I’ve always been a PC user, but I recently took the plunge and got a Mac for work. I needed a docking station, and as a Mac novice, I decided to head out to my local computer store to get some advice. It didn’t go well. As soon as I stepped up to the counter and explained what I was after, the sales associate started holding forth about what I really needed. He spoke with incredible conviction but my spider-sense started tingling. Even as a new Mac user, I could tell that what he was saying simply didn’t add up. I left the store empty-handed, went home, did my own research, and made a purchase online.
My trip was a waste of time, but it brought into focus an important employee performance issue: the way that the confluence of confidence and ignorance can erode customer trust and lead to lost sales. If the store associate had simply said “I don’t know” (or, better yet, “I’ll find out”), I might have felt comfortable enough to make a purchase. But because he feigned expertise, I headed for the door. This illustrates a fundamental employee performance challenge. Fortunately, it’s one that can be overcome—if employers are proactive about putting smart, effective training programs in place.
A Sign Of The Times
In some ways, my experience was a sign of the times. Certainly, the Great Resignation has left many businesses with too few frontline employees, leading job performance and customer service quality to nosedive. That may have been the case at my computer store; often, new hires overstate their confidence in order to conceal their ignorance, with lousy results for customers. This is a big issue. 4.3 million workers left their jobs in August, breaking the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly record for the third time this year. Wherever you look—from food services to hospitality, from retail to healthcare—employees are looking for greener pastures, and businesses are struggling to retain the experienced workers they need to provide stellar customer experiences.
Turning that trend around isn’t easy. Many of the things that employees want—from better pay to advancement opportunities and more fulfilling work—are hard to deliver without a major overhaul in business management. Fortunately, there is a viable, cost-effective, and durable solution, and businesses that move quickly to embrace it will be more likely to restore equilibrium and keep both employees and customers happy. I’m talking about confidence-based learning and assessment—a powerful approach to employee training that’s designed to keep workers engaged and motivated, empower them to achieve more and climb higher, and simultaneously equip them to deliver the compelling experiences that customers are increasingly demanding.
Breaking It Down
At its core, confidence-based learning and assessment is simply a way to cultivate the talent and skills that make your best employees so valuable to you. But unlike many other approaches, the confidence-based model also supports the employee’s own advancement, boosts their job fulfillment, and promotes retention. Crucially, it does so by helping them deliver superior customer service in ways that improve customer relationships, boost sales, and foster lasting loyalty.
Here’s how it works. Where traditional training programs identify and respond to a learner’s knowledge gaps, confidence-based assessments reflect not only what a learner knows (or doesn’t know), but also how confident they feel in that knowledge. That’s a more useful approach since it both identifies knowledge gaps and provides insight into a learner’s beliefs about their knowledge. Did a learner simply guess an answer? Do they admit to feeling unsure about an answer? Were they extremely confident? Positioned correctly, this approach provides a process of self-discovery that participants can find illuminating and enjoyable—and that businesses can use to improve both learning content and employee performance.
A key strength of confidence-based learning is that it helps eliminate misplaced confidence and encourages employees to acknowledge uncertainty rather than merely guessing. In the long run, that makes employees more confident in their knowledge and ensures they aren’t delivering bad information to customers. With this kind of training, the sales associate who tried to sell me a docking station might have recognized his own uncertainty—or better yet, known that being uncertain would not be penalized but perhaps rewarded if he responded by seeking out accurate information. That, in turn, might have given me the confidence to make a purchase instead of walking away.
The Chicken And The Egg
Why does this matter? Well, it’s obviously better for customers if they’re given quality information, and that’s better for businesses too. Who knows how many customers my local computer store has lost, or how many product returns it’s faced because that sales associate confidently doled out bad advice.
But there’s a bigger picture. Sales associates don’t enjoy giving bad advice, and if they feel obliged to project false confidence, then on some level they recognize that they aren’t being equipped for success. Worse still, they have to deal with all the unhappy customers who come back to complain or return products—hardly a recipe for job satisfaction. With proper training and well-founded confidence in their new abilities, on the other hand, employees can take pride in their work, making them more likely to stay motivated and commit to their employer moving forward.
That’s important because the Great Resignation has left companies facing a chicken-and-egg dilemma. You can’t give workers higher salaries or better benefits if you’re struggling to stay in the black, and you can’t turn a profit unless you have engaged effective employees. Better training programs are part of the solution. According to LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if they felt like their Learning and Development was being invested in. With happier, more effective frontline teams delivering more value for customers, companies will be able to weather economic turbulence, boost their revenue streams, and find ways to invest in employees in other ways.
I’m not saying that confidence-based training programs are a complete solution to today’s labor issues, but they’re an effective, and cost-effective, place to start. By helping companies retain employees and drive results for customers, evolving training with approaches such as confidence-based learning can serve as a stepping stone to a brighter future for businesses, employees, and customers alike.