My formal education was first in German literature and then later in business administration. What I know about training design, development and delivery I’ve learned through on-the-job practice and self study. I’ve gone to lots of seminars, designed hundreds of classes and workshops, and helped to implement effective training here at Zingerman’s. Along the way I’ve read many, many books. One of the most influential has been The Learning Alliance, co-authored by Ann Arbor consultant (and regular Zingerman’s customer) Stephen Gill. The ideas advanced in that book, which emphasizes that employee learning should be integrated into all aspects of the organization not just delegated to the “training department,” formed the basis for Bottom-Line Training™, Zingerman’s approach to training.
It’s January 1, 2025 and your business has been quite successful. What do you see, hear, smell and feel going on around you that is evidence of that success? If you can describe that scene, you’ll have a vision of greatness for your organization - an incredibly powerful tool to get everyone working together and moving in the same direction.
There may be industries out there where employee turnover isn’t a problem, but retailing certainly isn’t one of them. Finding, hiring and retaining good staff is one of the biggest challenges that retailers face, and many owners and managers get discouraged by how hard it is—regardless of the economy. One of the most frustrating situations is hiring a new staff person, only to have them quit a month or two later. At that point we’ve usually invested a lot in terms of training but haven’t really gotten much back in terms of productivity—certainly a negative bottom-line impact. Therefore, making improvements to our interviewing and hiring systems (and then making sure that our managers are trained in how to use those systems) is a very good bottom-line investment.
Topics: Organizational Systems
OK. How many of you are willing to admit that you’ve experienced this scenario: You needed someone to train a new hire, automatically chose the person who was the best performer in the job that needed to be trained—and then were disappointed with the results? Unfortunately, it's likely that we’ve all done that at one time or another.
How do you welcome new hires into your organization? Do you hand them a uniform and point them in the general direction of the front counter? Do you have them attend several days of classroom training before they ever talk to a customer? Do they learn about your organization’s history and vision from someone in leadership? Or do they get their information from the disgruntled employees out on the back dock?
We all know service is important—right? We’d be surprised if there were a company left in the US which hasn’t incorporated some version of “the customer is always right” into its employee handbook. Every politician and business leader can quote statistics about the pros and cons of the relentless move towards a “service economy.” And service is the topic most requested by clients who want ZingTrain to speak or work with their organization. On the other hand, many people feel that the level of customer service that they receive as customers is lower than ever.
For those of us who sell specialty products, customer education has always been part of the selling process. Sometimes we’re offering products that most customers have never heard of. Other times we have items with familiar names but vastly superior ingredients or construction. Almost always the prices that we charge are higher than what is being charged somewhere else in our market for something that can SEEM to be the same thing. Our success depends upon customers understanding the differences between our products and the competition’s.
Topics: Customer Service
When business owners run into challenges that they’re not sure how to address—or know they can’t resolve on their own—they often start looking outside their organizations for expertise and resources. Two common places to look are consultants and trainers.