“If you can’t measure it…”

 Sep 23, 2015

Can you finish that sentence?

In 17 years in corporate training, I have often heard the saying: “If you can’t measure it, it’s not worth doing.”

Well I beg to differ…to a point.

If everything we did at work was measured and logical then where would the drive to do whatever we action, come from? Passion, enthusiasm and satisfaction are all emotional elements desirable to foster in an organisation but very difficult to measure.

Hey, I hear the seasoned campaigners in HR and L&D; saying "but we do engagement surveys and we can measure the decrease in absentee rate, customer complaints or HR escalations". Increased length of tenure or ROI may also be on the list.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe it is valuable to construct a mechanism to measure the value of training and all the above are valid measuring tools. The problem is they do not and cannot value the incidental spin-offs that occur especially as a result of soft skills training.

Can we measure the overall benefit to an organisation when a manager going on a management course learns that s/he has been abandoning staff who are performing solidly on the benchmarks, whilst that manager has spent time ‘fixing’ the problem staff and giving accolades to the top performers? Realising the issue, the manager then has an encouraging conversation (ongoing) with a staff member who was considering leaving and now stays another five years. During that time his/her new-found satisfaction (generated by his/her manager’s changed behaviour) spreads out to customers who tell other potential customers about the amazing service of the organisation. Oh, and the manager also returns home more satisfied helping his/ her relationship with the spouse and kids.

Pretty hard to measure, I am sure you will agree but well worth doing.

If it is true that we buy emotionally and justify logically, then more than anything people leaders (anyone who influences others – managers, sales people, customer service people) need skills to influence and manage the emotional wherewithal of those they are connected to.

If the left brained manager starts selling new initiatives to staff through logic and not connecting them emotionally it’s like a visit to the dentist. On the other hand if a manager is protecting staff and pandering to their emotions, it’s like a visit to the cotton wool factory.

Because managers are often promoted on their technical capabilities, they often need to learn a whole new skill set as a manager; the people engagement side.

And what of customer facing staff? Receptionists are often the lowest paid in an organisation but can either glue or sever customer relationships. Customer service staff who are unable to deal with difficult people; sales staff who can’t build rapport or influence – all of these issues impact the livelihood of the organisation but can have consequences on staff inside the organisation as well. There can be stress, internal bickering, job dissatisfaction and lost productivity.

These cases are just some of the issues that ‘soft skills’ can fix but often they lay unattended to, perhaps not considered important or urgent enough to warrant attention. Often, it is because senior decision makers don’t value them. Sometimes they are not highly emotionally intelligent themselves and therefore are obtuse to seeing a need. Sometimes it is because all this ‘fluffy soft stuff’ can’t be measured in dollar terms so it is difficult to justify the expense. And as an adjunct to the latter, sometimes it is because decision makers decide that it can’t be measured that therefore they will not be able to determine the success.

Whilst we can’t measure the full impact of soft skills training, as I have already pointed out, we can measure some of it. So, pick your yardstick and considering the 10/20/70 rule (10% Training, 20% Management, 70% On the job – experience), understand that training is a small part in the overall process of helping individuals to acquire skill and change behaviour. It is an incredibly important part though. If management is the turning on of the gas tap and experience is the gas, soft-skills training is the spark that ignites the process; it is the catalyst that starts the change.

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About the Author:

Tim Higgs  

Tim has been involved in the corporate training industry for over 15 years; seven of these have been as the Portfolio Manager and Senior Facilitator at New Horizons. Tim holds a Graduate Diploma (Psych/Couns), a masters' degree in Cultural Psychology and a bachelor's degree in Business, giving him a unique theoretical backdrop for understanding human performance in the workplace. This complements his actual experience of working within the corporate sector in sales and management positions and owning and running a small business. Having worked with individuals and groups in both clinical and business settings, Tim has a fantastic insight into human behaviour, motivation and the issue of human change.

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