There is more to training than training…
Do we know why training does not work?
The other evening while on the way home from some client work, I read the paper on the train. In this was an interesting article that suggested that public transport staff should be given “civility” training by one of the UKs top retailers for customer service – John Lewis.
The article cited that London has high levels of “incivility” and blamed it on the time people travel to and from work. The recommendation was that transport staff should improve their politeness to counter the “daily abrasiveness” that commuters face.
Now having commuted regularly for the first time in several years I know what the author means about the attitude of travellers, however in the same paper (Evening Standard 10 Oct 2011) there was another article educating commuters on how to get a train seat and using the strategy of military tactics to secure the seat ahead of fellow commuters!
The reality of why training does not work
There are several factors here:
1) you cannot change the behaviour of millions of people by training just a few 100
2) training in “politeness” is not the answer, it’s a cultural thing and its up to managers not staff to initiate this.
Looking at each point in turn.
Why are people “impolite”?
- Commuters are packed like sardines,
- They pay a lot of money for the “privilege”,
- The journeys are often long and involve one or more changes.
- Their goal is simple – get to work in as shorter time as is practicable,
- Travel in a “stress free” way. This to them means as few interactions as they can. Stressed people interacting with stressed people increases stress.
Will training work?
The John Lewis Partnership is well known in the UK for its customer orientated approach to business. Sure their training for their staff is wonderful… but the training has been designed to fit in the culture of a management style and service philosophy aligned to serving the customer.
The transport network on the other hand is not about customer service. It is about “service provision” – trains or busses… Not individual customers. Staff are managed in a union environment that is focused on the avoidance of problems from managers for the greatest salary in a safe way. Nothing about the day to day customer experience. #
Deep down most staff want to give “good service”. However in a fast paced crowd based environment they do not have time or the space to offer a personalised service other than on an “exception” based approach. Training will do little to change each individual and the way they work on a day to day basis. The only people that can do this are the managers and supervisors. They need both awareness that developing a culture of politeness and calmness is important and for the organisations to develop key performance indicators to support the development and encouragement of this “new” culture.
Individual training just does not work for this type of behaviour change in this culture.
Training is not the universal solution. However the development of competent managers that have the skills to align behaviour to stated organisational goals and objectives is key. Only poor managers and ineffective leaders hide behind training as the solution for cultural based organizational challenges.
So we have an understanding as to why training does not work, so why do we keep trying to solve problems this way?