Training and the infinite return on investment
by Seth Godin (distributed with permission)
Sometimes, it’s easy to underestimate just how much it pays.
Consider an employee who is going to work 2000 hours for you this year. It’s not unusual for an organization to spend only 10 or 20 hours training this person–which means about 1% of their annual workload.
How much training would it take for this person to be 10% better at her job? If you invest 100 hours (!) it’ll pay for itself in just six months. There aren’t many investments an organization can make that double in value in a year.
But let’s take it one step further:
Imagine a customer service rep. Fully costed out, it might cost $5 for this person to service a single customer by phone. An untrained rep doesn’t understand the product, or how to engage, or hasn’t been brought up to speed on your systems. As a result, the value delivered in the call is precisely zero (in fact it’s negative, because you’ve disappointed your customer).
On the other hand, the trained rep easily delivers $30 of brand value to the customer, at a cost, as stated, of $5. So, instead of zero value, there’s a profit to the brand of $25. A comparative ROI of infinity.
And of course, the untrained person doesn’t fall into this trap once. Instead, it happens over and over, many times a day.
The short-sighted organization decides it’s ‘saving money’ by cutting back training. After all, the short-term thinking goes, what’s the point of training people if they’re only going to leave. (I’d point out the converse of this–what’s the danger of not training the people who stay?)
It’s tempting to nod in agreement at these obvious cases (or the similar case of getting, or not getting, a great new job based on how skilled you’ve trained yourself to be–again, a huge cliff and difference in return). What’s not so easy is to take responsibility for our own training.
We’ve long passed the point where society and our organization are taking responsibility for what we know and how we approach problems. We need to own it for ourselves.