Why Training Your Employees Doesn’t Work

Ah, the ever-present argument about the proper training of your employees…well, you’ll get no argument from me. Training is the key to a well-motivated, knowledgeable and efficient staff. But is THAT all that’s needed, just training?

Here are some benefits of training:

  • Training bolsters employee confidence which is then noticed by the customers = perceived better service = more $$$
  • Training can identify areas where revenue is “left on the table” and not captured.
  • A well-trained staff allows management to focus on other aspects of the business and not micromanage the staff

Throughout my years in the hospitality industry, I’ve sat through more “service culture” and customer service training sessions than I care to remember. We discussed how to create a memorable experience for the customer (guest), how to empathize, how to diffuse an irate customer and when to offer compensation for poor service. We spoke about the customer’s expectations and how to match and exceed them. Another well-worn topic is employee morale and how important it is and its direct correlation to the service provided. All worthwhile topics.

But, we rarely spoke about the “elephant” in the room…

I once had a boss tell me, “you need to do more training, then they’ll get better. We’ll just fire those that don’t improve, it’s simple!” Great attitude boss…wonder why service is poor!

Here’s the key statement, to paraphrase my colleague Shaun Belding;

“Training cannot change behavior. It can transfer knowledge and introduce skills but must be supported by other factors”.

How many training managers or members of Human Resources Departments around the globe understand this? I dare to say, only a few. Their focus is on a laundry list of training dates embedded on a monthly calendar, which does more to justify the training manager’s position than changing the behavior of the employees.

Let’s delve into specifics…

1. Your Service / Customer Satisfaction Scores Are Poor
Why are they poor? Is it because you don’t schedule enough employees to handle the lunchtime rush or the cashier stations during a busy holiday week? Training won’t help that, only scheduling more “trained employees” will.
2. You Don’t Get Enough Repeat Business From Existing Customers
Are your customers made to feel appreciated when they come into your business or are they treated as a burden? It’s extremely difficult to train someone to be polite and put others first (your customers). There needs to be an inherent positive personality trait(s) as a basis for great service.
3. You Don’t Walk-the-Walk
You recently held a series of, and what you believed were great training classes. They were interactive, well attended and informative. But you haven’t seen an improvement in the employee’s actions and they “refuse” to put into effect what was trained. Why is this happening?
Well, did your senior management take part in the classes, sitting alongside the hourly employees? Oh, the training was just for non-management. I see…
If your hourly employees “don’t see” management taking the same classes they may believe that management doesn’t take training as seriously as THEY are expected to. So why should they bother? What’s left is wasted effort on everyone’s part.
4. No Tools To Do The Job
Great training can fix many ills but without the tools, equipment, and supplies, etc. don’t expect much. Your employees will throw their hands up in exasperation when little changes after the latest rah-rah training session.
Couldn’t you have seen this coming? What did you do differently to properly support your employees this time? Oh, you just did a training, well, that’s not enough!
5. Bad Trainers
Just because someone has years of experience doing a specific job doesn’t mean he/she is a good trainer and can pass along the needed information in an easy-to-understand and relate-able manner.
6. Production is Still Down
Do you schedule your best workers on the “most important” or busiest days? If not, you should expect poor service and lackluster performance.
“But Steve”, you may say, “we have to follow seniority when we make the schedule, and some of my worst performers have the most seniority!”
Well, you have a problem, my friend. Maybe you should stop the training for a while and focus more on replacing your poor performers.
6.5 You Have the Wrong Employees
The old adage; “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink” is true in more ways than you think. Some employees, just like some friends or family, refuse to change. They rebel against any form of change. It goes against their very core. You may not feel the same; you may not understand how this can be but you must.

There needs to be a systematic and company-wide effort for any real change and improvements to happen because of training. What are the employee incentives to put this training into effect?

Will it be:

  • Improved working conditions for the employees?
  • More money or commission for the employees?
  • Morale boosters that actually work?
  • An opportunity for advancement?

If not, your training may not produce the outcome you expect. But you knew that already, didn’t you?


Steve DiGioia
Steve DiGioia
With 20+ years in the hospitality industry and a lifetime of customer service experience, Steve DiGioia shares real-world tips and tactics to improve your customer service, increase employee morale, and provide the experience your customers desire. As a certified trainer, author & speaker, Steve has been recognized as a 4-time “World’s Top 30 Customer Service Professional” by Global and a “Top Customer Service Influencer” by multiple industry-leading sources. He is also a featured contributor to the leading hospitality and customer service websites. With a tagline of “Finding Ways to WOW Your Customer”, Steve continues his pursuit of excellence on his award-winning blog sharing his best strategies on customer service, management, and leadership. Follow Steve on Twitter @Steve DiGioia.

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