‘If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.’
So said Thomas J Watson, one-time head of IBM, and a man who understood how to learn from mistakes.
Embracing failure, while keeping it under control, is key to realising the full potential of your staff. Adopting Watson’s philosophy will help them understand not only what they should be doing, but why.
With these five steps, I put together, you can turn every failure into a success.
1. Make sure your staff know it’s OK to fail
Philosopher John Dewey called failure ‘instructive’, but I would say it’s also instinctive. Everyone makes mistakes, and smart employers see in them an opportunity to grow. Recognise that your staff will mis-step from time to time and communicate to them that doing so, during training, isn’t something to worry about. No writer creates a perfect first draft, and no artist would set out to paint a landscape without producing a rough sketch or two. In the same manner, your staff should feel comfortable making mistakes as they learn new skills.
2. Embrace every failure, and move on
They’re not really failings if you or your staff can learn from them. Putting acceptance of failure at the heart of your training will encourage staff to take risks in a controlled environment – and reduce the chance of them doing the same when talking to your clients. Accommodating failure in your ongoing training, and giving staff as many second chances as they need, means they’ll be less likely to make the same mistakes on the shop floor.
3. Let your employees ‘fail’ in private so they can flourish in public
‘By seeking and blundering, we learn,’ Goethe said – and he was right. And by blundering in private, we learn far more than we would if our training took place in public, as we’re not afraid to take chances. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide your staff with a safe, private environment in which they can explore different options in any situation, without the fear of failure.
Accelerator, our scenario-based training platform, does just this. Accessible online, at any time and through any device, it lets your staff train when they want to. Every course is bespoke, tailored to your particular business, and puts your employees in real-world situations where they can succeed or fail – and learn from their failures – in private.
4. Failing isn’t the same as making a mistake
Failing to answer a question correctly, or properly handle a simulation, gives your staff the opportunity to think again. With a tool like Accelerator they can re-run a particular module and follow a different course of action to see how it affects the eventual outcome. The only ‘mistake’ with a fully structured training tool like this would be to ignore the opportunity that each failure presents to further your employees’ skills.
5. Watch and learn… as they learn
Make sure your learning management system keeps track of where your staff are excelling – and where they need extra help. By discreetly gathering background data on which modules each employee has trouble with, you can target follow-up discussions and one-on-one assistance to address their own specific needs.
Should your staff make a mistake, on the shop floor or in a meeting, rather than during training, it can lead to lost sales and a damaged reputation. That’s why it’s so important to accurately simulate their day to day work in your ongoing training programme.
And, should the worst happen, embrace that mistake and move on as best you can – which leads me back to IBM’s Thomas J Watson.
When asked why he wasn’t going to fire an employee who had lost the company $600,000, he replied, ‘I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?’
To find out more about how Accelerator can help you turn your staff failings into opportunities, get in touch.