The 12 Blogs of Christmas 2015 – that little extra tree present!

ClaireSo this year there are 13 not 12 posts!! My friend @ClaireLHuxley wrote two posts for me last year but we only published one. The other was too good to stay hidden so, with a little update, we’ve decided to add it on to this year’s posts.  Claire is the Marketing Director at the International Travel College of New Zealand. She is passionate about education and training and has a low tolerance of corporate BS! You might just get a flavour of that below!

Turkey anyone?

My mum used to say employers expected students to come from College like a pre-packed Christmas turkey, all prepared and oven-ready. When in reality, what they need is basting and lots of tender loving care before they go into the oven!

You may be confused by Mum’s analogy. She was of course referring to 30+ years of working in the training industry and being frustrated that the energy and effort the colleges, trainers and educators put in to providing people with the most realistic training and skills was not being maximised by employers.  Often the employers would never reinvest in the training process; it’s not unusual for this to happen here in New Zealand and overseas.

Chief executive of the Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand (TIA), Chris Roberts, was recently quoted in the New Zealand Herald on a related topic.

“Lax service and acute labour shortages are a threat to New Zealand’s booming tourism sector,” Mr Roberts said.

According to research conducted for the TIA, almost 90 per cent of tourism businesses believe service levels are an issue.

“Tourism is this country’s second biggest export earner and could be harmed,” said Mr Roberts.

“It is accepted that we have a lot of work to do in terms of raising our customer service levels. They have been improving but they have some way to go.”

Many employers do hugely invest in the process and value the purpose of training in the workplace, but some employers simply see this as a luxury. When budgets are being cut, training is often the first thing to go. I speak from experience here. In 2007, we offered employers in Auckland the opportunity to participate in ‘taster days,’ a chance to experience (FREE of charge) training to help upskill their teams and enable their teams to perform better.

The results were amazing, the feedback excellent; they all learnt something on that day and they were all keen as mustard to go back and get budget to train their teams. Then, the GFC hit, budgets were slashed and everyone wondered if they would still have a job, so training went by the by and was left to the job of the managers. And as we all know, post GFC businesses were so nervous that when staff left or people went on maternity leave, often they wouldn’t replace those staff and many businesses managed with a small base of employees, resulting in many people working long hours, doing several jobs to just survive and get through!


So back to the turkeys, do employers really expect students straight from College to be ready to work straight away? I’ll let you answer that question given Mr Roberts’ comments and the industry themselves saying 90% think their service levels are below standard. If you want your standards to be raised, what should you do?

The expectations that employers have in the current climate is that in a very short space of time, they will see a return on their investment. The value of training seems to have taken a back seat for many employers, a perceived luxury that has never really reared its head since.

So why don’t people invest or value trainings in their newest employees? I don’t know. In 2012 in an attempt to launch a new service, we ran some market research with our industry and many employers said that they were happy to train staff that had been with them for 18-24 months in a middle management or senior role but didn’t feel they could justify the expense on new employees in case they left. Surely someone with a calculator and a maths degree could help me here! The cost of recruiting someone is not small, even if you recruit your employees directly, you still incur costs and time making sure that the new hire is a good fit, has the right skills to do the role and will contribute positively to the organisation.

So why oh why, do we think they can do everything expected of them with little or minimal interaction from someone qualified to help them mould into their role? They, after all, have been in full-time education for years, and have personally invested in their own learning about whatever is their chosen field of expertise.

What makes someone understand your culture, company, values and enhance their skills? TRAINING DOES. The right kind of training, the stuff takes time and that is measured and monitored, evaluated and yes it takes time and money! But just like a nice bit of turkey and cranberry on Christmas day, good things do take time.

And as Chris so rightly says in his piece, it is about attitude and personality. Good training can help change attitudes and instil company values and set standards – if it is done well and integrated in a selection and recruitment process. I would also add that if you employ someone with no personality or passion for your brand, what do you expect?

Not all training is about a morning tea, thousands of dollars and a day or two off work. Many good trainers will tell you about the positive changes it has in a team and how it can really change behaviour, and after all, that is what most non-technical training is about: behaviour. By not investing in training, you may as well say thanks for investing all your student loan into learning, but in the real world it doesn’t matter!

I will say this only once. “You are never too old to learn, get a new skill or improve in some way.”

And to all those employers that do believe and commit to training their employees, new and old, I applaud you. I bet some bean counter has made you justify this ‘expense’ until you are blue in the face, but I bet you are glad you did. Employers, be grateful for the employees that you have, baste them and care for them, don’t treat them like a pre-packed turkey that’ll last one day or two if you are lucky!


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