We believe it is just as important to coach, practice, and mentor employees as it is to conduct training.
With a 25% take rate, it is obvious that training is not enough. It takes coaching, practicing, and mentoring to achieve mission success.
It should not be surprising that training alone is not enough. Humans forget about 40% of what they learn in 20 minutes and 64% after 9 hours. (yikes)
This three-part post will explain the differences between training, coaching, practice, and mentoring, as well as some best practices we have found.
Let us start with how each of these activities is different.
Training has an organizational goal in mind. “We need our people to be better at X.” The dealership hopes the training will improve skills and increase efficiency and effectiveness in a specific area. Everyone gets excited (on the management team) that this is going to fix a problem.
The training gets scheduled. It may be an expert coming in to present or the project is delegated to someone internally. The training itself is unidirectional. A transfer of knowledge. Usually presented to a group, the process assumes everyone is on the same level skill-wise and delivers the same experience to the group.
(This reminds me of my mother’s stories about grade school in the 40s. 1st through 6th grade students were all together. It is easy to see the flaws in that system.)
The biggest threat to training success is the intrinsic motivation of the people in the training. The employees hold the key to success. Training cannot achieve the anticipated results if employees do not see it benefiting them personally.
The second biggest threat is the employee’s supervisor.
Actions by an employer’s direct boss before, during, and after the training have a lot to do with mission success. The employee is going to follow their managers’ lead. Frankly, the managers should be the experts. They can train, coach, practice, and mentor their employees.
Coaching is more directed to the employees’ goals as opposed to those of the dealership. Of course, the employees, or most of the employees, want the dealership to succeed, but that must be put in the context of their work experience and what is in it for them.
Coaching is one on one. This shows the employee that the dealership values them and addresses the aspect of personal motivation. The experience of being coached is more direct and personal. Instead of the company voicing an overall improvement, coaching identifies what needs improvement at the individual level. The impact of coaching is greater than the impact of training, but training is still important because it provides the knowledge and the desired outcomes.
Practice is essential. It amazes me that dealerships will “train” a new salesperson and send him or her out to “practice” on real customers. Or spend $15,000 on a training program and send them out to the showroom to see how they do.
Furthermore, the idea of practice is key to people at the highest level of any profession. There is no better example than professional athletes. Tom Brady practices. Serena Williams practices.
Not coincidentally, practice is usually held by the coach!
If repetition is the mother of learning, then practice fosters success.
Mentoring is when someone shares their skills, experience, and knowledge to help another be successful. Unlike the coach, who is mostly focused on skills and behavior, the mentor takes a more comprehensive approach and sees the employee as they can become.
Mentoring is less rigid than coaching. Mentoring does not require a set schedule or a list of repetitions to practice on.
I see mentoring quite a bit at the upper leadership level, but not so much at the entry level. People getting started or learning something new need mentors too. To encourage them and celebrate with them when they succeed.
Next, we will look more closely at coaching, the attributes of a great coach, the coaching process, and best practices.
Although discipline is necessary, it doesn’t have to be harsh. Many leaders will approach disciplinary matters like a cop, ready to write a ticket or punish employees for poor performance. Cops show up after the “crime,” doling out punishment. While fear of punishment is an effective motivator for short term performance, agent turnover tends to be astronomically high when fear is the motivator rather coaching.
Agents need consistent coaching and constructive feedback. Think of a coach, constantly motivating their players to improve as a team. From the very first practice, a coach will identify opportunities for improvement in the players and teach them the practical skills and provide the coaching to master those skills.
The more your employees feel appreciated and recognized, the better they will perform. “What gets rewarded gets repeated.” Learning to keep employees motivated and engaged is a crucial factor in the success of your BDC. Recognize agents immediately when they meet goals or surpass their personal best. As soon as you realize one of your agents has reached their goals or went above and beyond for a customer, shout them out publicly! Recognition means more in the moment, as opposed to a regular weekly employee spotlight. Coaching doesn’t end when practice is over. Coaching during the game is just as important as in training. Real time feedback, coaching and discipline creates change in the moment and leads to better performance.
As for discipline, when a player isn’t doing what was taught in practice they are taken out of the game. A good BDC Manager will take an agent off the phone if the process isn’t being followed. Redirect that employee to the proper behavior or technique then put them back on the phone. Monitor behavior/technique immediately and give as much positive feedback as possible and keep redirecting unwanted behavior. The coaching culture is simplistic. Set a goal, applaud activity that helps reach the goal, identify and redirect behavior that does not.
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