The training money thief

Written by Paul Matthews on 20 January 2016

It was a cold, almost snowy day. Damp and grey. I didn’t want to go, but I was under instructions.

Apparently, we needed a new sofa. Apparently, even our dog would not sit on our current sofa. Actually, I think that last comment about the dog was a little bit exaggerated.

So the first step was quick, a bit of web research to find the shops and start getting an idea of prices. Then off to town, and that’s when it got interesting!

Well, at first, it really wasn’t interesting. As I walked into each store, I felt like I was under scrutiny to decide on the fatness of my wallet, and the seriousness of my intent. I was a punter, who, with a bit of luck, would spend some money. It was boring, and I got the usual hard sell.

“When you make a decision on this beautiful, hugely reduced in price sofa, come back and talk only to me. Here is my business card. By the way, do not come in on Tuesday because I do not work on Tuesdays.”

From store to store there were indeed differences, but ultimately they all felt much the same.

Then it got interesting. I went into yet another store and was treated hugely differently. It felt completely different even though it was yet another large space with lots of sofas displayed tastefully. There was no pressure, and it was clear they were keen to see that my experience in the store was what I would take away as a glowing memory, whether or not I also took away a sofa as well.

I spent much longer in that store than any of the others, and I kept looking because at some level I wanted to find a sofa that would be acceptable so I could buy from them. I suddenly realised what I was doing to myself as a result of the treatment I had received in this store, and in the others.

So I sat down in a very comfortable sofa and thought. I thought back to the other stores I had visited earlier. I thought about my feelings, and even in one store, my desire to escape. And I use the word ‘escape’ on purpose!

I invited one of the store staff to sit with me on that very comfortable sofa and put my L&D hat on. I asked her about the training they had received, and I also asked her why the experience in this store was so different to others. Interesting. And I must confess, I am much happier talking about L&D then buying a sofa.

I was on a different mission now, and taking my leave of this haven, I went back to one of the other stores I had visited earlier. They pounced on me. After all, they had seen me earlier in the day and if I was back in store, that must mean I was ready to buy.

So I sat on a different and yet equally comfortable sofa with the salesman who had given me his business card and asked the same set of questions about his training, and what he thought made the difference in the store experiences.

In terms of training, there were far more similarities than differences. What was very different was their incentive schemes. Their incentive scheme was clearly driving their behaviour far more than any training scheme. And their behaviour clearly had a major impact on me as a potential customer, and my desire to buy from one store as opposed to another.

We train people to change/drive behaviours, and yet often ignore what is driving their current behaviour.

We pay money for a training scheme and then the incentive scheme thief steals it from us.

For any training course, decide on your behavioural outcomes, and then figure out what is motivating/driving the current behaviour that you would like to change. This is the training money thief, and unless you put that thief behind bars, they will continue to steal your hard earned training money.

About the author 

Paul Matthews is the founder of People Alchemy and expert in workplace learning

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