Author Archives: apollo2

A Two-Way Street

Subway AdCurrent discussions in the political arena frequently focus on the jobs the U.S. has lost in recent decades. Regardless of whether current and future economic policies can bring those jobs back to the U.S., it will remain true that our economy is now based on information and service. Jobs in these sectors rely on employees with knowledge – if not education per se – and the ability to navigate conversations at a minimum and drive them to be most effective. Yet, neither of these skills are actually required and, astonishingly, businesses provide little training beyond the tasks required for a job.

Training that develops or cultivates critical thinking, judgement, and interaction skills that ultimately enhance the customer experience is sorely lacking. Companies could invest in their employees for motives entirely profit-driven.

It is not as if the money is not already there. Current business practice allocates millions of dollars for employee turnover but virtually no investment in the consumer facing staff. For example, Walmart reportedly hires 500,000 each year due to turnover; if one applies the average cost of recruiting, advertising, onboarding, etc. each new employee at between $1,500-$3,000, it becomes easy to see where investment in training could potentially save money being lost to turnover.

Frontline service economy employees are stuck on the lowest rung of the employment ladder and get the message from everywhere that they are incapable of learning, or they’re not motivated, or they’re stalled where they are because of their own lack of application. Meanwhile, ads on the New York subway system declare “Employment is a Two-Way Street” and offer racquet club and CitiBike memberships. For the 25 million employees of fast food chains and big box stores and the myriad of customer service representatives at the other end of 800 numbers, this ad has no relevance.

We cannot cultivate the decision-makers but virtually ignore the front line workers. More than 80 percent of companies say they offered training but 79% couldn’t tell you how many employees took advantage of it. This is ridiculous. At a time when globalization creates tighter and tighter margins, consumer experience is one of the few points of the chain where investment can make a measurable difference.

Our economy cannot handle the loss of an entire class of workers who have been failed by an education system that was not designed to produce workers for 21st Century jobs and are being failed by businesses that display little interest in their loyalty or their upward mobility. Every mechanic knows that you need to care for, grease, tighten, replace pieces, and listen for the purr of the engine to ensure it doesn’t break down.