There is a difference between training and educating and the good retailers and restaurants are paying attention to that difference.
To think of this business problem in the simplest terms, you train a dog and you teach a person. Pretty simple to understand, but there is a lot behind this simple thought process.
Why would you simply train a dog instead of teach them? Well, and I am sorry dog lovers, but we don’t expect dogs to reason and figure out what the proper thing to do is in a particular situation. However we do expect dogs to be able to repeat a behavior given the proper reward; love, food, toys, affection. For instance, when we had a Cocker Spaniel we were able to teach him to sit, stay, lie down, shake hands, and roll over if we had a pancake in our hands. (Perhaps he trained us to have pancakes in our hands). We repeated this behavioral training with Joey every Sunday because that is when we made pancakes. He got to be very good at all of his commands, and eating pancakes. However, Joey never learned why we did these commands, how to make pancakes, or what ultimately the family unit was trying to get from him doing these commands. He was trained but he was not taught.
We taught our children the importance of looking both left and right before they crossed the street. We told them the positive consequences of looking around and the negative consequences of not looking around. We then talked about how we could apply this same lesson to other parts of life and LISTENED to how they responded. We corrected their course if they made a mistake and continued to ask them questions about their answers so they could teach themselves the why. Our kids have grown to be productive thoughtful adults and seem to be making good decisions because we (mostly my wife) realized the importance of teaching our children and not just training them.
Well, how many retailer and restaurants have training departments today and how many have education departments? When I started in retail the best education programs were with the department stores. They took the time to teach their buyers by putting them on the sales floor. These are the people that, today, are the merchants of all of the great retailers in the US. They got an education by listening to both the customers and the buyers. They understood the “whys” of how things were done before they actually had to do them.
But I continue to hear that retailers are putting in this new training program or that new training program. And these programs work for what they are designed to do. They train people to run the new POS system. They train people to put together a new “set” in a store. People are “trained” on how to make a sandwich, cup of espresso, or how to answer the phone. (Lewis Kornfeld TAUGHT us how to answer the phone in one of his Flyer Side chats in the 1970’s and I have never forgotten the lesson!)
Take the time to teach the “Y.” If all you want to do is train, and then train the same thing again, don’t bother with the Y. You will have full time employment because you will get to teach the next group of new hires and the next one after that ad infinitum. However, if you understand the importance of your employees learning to think through a problem with a good base of knowledge, then take the time to Teach The Y.
My second year as a Regional Manager I had about 150 stores and 6 District Managers I was responsible for. We were all paid on the financial success of the stores with no limit on the up side. So, with each DM in tow, we went and visited each and every store with a P&L and a voided blank check. At the first store in each district I sat down with the DM and the store manager and worked with them to project their sales for the upcoming year. We also worked on the expenses of the store because the store manager got paid on the net profit of the store. We taught the store manager how he could affect his net pay through increased sales and good expense control. And at the end of the session we had the store manager write his bonus check and pin it on his bulletin board. Riding from the first store to the second store the DM and I discussed what had just happened and how the DM could use that experience in the future. At the next store the DM ran the show with the store manager and me standing in the background. This was then done in every store in the district and every store in the region. While certainly not perfect, our group of store managers came to LEARN how P&L’s worked and how they could personally benefit from running THEIR business. Which was the purpose of the lesson? If, through knowledge, we could intellectually transfer ownership of the store to the store manager, then we would have an optimally running operation for years to come. It worked, by the way, as the region was the top region in the US earning store managers, DM’s, and RM’s record profits and earnings.
So Take The Time To Teach The Y in everything you are doing. It will build your profits, improve morale, and deliver to you a sense of satisfaction you will cherish the rest of your life.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.