In the high-minded and occasionally mermaid or Snow Queen-filled world of Hans Christian Andersen, marshalling the courage to bleat out that “the Emperor has no clothes” and other similarly painful truths is the right thing to do.
It’s so right, in fact, that it earns you a starring role in BOTH a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and a Wikipedia entry.
But that’s not the point.
The point is, is that screaming out the truth in the face (or faces) of those who would find it difficult to hear isn’t often rewarded whatsoever. Forget starring roles. You’re less likely to even get a pat on the back than a kick in the *** for your troubles.
And that may be why one of the HR world’s grizzliest realities continues to survive – sometimes, even thrive – even though everyone secretly knows the truth.
And that truth, of course, is that your star performers HATE training.
Forget the peppermint candies. Forget the free pen. Forget the PowerPoint sing-a-long. Forget even the catered lunch and lukewarm coffee in those curiously shallow, three-sip cups (where do they get those from, anyway? Toys ‘R Us?). Those are irritants, but not hate-worthy.
No, what your star performers hate is simply the very idea of training as you’re offering it now. Not because they aren’t committed to learning new things. But because – and here’s the really painful part – your training is really not helping them much. In fact, it’s probably just wasting their time; time that they’d much rather spend doing what star performers do, which is personifying, producing and achieving excellence.
Frankly, your training is slowing them down. They’re high performance cars with engines that cost more than the gross national profit of some small countries, and you’re asking them to drive next to a 1982 K-Car that can’t go faster than 30mph. Or turn left. Or stop.
Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. Your non-star performers aren’t K-Cars. They’re functional and important parts of the whole. They’re good, solid cars that get the job done. Some of them may even show signs of breaking through into that next level.
But the point remains: star performers, as a breed, don’t like training as it’s typically delivered in the world of work. It’s an inefficient use of their time. And if you subject them to (bad) training after (bad) training, you’re eroding the bond of affection and loyalty that you must have with them; because they’re the ones who are responsible for 50, 60, 70 or maybe even 80%+ of your revenue and profit, directly or indirectly. Lose them, and you can very quickly lose your business.
(And yes, they know this. That’s why they usually come in late and wear t-shirts when everyone else is in a tie.)
So. There you have it. It’s now “out there” for everyone to point to in horror and, paradoxically, relief. Your star performers hate training. It’s said. It’s done. It’s time to move on.
So let’s do that – move on, that is – by focusing on a few key strategies that will help you give your star performers what they really need vs. what you’re probably giving them now:
- Make the training SPECIFIC to the problems that they’re facing at work and/or the opportunities they can exploit. If it’s not specific, it’s not going to be seen as valuable. If it’s not valuable, then it’s eeeeeviiiiiiillllll.
- INVOLVE your star performers in the training design. Not in a prolonged, bureaucratic way – that’ll actually be worse. But ask them what they need to know to do their jobs better. It’s like market research. Don’t assume what your customers want. Ask them questions. You’ll be surprised at how happy they are to answer you. In fact, you may not be able to get them to shut up.
- Don’t TREAT unequal employees equally. This is not about favouritism. Everyone is entitled to respect, and to be treated with dignity. That shouldn’t change whether you’re dealing with the intern or the C-level executive. But when it comes to training, don’t treat everyone as if they’re facing the same workplace problems and have the same goals. Your star performers have different needs. There’s nothing wrong with meeting them.
- Be HONEST about calling it training. In other words, if it’s an information session, call it that. If it’s a presentation, call it that. If it’s a casual get together to make fun of the bosses new hair cut…call it an information session. Just don’t call it training it if isn’t. The word “training” in your company should mean something, and not just be a catch-all term for everything that involves peppermint candies and PowerPoint sing-a-longs.
So there you have it. Use these rules above to shape and steer your training, and watch your star performers take to the sky. And who knows? They may (and probably will) take some other employees with them to that elusive and wonderful “next level” of performance.
Keep at it, and you may end up with a workforce of star performers.
And if that doesn’t get you into a fairy tale or Wikipedia, what will?