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Mind the ‘training gap’

"I need to get the best out of my staff to make the most of all our opportunities. They are well intentioned and hardworking but I‘m guilty of throwing them in at the deep end – sometimes they sink rather than swim. Any advice appreciated!"

Julian O'Dell

Staff training image

JULIAN SAYS: It has become patently obvious from our mystery shopping and consultancy that we have a frightening number of unskilled new entrants into estate agency. It is a profession that is easy to enter without qualification or training and I fear the results are not great for either businesses or clients.

Julian O'Dell image

Julian O’Dell

Naturally as a training provider, I would advocate that training is the most appropriate solution to your dilemma, as long as it is delivered within a culture where everybody from top to bottom follows the principles and practices covered in the training. It is interesting to note the massive take up we have had for our new ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ programme, which is essentially an induction course for starters that provides the skills and knowledge that would take six months or more to acquire ‘on the job’. Sadly, the vast majority of industry entrants are not fortunate enough to have such a great launchpad to their new career and many flounder as a result.

Your programme needs to be geared to specific behavioural change – ie, doing things differently as a result!

As far as your particular dilemma is involved, any training you plan is, with all due respect, slightly ‘after the horse has bolted’ if there was no induction process – nonetheless it is never too late to get a staff training programme in place.

The most effective training focuses on the needs of the company and has clearly defined objectives as to what that training will achieve. Behavioural change for the better by way of enhanced knowledge and skills will no doubt be at the heart of any such programme but the clearer the goals the more likely the training is to succeed.

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

Analysis is the key starting point – it is worrying how few managers know how to assess training needs. This ‘training gap’ is relatively straightforward to identify – it is the difference between where the employee is now and where you want them to be.

Your training programme in this case needs to be geared towards specific behavioural change – in other words, that the attendees will genuinely do things differently as a result of the training.

This could be that they deal with new applicants to an exceptional standard, that they improve their ability to secure viewings or referrals to mortgage advisers or conveyancers, or that they become more competent at negotiating offers between clients and applicants.

Once you have decided what the specific behavioural change is, you have two options – design and deliver a training course yourself, or outsource to specialist training providers. Whilst the former seems an attractive option from an initial cost perspective, it will potentially be a false economy in the long run, as the effects on behaviour will be less likely to be achieved.

But beware outsourcing to the wrong provider! Just as it is easy to set up as an estate agent without experience, knowledge, training or track record, the same can be said for trainers! Some folk think it is simply a case of imparting knowledge along the lines of ‘this is how I used to do it so this is how you should do it’ or worse still, generic sales trainers who try to shoehorn broad selling principles into the specific and particular world of estate agency – rarely a comfortable fit!

It is often forgotten that the staff attending the course should be informed why that is happening – some may see it as a punishment if you don’t explain the rationale. Remember ‘WIIFM’ – your staff may well be thinking “What’s in it for me?” and it is your responsibility to answer that question positively to eliminate any resistance to the idea.

BE COMMITTED

A training course should be an interactive, engaging, stimulating and enjoyable event – some I have witnessed (and attended) over the years have failed to tick any of those boxes! If you do decide to do it yourself, ensure that it doesn’t become a ‘tell’ session – this will achieve little or nothing.

A session on each of the key areas of essential skills and knowledge needs to be included, within each of those, discussion and deliberation, ideas and conclusions and agreed action plans should be driven by the group as much as by the trainer. Agreed changes are far better ‘owned’ if they are reached by consensus rather than coercion.

Whichever training option you go for, ensure you commit to it. Don’t take the dinosaur attitude that I’ve heard a good few times over the years, “What if we train our staff and they leave?”

The answer to that is: “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

Julian O’Dell, TM Training & Development 07718 634235

April 20, 2018