Thought articles

If you want to transform performance, don’t (just) buy training

Have you ever bought training?

If so, think back to what you wanted to achieve at the time and whether you really achieved it.

The chances are that what you actually wanted was for your team to change the way they do things. Like the insurer that wants underwriters to trade more effectively or the distribution director who wants a team to develop deeper relationships with customers, or the functional leader who wants technical experts to make more of their customer contact.

But if all you do is provide training, then your programme isn’t likely to make a lasting impact. How many leaders have seen people attend a great training course and then return to doing things in the same way they did them before?

Great training is obviously critical to ensure that your team has the knowledge and skills to do what’s required. But we aim to do more than that. We help companies successfully deliver better results by making long term changes to the way their teams interact with customers. Here’s some of the thinking that shapes our approach:


Mindset is critical.

People don’t always welcome change. They may misinterpret motives and they may be concerned about how it will affect them personally.

Be open and upfront about why the programme is being run and what you’re trying to achieve. Explain how it will operate and what it means for everyone involved. Actively involve your people in shaping the programme as much as possible. Keep communicating and keep listening throughout.

Spend 20% of your time working out where to invest the other 80%

People often get stuck in ways of behaving but those ‘old habits’ shouldn’t just be dismissed. There are often good reasons why people behave as they do at work. It’s important to understand what good looks like in the future, understand the current gap and then understand why people behave as they do now.

That initial analysis can make a huge difference to understanding what needs to be done in order to move a team forward. We’ve developed techniques to identify the blockers that prevent change and the enablers that can trigger a difference.

Use existing wheels

Every team has elements of best practice that can be built on. It’s often easier to start with what is right and then work on where the business is headed and what needs to be different. It also avoids your people thinking that this is just ‘being done to them’.

Get people baking

You can’t make great cakes unless you’ve spent time baking in the kitchen. The same applies to learning new behaviours at work. An element of theory and tools is useful but applying them practically will have a more immediate and lasting effect. The whole journey needs to start before you enter the training room, with practical, pre-programme assignments to engage people.

We then work on the basis of 70% practical to 30% theory.

Make it meaningful

Training needs to relate to people’s everyday experience at work.

Use a variety of learning exercises and case studies based on the actual environment and markets that people work in. Use language that your teams recognise.

Say it. Do it. Embed it.

Most new skills get forgotten or lost unless they’re used immediately.

After any training event it is important to have a programme of continuing support to embed change, whether that’s provided by your own management and coaches or externally.

We use a variety of workshops, on line and phone based seminars and coaching sessions. Most importantly, team managers need the skills to coach and follow through.

No one does it unless you do it

Whatever you’re trying to achieve by way of changes in behaviour, you (and your management team) need to be a role model!

Almost every leader we speak to has a specific business goal that requires real and lasting change in the way in which their teams interact with their customers. That normally translates into a training need, but also into something more than that.