I’m pretty sure I may be one of the last few adults on earth who still believes in Santa Claus. Now don’t get me wrong—it’s been years since I had the unfortunate epiphany that this Santa guy just wasn’t logically adding up. (I mean, really, why would Santa hide my gifts a week before Christmas in my parent’s closet? And why did my parents always think it’s so funny when Santa leaves out a now-empty bottle of my mom’s favorite wine?)
Trust me, when I say I believe in Santa, I haven’t gone half-crazy. I realize, as much as I hate to admit it, that an actual person named Santa doesn’t really exist. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the idea of Santa Claus.
Santa means looking beyond the everyday
As adults, we are so trained to look at things in black and white: How does X produce Y? What are the facts that support this conclusion? How much money did this make me? I realize this type of thinking is critical, particularly in the business world where you can’t just operate off your gut. However, sometimes this kind of thinking limits us. There are so many things that impact us which can’t be directly calculated or measured. As the Director of Education at NCM, I often observe that people will forgo training because they can’t directly put their finger on how this will ultimately benefit them. But not believing in something, simply because you can’t see it, is frequently short-sighted.
Here are a few reasons why I still believe in Santa Claus and how this translates to why I believe in training (and why you should too!):
Intangible things can have very tangible results
Santa Claus might be an abstract concept, but he has very real effects. For example, the idea of Good Ole St. Nick is what inspires many of the gift purchases during this holiday season, which will account for $655.8 billion in sales, according to the National Retail Federation. In addition, the act of giving can have psychological affects. According to an article by Elizabeth Dun in Science, spending money on other people is correlated with greater happiness. It doesn’t matter whether or not Santa himself is real; what matters is that we believe he functions and impacts us in a very real way.
Santa is similar to training. Although it’s difficult to make a direct and immediate connection between training expenditures and business outcomes, we know it produces long-term results. According to a study by ATD, firms above the 50th percentile in training costs had a total stockholder return that was 45% higher than the market average. In addition, organizations with a strong training culture are 52% more productive and 17% more profitable than their peers. The point is, while you may not be able to specifically forecast how any one training investment affects your bottom line, you can rest assured that the result will be tangible.
Belief is motivating
Every year, Santa inspires people through their beliefs. For kids, often just the idea of Santa checking his list twice is enough to make them straighten up their behavior for a little while. And parents are motivated by their kid’s belief in Santa as well. What else would make them stand in line for hours just to get their kid’s picture taken with Santa? Or wake up in the middle of the night just to move the Elf on the Shelf? Believing in the joy of Santa is enough to go the extra mile for kid and parent alike.
The same is true with your employees. Have you ever had someone believe in you? Wanting to live up to what others see in you is a huge motivating factor for most people. In the same way, showing your employees you believe in them by investing in their professional development can be an additional motivation for them to produce results at your organization. One of the ways it does this is by building loyalty. According to a workplace study by APA, employees who had excellent training programs were three times less likely to want to leave their job compared to those with poor training programs. In addition, investing in employees gives them confidence that they have an opportunity to grow with you, which were ranked the #1 and #2 priorities for workers up to age 35. Even if you can’t promote an employee, by investing in their career, you demonstrate that their growth is important to you. Often, "when top performers leave a company, the most popular comment they make is 'I just didn’t see the right opportunities here.'" Make sure your employees know that you believe in their success and you will be surprised by how this motivates them to exceed your expectations.
Belief unites us in a common goal
St. Nicholas, the man who is believed to have inspired the figure of Santa Claus, was known for giving gifts to people in need. The belief in this act of giving is what joins people of many different cultures and backgrounds together today. Millions of people across the world continue to perpetuate the fantasy of Santa Claus because they are united in the virtue of giving and the joy that it brings.
Training does the same thing for corporations. It aligns employees and managers behind common goals and, more importantly, a shared understanding of the roadmap to achieve those goals. The purpose of training is to get your people to understand and believe in a vision and the steps that must be carried out to get there. The reality is, none of us can do everything ourselves, and so we rely on our employees and our co-workers to realize our ambitions. If they don’t believe in the same things you do, how can you expect them to carry out your plans effectively? I encourage you to ask yourself, do the people who you manage and who work alongside you believe in the same goals and processes as you? If not, how beneficial might it be to establish a training program that allows everyone to truly understand and buy into the "how" and "why?"
I hope you now see that my belief in Santa isn’t so crazy after all. No, I don’t believe that an old, round, bearded fellow is going to come through my chimney one night in late December, but I do believe that just because I won’t see him doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have very real implications for my life. Hopefully, in 2017, you will take a similar leap of faith with training, and realize that while you can’t quantify it, there are real benefits to having a training program in place for yourself and your people. And maybe, if you’re really good, Santa will leave a couple of extra presents under the tree for you this year!
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