February 23, 2010
I am returning to my blog series on The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Chief Marketing Officers. I have already covered the first six habits, over the past few months. Read Habit #6 here. This post will offer some ideas and suggestions on the all-important but controversial “training” topic. And the CMO’s unique role here.
Habit #7: Train All the Time
We really have quite a dilemma in business today. Most employee surveys I see through my clients, and most conversations I have with “middle” managers, clearly show people feel training is a lost art. Many formal training programs have been cut during the recession, and it is tough to reinstate them once they are cut. Meanwhile, with the pace of change in business today, especially in marketing, training is more important than ever. So what can be done?
My first idea for you is an obvious one, and one that does not cost a penny. Yet it is not practiced regularly. It is a simple thought: train all the time, and expect that from all leaders. Every conversation, every meeting, every visit, is an opportunity to train. Most of us train by example, and bright, observant people pick that up. But what I am talking about is to overtly and explicitly use everyday encounters as training moments.
As a young leader, I loved it when people did that with me. My first brand manager at P&G used to group our brand team together after every advertising agency meeting and ask “What did we learn today?” “What could we do better?” “Are we excited about the outcome?”
I have tried through my career, especially as a CMO, to keep this habit alive. It adds a few minutes to each meeting or visit, no more. I also found an extra benefit to the training — which people deeply appreciate as it is an investment in them — and that extra benefit is that outcomes improve immediately. Right after a meeting ends, when everything is fresh, when I am replaying the meeting outcomes and learning, I find that I revisit something with the team or individual and we make it better. Immediately. And if it is a sales call, capturing this learning quickly leads to prompt followup with the customer, and usually better results.
So training all the time does not cost anything but a few extra minutes after a meeting, and it improves results. Good deal — get on with it!
The second idea I have for you is to formally train your people also all the time. Obviously your people cannot and should not be in training sessions all the time, that is not what I mean. I mean you need as CMO to be accountable for the capabilities you build in your company, in tough times and in good times. Great training builds the capabilities an organization needs for competitive advantage. You must first be clear on these, and then build your training program around it and constantly measure and innovate to be sure you are building the capabilities you need to build.
Pret A Manger, the wildly successful natural and preservative-free fast-food company, is relentless on training against their core capabilities of inspirational team leadership, clear and sincere communication, and passion for, and knowledge of, healthy, organic, easy food. Target trains by ensuring every employee (they call all employees leaders, nice!) knows “why” they are doing what they are doing and how this is linked to their brand ideal and guest satisfaction. At P&G, we dedicated expert resources to training what people needed to learn for today’s business, while we created the training we felt prepared us for the future. I had reviews once a quarter to ensure we were seeing results, and building the right capabilities for the future.
Last point: training, both the kind you can do every day and the more formal training, is perhaps the strongest signal to your people that they are what drives your business. One of my first visible actions as P&G’s new CMO in 2001 was to dramatically reframe our training, and to get personally involved in its execution. P&G people got, and loved, the message: building our capability and inspiration will lead us to win with consumers and customers.