When it comes to developing your people, finding a formula for success that delivers on the learning needs of the individual, as well as the performance needs of the company can be tricky.

After recently attending the 20 year reunion from my summer job selling books in the US, I feel that I am a little closer to understanding what that formula is.

In my second year of university I signed up to travel to America and sell educational books door to door. The promise was a simple one, get yourself out to Nashville, Tennessee. We will train you, give you a sales territory, then it’s up to you to knock on doors and sell some books.

The financials worked out like this; pay out £800 up front to get there, buy your samples, order books and pay for all your own travel and living costs. You earn 35% of everything you sell. You might be forgiven for thinking this deal sounds a bit one sided, and truth be told I probably felt the same for most of my three summers selling books. However, the company made a promise that they claimed balanced the books. They claimed they would help me learn how to sell, build relationships, run a business, set goals, motivate myself, motivate others and take responsibility for my own success.

I still remember one of the senior leaders, Dan Moore, in sales school saying

“you are unlikely to learn more about selling, relationships and being successful over the next 20 years of your career.” 

Bold claims indeed. However, at our 20 year reunion I concluded he was probably right and that they had made good on their promise. I still use what I learned selling books 20 years ago every day; setting goals, building relationships, serving your customers needs equally to your own and much more. 

If you’d been a fly on the wall at the reunion, you would have heard many stories like mine from a lot of very successful people. Founders of companies like OVO Energy, SBR consulting, Nine Dots; successful executives including a Director at Uefa, several Finance Directors, half a dozen Directors of P&G and Unilever and too many Sales Directors to count and these are just the ones I keep in touch with. 

Why is this relevant to you?

If you promise training or personal development as part of your hiring strategy, or as a part of your total reward, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much of your training is focussed on specific job tasks vs transferable long term skills?
  • How much time do you spend teaching people how to manage their own performance by helping them learn how to set goals, manage their attitude and build relationships vs telling them what to do?
  • How do you help them link personal / life goals to what they can get out of work? 
  • How do you help them learn life skills that will significantly contribute to long term success & well being i.e Management of finances & savings?
  • How would your last 10 hires rate you on your delivery of the development promises you made?

This may sound hard, but other firms manage it and many more aspire to it. This means the most talented employees in the market expect more. If you want to hire the best you have to offer more and deliver on your promises.