For Maximum ROI, Focus on Training Top Employees

In his book First Break All the Rules, employee-engagement specialist Marcus Buckingham shares this alarming statistic: As many as 65 percent of employees are disengaged, and do just enough work to not get fired. Nearly two thirds of employees are merely "good enough."

"Good enough" shouldn't be good enough. This mediocrity happens because many of these employees are working in roles that don't fit them. They don't have the core abilities, talents, or motivation required to be great in their role. They don't connect to the work or make consistently good decisions on the job. They don't feel confident, and so they basically check out.

The first issue here is that organizations need to focus on talent-based hiring to make sure they're getting people with the right abilities, talents, and experience needed to be great at the job and prove a good "fit." Without that approach, organizations will keep on hiring lots of mediocre employees, even with a great education plan in place.

Secondly, from a training perspective, the best results happen when employees have both the ability and the interest in their role to get better. If employees are disengaged or disinterested, education will have little effect on them. That's why it's so important to spend your time educating and training your best employees.

As a consultant, I see many organizations focused on training their worst employees — the ones that appear to need the most help. But studies show that the benefit of training the lowest-performing employees is minimal; typically they'll only improve marginally, while the cost and effort that goes into that training can often be too great to outweigh their slightly improved performance. That's a poor return on investment.

But when we work with our best performers — those who are already good at what they do and interested in improvement — we have the potential to improve their performance exponentially. Our education and effort now yield more significant results and a greater return on our education and human capital investment.

So determine who your best employees are, and direct your attention, effort, and education programs toward them. Work with HR to bring in candidates whose talents and abilities are better aligned to those needed for the role. Not only will this achieve more immediate results, but it will set the stage for your education efforts to have a more significant impact. Invest in your best people. Spend time with your best people. Educate your best people. They have the potential to personally and professionally move from good to great, and improve company results in the process.

More: Five Ways to Spice Up Company Training Programs.

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.

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