saleswoman answered my question about investing in my team's sales and service training program. For me, those few words were both comical and tragic at the same time, telling me everything I needed to know about the organization – and why it was lagging behind in its operation.
Many organizational leadership teams and managers no doubt face the same difficult dilemma. Although it has long been thought to turn people with years of experience in their jobs into lasting success, many things today prove the opposite. "Develop or die" is not so much a threat today as a prediction. And we can learn this lesson from many different industries.
In a recent interview on ESPN, Alabama football coach Nick Saban, who knows about winning (his teams have won three NCAA titles in four seasons), said that "the future and legacy of the team will be determined by what's going on in front of them, it's not what what happened before … There is no continuity for success, it is an ongoing process, no matter what we have achieved in the past. "
TEACHING OLD DOGS NEW TRICKS
I'm sure the saleswoman quoted above, who has been in her place for several years, responded the way she did because she thinks you can't necessarily teach old dogs new tricks, or – worse – she thinks they probably already know everything they need to know in order to do their job and not have to learn anything new.
"I just taught my fifteen-year-old dog not to jump on the couch, so you CAN teach old dogs new tricks," offers Chris Durso, chief market developer with InterContinental Hotels Group, "In fact, if you lose the market share, you haven't learned."
Greg Ayers, CEO / CEO of Discover Kalamazoo (MI) continues to teach in his organization: "While our team has a wealth of experience, we are always looking for ways to further develop our talent … One of our strategic priorities is continuous improvement." Greg supports this by hiring external consultants to conduct an evaluation of a sales team program that reviews everything they do to create a new group business for Kalamazoo, "even if we don't want to hear some of the answers," he adds.
Like Ayers, real leaders are willing to take risks or check under their hood or hire others to do this, just to make sure that the engine parts continue to operate efficiently and effectively.
"I've been on that listening journey. We don't need training for our experienced staff or salespeople," says Wade Bryant, director of sales and marketing at Embassy Suites in Charleston, SC. "You could probably classify half of our longtime hospitality players as crazy, if by definition, as Steven Covey said, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different or better result. Timar probably needs (training) the most."
To a team leader, this can be a good line between managing an experienced, happy team member who uses his or her vast wealth of experience to handle certain (often difficult) situations, as opposed to a “too long” team member who carries a burnished or sluggish attitude about work, refusing to embrace new wrinkles . Remember, as a business owner, you may want (or need to!) Change things or move your customers or products in a new direction. Many of these people may get pressure and think the old way.
TIMES – AND YOUR CUSTOMERS – CHANGE
It seems to me like nails are on a chalk board when I hear we've always done it. Certainly many businesses are succeeding again and have built their legacy of service and stellar processing on their customers in the past. But these customers are changing. Expectations of baby boers, not to mention the largest generation, genes and X-millennials, can be very different. Service business teams need to be able to develop their skills in order to remain sustainable in changing demographics with changing needs and expectations.
Are your longtime employees the ones who have their habits so ingrained that they cannot change or be flexible about a new wave of clients or changing landscape in your competitive landscape? Do they feel that they are above training and “refresher” aiming to reinvigorate their efforts or refocus them? If this is the case, it's time for management to step in and take training (or retraining) in front of their noses. This cannot happen by osmosis.
"I often get caught up in life's conspiracies, I only work so hard they don't fire me," notes Phil Anderson, a hospitality and resort veteran as general manager and CEO of sales and marketing. "The topic seems to be in some places where I go, and when you replace a veteran or hired staff at work, it can mean problems."
Of course, not all long-term employees are toxic, nor long firing. Many frequent shoppers have enjoyed seeing the smiling faces and feats of great service of these veteran team members over the years. Those with great attitudes and teaching abilities can also be instrumental in accelerating new employees in their jobs and tasks. Indeed, to some customers, veterans are a company or product.
CHANGE IS INDEPENDENT, GROWTH IS OPTIONAL
But still, change is inevitable. It is part of the growth that is optional. And long-lived people need to develop their skills to stay relevant. After all, the “I want it now” generation is slowly embracing it. Speed has accelerated slightly, including service expectations and value from members.
"If you and your team don't take the time to invent your approach to business, you will lose, plain and simple," says Doug Small, president / CEO of Experience Grand Rapids (MI). "While others have slashed their professional development budgets, we have gone the other way … we have actually set goals to enhance our employees' skill sets across different disciplines to help them stay ahead of an ever-changing market." Small even goes beyond his own team on a larger scale: "We also fund education for our hotel members because it is a collaborative approach to increasing revenue for everyone."
INVESTING IN YOUR GROWTH TEAMS
Consider these points when deciding on training and retraining:
* If you don't feel better, you get worse. That in itself can elevate hospitality managers at night.
* Many fear change, and training or retraining is a change. Discover the best of your longevity about the reasons for the program – illustrate "what's in it for them?" and are more likely to visibly support the training initiative to other team members. This will reduce the grunt.
* Evaluate which specific areas you and your guests consider to be most in need of attention, and begin your training. Chew the elephant in small snacks.
* Support visible, active and frequent. Nothing kills a training program faster than when senior management does not attend workshops or meetings or become involved in monitoring. Then the staff feel that "they must be above all this".
* Identify the roles, goals, responsibilities and responsibilities in your program. Have a plan, don't just spread the gun for a few hours for some parts of your facility – After all, your hotel / resort has a culture, and it's a family, not a bunch of independent silos.
* Make education and learning a culture, not a fast-paced "program of the month" that will be quickly forgotten. Keep your training programs exactly the same – programs – that are sustainable. Persistence and consistency will help ensure long-term success.
Exhausted and tired, or growing and developing more and more? Look under the hood and keep your longtime team members moving forward with preventative maintenance and frequent adjustments. Customers will thank you for your feedback and positive social media reviews.