Does Not Do ≠ Does Not Know
Just because an employee doesn’t do their job, it doesn’t necessarily mean they lack knowhow. There are myriad reasons employees don’t do what they’re supposed to do, and each reason requires a particular solution. Yet, some managers are quick to assume training is the "one size" that "fixes all" underperforming employees. That's just not the case.
Training is a particular solution for employees who "don’t know." But training cannot fix employees who "don't do" because of poor job design, wrong-fit hiring, unclear expectations, lack of coaching and feedback, low motivation, weak supervision, etc., etc.
For over a decade I’ve fielded training requests from managers whose employees were just not doing their jobs. And most of those requests involved employees whose underperformance was in fact due to a lack of knowledge or skills.
But some (many) of those frantic pleas were from managers whose employees knew darn well what was expected and how to do it, but they were either impeded by constraints beyond their control or unmotivated to do what they were capable of doing.
Below are two examples of actual training requests I received that illustrate this point:
* “Hi Don, this is Eric from Security. We’ve had a number of complaints about our security guards not wearing their hats on post and patrol. You got a training class on that?”
* “Don? This is Jane, the front desk manager from ____ hotel. I need your help! Our guest satisfaction scores dropped significantly, and the number one complaint is that our front desk is too slow. I need training that will help my staff speed up the check-in process.”
In the first example, there were a number of reasons security guards weren’t wearing their hats, not the least of which was that the uniform department had actually run out of certain hat sizes. But the primary reason guards weren't wearing their hats was simply that shift supervisors weren't holding them accountable to do so. Rather than confronting, coaching, or reprimanding the guards for not being in uniform, supervisors chose to overlook the issue and hope it would go away. It didn't.
In the second case, the primary factor that slowed down the guest check-in process was that guests needing to check in had to wait in the same line as quests asking lengthy questions about local attractions or making dining reservations for the hotel restaurant. The hotel had eliminated the concierge position and shifted concierge responsibilities to the front desk. The result: guest service and efficiency had become conflicting priorities.
Both of these issues were resolved by analyzing and addressing root causes of the performance discrepancies, not by spending time and money training employees to do what they already knew how to do. The key is to recognize when does not do does not equal does not know. And that is what performance consultants do best.
Thought Leaders: Soft Skills Are a Top Priority for Internal Audit in 2014
According to reputable research and respected thought leaders, acquiring and developing relevant soft skills is a top priority for the internal audit profession in 2014.
As former director of seminars and curriculum development for The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Global Headquarters, I know first-hand that non-technical “soft” skills emerged from mere nice-to-have attributes just a few years ago to become among the most essential and sought-after competencies for internal auditors today. This shift toward non-technical skills has important training ramifications for IIA chapters and internal audit departments.
Whereas chapter training programs of the past consisted almost exclusively of technical “hard” skills, they must now include relevant soft skills topics as well because as Larry Harrington, Chief Audit Executive of Raytheon Company and former IIA North American Board Chairman likes to say, “Soft skills are the new hard skills.”
In a forward-thinking whitepaper titled 7 Attributes of Highly Effective Auditors, IIA President and CEO Richard Chambers and Robert Half International Senior Executive Director Paul McDonald state that, “Technical skills remain absolutely necessary, but they are no longer sufficient on their own. The most effective ‘Internal Auditor of the Future’ possesses a broad range of non-technical attributes in addition to deep technical expertise.” Not surprisingly, they have research to back up their claim.
The 2013 Global Pulse of the Internal Audit Profession conducted by the IIA’s Audit Executive
Center identified analytical / critical thinking and communication skills as the top two skills for internal auditors most sought by global recruiters. Chambers notes, “Audit committees have come to expect, if not flat out demand, that internal audit evaluate the organization’s strategic risk exposures as well as provide assurance on overall risk management effectiveness.”
As further evidence of this shift, the 2013 Internal Audit Capabilities and Needs Survey conducted by Protiviti reveals that internal audit professionals at all levels seek to master such essential soft
skills as strategic thinking, collaboration, negotiation, persuasion, and conflict resolution. According to Protiviti, this trend signifies internal audit’s increasing responsibility to provide risk-related input into strategic decisions and partner with and influence colleagues at all levels throughout the organization.
The IIA Global Internal Audit Competency Framework, which defines the professional attributes necessary to meet the requirements of the IPPF, includes ten core competencies. Of those ten, six involve non-technical soft skills: ethics, business acumen, communication, persuasion and collaboration, critical thinking, and improvement and innovation.
Chambers and McDonald conclude their timely white paper by advising internal auditors to
“…apply as much effort and precision to the acquisition and development of non-technical attributes that they currently apply to the enhancement of their traditional internal auditing expertise.”
Do your 2014 training plans include the essential soft skills topics recommended by the foremost thought leaders of the internal audit profession?
Soft skills are the new hard skills, so resolve to invest as much time and effort toward acquiring and developing non-technical competencies in 2014 as you invested in learning technical skills in years past. A year from now you'll be glad you did so.