In the services business and more specifically, the success of the business is impacted by (a) the quality of the consumables on offer (b) the location, ambience and customer friendly infrastructure (c) the price or rather the value for money equation (d) the image and equity of the brand and (e) the actual ‘CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE’. In an intensely competitive scenario, which is currently seeing the iceberg’s tip in
India for this industry, the only long term DIFFERENTIATOR is the last one- the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. The others are all easily copied and do not really represent a SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. To make this happen across a chain becomes even more of a challenge since there is a brand promise exposed at so many different points, with different stakeholders. To make this a seamless experience, the issue is not really how important is employee orientation and training- it is non-negotiable! In this situation, in this business, you have no choice- you have to spend on training- today for doing it, tomorrow for not doing it- take your pick!!!
Ques) What are the long term benefits of providing comprehensive training to employees in industries where the attrition rates are high?
In order to do justice to this point, it is important that ‘attrition’ must be first defined in its context, which will vary across industries, companies, jobs, locations, levels. As an example 80% of the poor performers exiting from a company within 2 years of joining could be ‘healthy’ whereas 25% of the best performers leaving a company within the same period could be an issue to worry about. Having said that, the decisions about training or not training employees irrespective of attrition is influenced not so much by internal boardroom imperatives but by what I would like to call ‘Customer Mandates’!In a competitive, multiple choice scenario ( which India is fast becoming, but was not, earlier), untrained and inefficient employees could cause irreversible damage to the brand’s very existence which will be of a magnitude much higher than what it would have cost to train them. So the mandate has clearly been issued by a demanding customer- you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. As far as attrition is concerned, unfortunately the choice is sometimes ‘between the Devil and the Deep Sea’- you train your employees and sometime they could leave your company OR (and this is where you need to think) you decide NOT to train them and they actually don’t leave your company….stop some time to think which is a better option! Fortunately all the research available today continues to prove that companies which invest more on employee learning and development are the ones who also have relatively lower (unhealthy) employee attrition, higher productivity, more satisfied customers, better profitability and… better performance on the stock markets. The verdict is clear.
Ques) How has corporate training for entry level staff evolved in
Corporate India can learn some of its best lessons in training entry staff from the omnipresent Udipi fast food South Indian chains and the famous Rajashthani wholesale market traders. Both these businesses build their successes through the continuous nurturing and development of the customer facing staff that they employ, all of whom come into the trade with absolutely zero business exposure. The core of the orientation (and at times, indoctrination) is focused around(a) the value systems of the proprietor/owner (b) the criticality of ‘serving’ the customer (c) the ownership of the role and (d) the constant up gradation of skills. No wonder, the successful ones in these chains see extremely low employee turnover and significantly higher employee loyalty, commitment and customer satisfaction.Corporations must realize that the phrase ‘entry level’ is actually a misnomer- this may be the entry level for employees but most often, this is the ‘exit level’ for clients and prospects who could have become clients! Having had to evolve from a seller-dominated market mindset, most companies tend to naturally invest more in training & development of senior levels and miss the whole point- sometimes realizing it too late- that the highest exposure of the brand is with the employees who are in closest contact with their customers- for the services business, these are usually the frontline employees. The companies that are really committed to their own long term vision of sustainable growth are the ones who have realized this and are investing appropriately at all levels- to close out the ‘exit levels’!
As told to Preeti Chaturvedi