Have you ever been so frustrated on a job, that you realize trying to fight to get a simple task done feels like you’ve gone a round in a boxing ring and it just exhausts you?
Companies with this practice are often limiting themselves from reaching the next level. i have seen it happen more than once. I frequently talk about how removing bottlenecks is important if you want to level up from 6-figures to 7-figures, and using this practice with your team is one of the things that will hold a business back. Are you guilty of this practice anywhere in your business?
We’re on a quest to help your business reach or exceed 7-Figures through Million Dollar Marketing.
The things that got you to a 5-figure or 6-figure business aren’t the strategies to take you beyond.
We’re breaking down what you need to do instead.
I’ve personally consulted with more than one company that uses some variation of this really bad strategy.
You’ve probably encountered it too. They have an internal belief that is something like “the best training is letting you muddle your way through and figure it out yourself”.
But … is that how you effectively grow your business?
Here’s some ways I’ve seen this bad habit manifest
I’ve worked with a few different companies over the years and seen this firsthand, and it’s one of the things that has held the company back from reaching the next level of success.
Is an IT company that helps businesses that have multiple locations and team members as their outsourced IT department. They do everything from maintain servers, set up new employees with access to systems like emails and document systems, get them access to computers and VPNs and hardware.
They have about 30 people on their team and help over 100 clients (and their tens of thousands of employees) with IT.
As part of their hiring process, the company promises their new team members that they won’t be thrown to the wolves and will receive full training and support. They hire staff with experience in IT, so really all those people need to learn is the custom system the company uses to allow them access to all of those things.
But what actually happens is they train the new employee for about 2 hours and have them shadow someone for one hour, and then tell them that everything is documented in their system with exactly how to get things done. Supposedly all they have to do is search in the system and they will find exactly how to do whatever it is.
Except … it’s not all documented, and a lot of things that are documented have changed and are incorrect. And they put two newest staff – who had never taken a single call or worked a single ticket – working alone on a Holiday. The new staff was only told in passing about how and when to log into the phone system … so neither knew to do this and weren’t answering phones. The boss got a message from a customer about being on hold for an hour, and logged in and chewed out the employees.
Not a good way to start your work relationship. But there are other problems we’ll talk about in a minute.
This company didn’t have an IT department, but there were many other areas of the business that the big team would need assistance with now and then spread across many departments such as marketing, accounting, minor IT like accessing email, etc. Each of those departments may have only had 1 or 2 people, and they had a total team of about 1500.
They made a choice for the standard reply to tell the team to search on the intranet. In their case their intranet was pretty comprehensive and accurate – but when I initially started working with them it was terrible to navigate. I’m super techie and I could barely make it work or find things when I searched.
This was a smaller company that for the most part only needed to assist about 5 people on the team plus a handful of outsourced contractors who only needed assistance now and then.
Other than helping set up access to email, CRM and document storage, for the most part everything else was figuring it out on your own.
The (faulty) reasoning businesses use
Let’s talk about some of the reasoning behind why these companies made these choices … and why the reasoning is flawed.
Pay attention … these are the types of reasoning that sounds good on the surface, but as the owner of a business that is trying to grow to 7-figures and beyond, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re sniffing out these types of problems that will hold you back.
In the case of Company Z, it was the fact that they had a small team and didn’t really have anyone who could be the one point of contact. But a hidden reason was because one person on the team wanted to be the only person with the knowledge. Perhaps she felt insecure. Of course she’s not telling the boss this. But the best thing for your company is always for more than one person to have at least access to the knowledge.
Another thing that was bad reasoning for Company Z was that the same employee who wanted to control all of the knowledge also divvied out the knowledge so that others on the team operated in tight silos. Each only had a small piece of knowledge; and she was the only one who knew how it all fit together. Even the CEO didn’t know. This, also, is not the right strategy to grow your business.
In the case of Company Y, they wanted the team to learn how to find things themselves and feel “empowered” to find their information. Partly to free up time for people on the team so that they weren’t having to answer questions. Pssst … it doesn’t feel empowering if you’re frustrated. Those people still had to answer the question, it’s just instead of giving them a quick copy/paste of a link or two sentences of direction, they were simply answering for them to go find it themselves. Yet … this process also went directly against the company’s own culture statements while taking just as much time.
For Company X, they thought they had training systems done and had documented everything, and then said “whenever you need help just ask the team, they’re always willing to help.” Unfortunately, most of what they documented was things an IT person already knows how to do – such as maybe set up a new email address for someone. What they didn’t document was how to navigate that within their own proprietary system to get to the point that the IT person knows the rest.. They assumed because someone knows IT, that they would also automatically know how to use all of their proprietary systems … but that’s the exact piece they should have documented.
They also had a couple (not all) other team members who were not really wanting the new employees to end up being rockstars because they were worried about their own jobs. If a brand new member of the team is able to accomplish tasks quickly, well you may just have to work harder so that your boss doesn’t start asking questions. So they may actually do some light sabotage. So when the new employee would ask the “helpful team” for assistance, they weren’t really being that helpful – vague on purpose.
Why this is such a bad practice
In the case of Company X above … there was one time that the new team member had a help ticket that should have taken them 5 minutes to complete. It was something they already knew how to do, and they even found a document in the how-to repository that said exactly how to do it.
Inefficiency, time = money
Unfortunately that document had a link of where to make the change, but when the team member visited said “you do not have access”. They asked the trainer, and ended up running around for 30 minutes to try to find access. They were sent a link to a portal that contained every password for every service for every client and told it was in there. They found the client but none of the 30 passwords listed worked. Turned out this particular password was in a completely different directory. How much more efficient if the person who sent them the link would have simply said “Look in ______ folder for the ______ password.” It would not have taken the person sending any longer at all … yet would have saved an hour of the recipient’s time.
