As a chief performance officer, my job is to transform my company’s human capital into financial capital. I need to get employees to act on what they hear and learn during company educational programs. We do some great work supporting employees, helping them build emotional and personal connections to the workplace. But even still, one of my great frustrations is that sometimes people respond, and sometimes they just don’t.
In an earlier post, I talked about how my company issues a survey to employees to figure out what they want and need to be better at their jobs. We do our research by investigating what other great companies are providing for (and how they provide) education. We’ve filled the water trough, as it were, and brought the employees over for a drink.
But still, some of our employees figuratively stand at the trough with their arms folded and don’t drink. (Check out David Kelly’s smart take on the reasons why.) They can find every reason why they should not or don’t have to participate or improve. Here are a couple of the problems we’ve encountered with reluctant learners and how we’ve been able to respond.
Dealing with ‘Superstar’ Employees
Problem: We have some self-appointed “superstar” employees. In their minds, they are at the top of their game and have little or no need for education to enhance their already perfect game. Some A-level employees come equipped with powerful egos — and the ego sometimes is at odds with the humility of learning.
Response: We measure as many of the required behaviors in their workdays as we can. One of the ways to humble an overly large ego is to share that the performance that it thinks is flawless is actually capable of improvement (I love how numbers tell a more robust story than just words). For example, we’ve showed that some of the younger sales team members are actually outperforming the older members. These reports have changed the outlook on education with some of my senior sales staff and made them more open to implement training information.
Dealing with Naysayers
Problem: We have some employees who feel that any interruption in the workday for education is a waste of time — even though we have vetted our topics with the learners. Some people just feel corporate education is ineffective and an unnecessary distraction.
Response: We developed some of our education naysayers as our instructors. Nothing seems to change the minds of naysayers faster than empowering him to become the “go-to” person in an area of his expertise. We found this changed the mindset almost immediately as they now better appreciate the work that goes into creating meaningful education content and the effort needed to convey that content, and the feeling of being viewed as important in the eyes of their peers.
Wouldn’t it be nice if when we provided great education or training materials, everyone listened and immediately implemented the skill improvement tools? More often than not, we meet some form of resistance. But meet the resistance head-on with a practical response and the resistance diminishes. Then maybe you will be able to get those who are standing at the water trough to unfold their arms and take a drink.
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Jay Forte is a nationally ranked thought leader and President of Humanetrics. Jay guides organizations — their leaders and managers — in how to attract, hire and retain today’s best talent. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World. Jay is a member of SHRM, ASTD, the National Speakers Association and the Florida Speakers Association. Follow him on Twitter.
Image reprinted from website Bukisa.