I was reading an article in the Chicago Tribune this morning about Ford and its hope that the new Taurus model will resonate with the American consumer. The goal was to do a better job of understanding what the American consumer wants and needs in a car? A better job? How – after 100+ plus years of making cars – does a company of this size and who spends hundreds of millions on R&D, NOT know their audience yet??
Forget tariffs, forget out-of-control union wages, Ford, GM & Chrysler all have the biggest home-court advantage of any industry and that is that people WANT to buy their products over the foreign competition. Made in America still means something and, often, people begrudgingly purchase products made abroad – simply because they are better. My father drove American for 30 years before he bought his first Nissan, and do you know what he said? Why didn’t I do this sooner? The car met his needs and wants.
My first reaction to the article was amazement. How could the carmakers be so out of touch? And then, as I often do, I tried to draw a comparison to my industry – training, and you know what? It’s the same thing. I can’t tell you how many times my firm gets hired to develop training for a company’s employees and the story the people in corporate HR tell me is vastly different than the story the actual employees tell me. How well do corporate training departments know their audience? Or what’s more, if they don’t know, how many of them are recognizing it and taking steps to correct the problem?
Believe it or not our clients are sometimes surprised when we say that – before we develop anything – we’ll want to speak to the people for whom the training will address. To me it seems an obvious part of any analysis – it’s something we do with every project. And more often than not, the scope of the project changes after we do.
I don’t feel qualified to fix Ford’s woes, but I do know that your training initiatives will be infinitely more successful if you spend the time figuring out what your employees need. Do it in surveys… do it in interviews… do it by allowing employees to contribute random ideas through some knowledge-sharing mechanism or social network, but do it. You have a home-court advantage with your employees. Don’t make them begrudgingly take part in your training.