Training Employees: It’s About Skills, Not Traits

Every year, companies spend billions of dollars on training in the hope that it will make their staff more productive. But a lot of that training, according to training and sales guru Duane Sparks, goes to waste. The main reason for this, he says, is that companies fundamentally misunderstand what training is.

People who have been in business a while know the wisdom of hiring personalities, rather than skills. Sure, it’s helpful if a person has the right skills, but what really matters, especially if it’s a long-term job, is the personality of the individual. A worker who has the right personality  – or traits – can learn pretty much anything and be an amazing employee. A worker who doesn’t have the right personality can only go so far.

Companies need to realize that a similar principle applies when it comes to training. There’s no point training an introverted person to be more extrovert to generate more sales since this advice fundamentally opposes their basic personality – something that can’t just be wished away. If you’ve got an introverted person on your sales team, Sparks says that it is a much better idea to focus on selling skills that they can develop, like being a good listening and working out which product the customer wants.

Teach Appropriate Skills

Another mistake that businesses sometimes make is not teaching the appropriate skills. If you’re a private refuse collection firm, it’s far better to train employees to use a Dumpmaster bin tipper than it is to teach them about the virtues of internet marketing. Equally, if you’ve got different types of employees in your business – some who go out and sell and others who develop existing relationships – there’s not much point teaching both how to sell. Limit your training so that it is appropriate for the task that you want various members of your staff to perform.

Implement Skill-Based Metrics

In business, it’s often said that what gets measured, gets done. There’s a lot of truth to that. When employers can’t monitor worker productivity, it becomes very hard to tell whether workers really are working as hard as they could, or whether they’re slacking off and hiding behind other members of their team.

For this reason, says Spark, it’s imperative that companies find a way to measure employee progress, based on the application of their new skills. For instance, if you’re trying to measure the performance of a new safety procedure, measure the number of injuries caused by a particular department. Another example might be sales. You might have done some training with your sales staff on how to convert customers at a particular point in your conversion process. So a good yardstick would be to measure their conversion percentages at that stage before and after training to see whether it made a difference.

Reinforce Skills

Finally, skills only get better if they’re constantly reinforced. It’s the way our brains work. Ideally, you want to turn new skills into habits, so that your employees do them automatically without thinking. Coaching is, therefore, essential.


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