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Poor “Day One Mentality” leads to perpetual passing on of poor performance

Working with motor industry business leaders, dealerships and other service providers, I frequently hear comments such as, “My people don’t do this” or “They’re not doing that properly.”

Working with motor industry business leaders, dealerships and other service providers, I frequently hear comments such as, “My people don’t do this” or “They’re not doing that properly.”

My first question is always, “Are you sure your people know what they’re supposed to be doing?”

Digging a bit deeper, I invariably find that these managers have assumed their people know what to do. I am always interested to discover who it is they think tells new starters what “good” looks like and when and how line managers were tasked with doing so? More often than not, this is a major weakness in most businesses – the lack of a clear induction process.

I also like to ask them what appropriate behaviours are for their organisation? What is the company model for acceptable attitudes and conduct?

More often than not, this also leaves them stumped! When digging deeper by actually quizzing the staff members on the frontline, nine times out of ten, the people themselves, don’t actually know what good looks like.

And if it’s frustrating for management, think how frustrating their employees must feel – not to mention how daunting it is to spend all day, every day, second guessing how they should be behaving.

Vague instructions like, “Be professional to customers” or, “Give an optimum customer service experience to all callers” are open to wide interpretation and organisations should not be taking that kind of risk.

Imagine, for instance, that you are a new customer service advisor on day one. Who tells you what is supposed to happen when the phone rings? Have you been told what to say and how to say it and has anyone explained properly what you are supposed to achieve? What if this doesn’t happen?

And, crucially, is what you have been told by your line manager or trainer the same as what another new starter was told yesterday by their inductor? Is the quality of instruction as good? Does it include every piece of vital information about not just your role, but about the company culture and how you are required to present yourself to internal and external customers?

All too often, the reality is that, on day one, the adviser is shown to their desk and told, “There’s your phone, review the product info on our group intranet and see how you get on.  Any problems let me know.”

The process leaves vital knowledge gaps. For example, what is expected of them if a customer comes through the door? How should he or she be greeting them?  What are their objectives when face-to-face with customers?

If neglected by leaders, people can only learn from their peers – sometimes a case of the blind leading the blind. Poor performance generated on day one often becomes the norm. It is perpetual. The strongest personality in the organisation, usually dictates behaviour and performance, and if customers have bad experiences as a result, this is a serious problem for the employer.

Compare that to the ‘McDonald’s way’ – a model from which most companies can learn much. When I  mention McDonald’s in this scenario I usually get, “But we’re not McDonald’s. This is a completely different business model.” My reply is always, “Quite right, you may be, but you can still learn a lot from how it does induction and training.

Look beyond issues such as junk food, tax etc. and focus on how it trains its staff and you will see that it gets plenty of things right. ‘Day One Mentality’ is something McDonald’s does exceptionally well.

If you and I were to start the same job with the company tomorrow in different outlets at opposite ends of the country, it would give each of us exactly the same onboarding experience.

McDonald’s would provide both of us with the same rota experience journey so we would each get to spend a certain amount of time in each station learning about the purpose of each function in the restaurant. We would know exactly how to greet customers and what we should say to them in a variety of scenarios. 

We would know burgers need to be griddled for X number of seconds each side. How long to griddle wouldn’t be our decision – we would be taught and shown why it is X seconds each side. The burgers go onto the griddle in a particular order – say, bottom left then bottom right and they are flipped in the same order.

The company has a defined process and would make sure we each understood it – fully – and we would each have to achieve the same standard of proficiency – five stars – before becoming a fully qualified McDonald’s team member.

Every business would benefit from these kinds of principles. Every business needs a prescribed process, just like McDonald’s, in the vital start period.

It is a key function of management to formulate and define the one that is best for their organisation and share it with the team. On day one, the new starter should be given instruction outlining their objectives, that very clearly spells out exactly what is expected of them in terms of role responsibility and behaviour.

And every line manager must know that they need to take the time to explain this to their new people, giving them the opportunity to ask questions and discover what interpretations, flexibilities and nuances can be applied.

This consistent approach is crucial to both employees’ personal outcomes and an organisation’s commercial success; it will ensure that all new starters receive exactly the same sound start in their roles and gives their employer a better chance of getting the best return on its employment costs.

Put it another way: why would you make the investment in onboarding and early training without keeping a close eye on how effectively it is deployed and the benefits accrued?

And it’s never too late to set an established team on the right path either – indeed, investigating whether there is a problem, then tackling it if so, may well be a matter of extreme urgency. Review performance and behaviour with every team member and ensure that their understanding is aligned with what you expect.

With this in mind, consider which platform would work best for you use to measure, monitor and develop employee engagement, feedback and competency?

Once done – and with the process continually repeated and updated where necessary to keep pace with changes – managers can quickly start to get peak performance out of a well-briefed confident, empowered, motivated people.

Rob Purfield, Owner and Founder of Rob Purfield Associates

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