After 90 minutes the ticket still had not been resolved even though it should have been a 5-minute task. The employee asked the trainer, who could have simply said “Go to X link to find the password you need which is saved under “this name”. Use that password to log on on Y link. From there you can follow the instructions that you said you already found in our how-to repository.” The new team member would have still had to do the work, and it would only have taken the trainer a few seconds extra.
Instead, the employee spent 90 minutes trying to find all of this, where to go, what to look for. Clock ticking we’re at 2.5 hours now for a 5-minute task. It was taking 25 times longer to complete a task because the employee was running around trying to find the answer. The company could have paid for the employee to complete 30 simple tickets a day … or 2.
Employees are often one of the largest expenses that a business has … can you afford for your team to be that inefficient? Especially when it’s not the employee’s fault, but your own lack of training.
Perhaps the trainer was just busy with their own work. In which case … perhaps it would be time and money better spent for the trainer to actually focus on these two new employees (rather than trying to take tickets themselves) and make sure they are efficiently up to speed.
Frustration = turnover = money
One main reason why this is such a bad practice is because it frustrates team members. And frustrated staff can result in frustrated customers. Remember that the most important investment you make for your business is in your TEAM … because your team are the ones who take care of your customer (even when they aren’t directly interacting with customers).
This type of running around and hitting constant walls is very frustrating to most employees (especially when they feel a bit of slight sabotage happening along the way). After 2 hours of this (like the 5-minute task above), your employee has been in the “fight” mode of flight or flight for an hour and a half. They likely feel exhausted and don’t even know why.
This can result in them possibly becoming belligerent or snappy with the rest of the team and seem like “not the right fit”, or their brain switches over to “flight” mode and they give their notice (or just don’t show up again).
Turnover = training costs = money
Training a new employee costs a lot of resources … ie money (and time that equals money). So you would do very well to make sure that the time and effort you put into training them isn’t simply lost.
Most companies undergo quite a bit of this during the initial onboarding process. A lot of employees are paid to work for a couple of weeks before they even get access to a system. In the case of Company X, the two new teammates were paid for 3 weeks of training before they ever even touched their first support ticket (and, of course we know the training was lacking.)
Employee turnover costs a lot. Some studies predict that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary on average. The pay range for these new employees was around $70,000 a year, meaning that it cost the company anywhere between $60,000 and $105,000 in recruiting and training expenses for these two employees.
If an employee isn’t happy and leaves relatively quickly – which one of the team members did quickly (she wasn’t as hard-pressed for a job and had other opportunities), you’re adding that cost yet again. The other left after 9 months. So in the timeframe of a year … the company ate around $200K of cost for recruiting and training employees who just turned around and left.
Help me do the math here … if you waste nearly a quarter of a million dollars simply due to turnover of unhappy employees, then how easy is it to reach the million dollar mark? (And when you reach it … don’t you want to keep a bit more of it?)
Inexperienced staff = unhappy customers = lost money
We’ve talked a lot about Company X this go around, and here’s another problem.
So the new team members struggle to get things done because they haven’t been properly trained, and this also means that for the most part couldn’t even answer simple questions from the phone calls they answered. “I need to reset my password” … and you would think someone could handle this while you’re on hold, but each of the hundreds of companies had their own internal processes that had to be consulted. And each handled passwords in a slightly different way which was noted in a different place or software system.
So instead of closing out their help while they’re on the call, they enter a ticket. Then take HOURS to figure out how to handle the ticket because of all of the reasons we’ve already discussed. All the while, the user of the computer from the client has been sitting for half a day unable to work.
Now the client gets mad because you’re not helping them at the level that you committed to in the contract that you have with them.
So they don’t renew the contract.
And suddenly you lose half of your business – which is exactly what happened to this company.
Side note: I’m pretty damn good at marketing if I do say so myself. But even the best marketing in the world can’t get or more importantly keep you business if your product or service isn’t up to par.
What works better – do this instead
One important thing is to look at all of your vision and mission and culture statements, and then look if the way you’re asking your team to just “figure it out on your own” fits in with all of those things that you are trying to be and say.
For Company Y, helping people was literally in both their vision and their culture statements. Supporting their employees to perform better was also in their culture statements.
So … you say you want to help people and to grow your employees … yet you also tell your team instead of being fully helpful to just tell other team members to go look over there without more helpful instructions.
Are you seeing how those two contradict each other? When I brought this up to the CEO of Company Y, I could see the light dawn in their eyes as soon as they realized something they were asking employees to do went directly against their own culture and vision statements – what they envision their company to be. So they changed that strategy (and also changed their internal document systems so that they were much easier for employees to actually use).
Think of it like “put your money where your mouth is”.
What usually works better is investing time to create a happy employee who is well trained and will be loyal to your company.
In the end, you’ll see that reflected positively on your bottom line as you work to build your business into a million-dollar-business.
Vicky is the CEO and Chief Creative Strategist of Vicky Wu Marketing. She draws from 30 years of experience at the CMO level, the CEO level, marketing for Fortune 500 companies and multi-million and multi-billion-dollar organizations, PLUS strategies learned helping startups and nonprofits with limited budgets … now focusing on providing SMBs with effective and efficient marketing strategies – giving them access to the same level of expertise as the really big guys with deep pockets, that they may not otherwise be able to access.