1st April 2017

Making a world of difference to performance

We talk about ‘human error’.  All people sometimes make mistakes.  And that’s true around the world.  What’s interesting is how people from different cultures can all learn how to become more accurate.  And that’s primarily because developing accuracy skills is about understanding how to overcome the natural barriers to accuracy. 

For example, as human beings, we’re all designed to be distracted.  We all have human responses to stress.  And our eyes and brains work in a particular way when reading, checking and transferring data.  Our reading skills also mean that our brains readily ‘make sense out of nonsense’, so you cna raed tihs easliy even thogh there our mstakes in it.

Mistakes happen because we are human. So, when we deliver our accuracy training around the world, we focus on the human skills which – when developed and practised – enable us all to become more accurate. That’s why our accuracy techniques work in countries as diverse as China, Switzerland, India, Australia, USA, Romania and the UK.

There are differences between the way different cultures use and present numerical data of course.  For example, there is no global standard for using decimal points and separators for thousands. We amend our written activities to reflect that – for instance, the dots and commas in data examples in our British course materials are reversed for our continental European customers – but the underlying principles remain the same.

What our accuracy trainers find most interesting is the reaction of the participants to the training. The way the participants receive and act upon the training is different, depending on the location.

In Romania, we worked with a group of people employed in a global shared HR service centre. They were so taken with the concept of ‘Ergo Breaks’ to aid concentration levels that they formalised it into their daily routine.  In our training programme, we introduce participants to the idea that you need to take short ‘Ergo Breaks’ to ‘re-set the brain’. It’s impossible to focus on a task for long periods of time without becoming distracted and error-prone. Our client in Romania took this a stage further and each afternoon a large speaker was placed in the middle of their office and everyone was invited to get up and dance, aerobics style. In comparison, our British participants often find even the relatively sober breathing and stretching exercises in our Ergo Breaks somewhat embarrassing, although when coaxed to try them, they quickly appreciate the benefits.

To date, we have only delivered our training in English, although we have different versions of the training course materials for different parts of the world.  However, we frequently work with people who don’t speak English as their first language.  Our accuracy consultant working in India was struck by the high standard of English spoken by the participants, although he made sure he spoke clearly and took care to check that each person was fully understanding what he said during the training.  What he didn’t allow for was his use of idioms.

There is an activity near the beginning of the course called ‘A Typical Day at Work’ which illustrates how tasks are approached in different ways by different people, thus losing the accuracy benefits gained from being consistent. On completion of the activity, the trainer commented, as he so often did at this point in the course, “So you see, there is more than one way to skin a cat”. 

One of the things we notice when we are delivering training in India is how the participants listen intently, eager to learn.  They hang on your every word.  So, they wanted to know, “Do you skin cats in England?” and when that little matter had been cleared up, someone else asked, “How many ways are there, then, to skin a cat?”!

Greg Fradd, our Accuracy Consultant who told me this story, went on to say that he likes to feel that he is developing his participants’ skills in English as well as accuracy, by teaching them idiomatic phrases. That, as he said, is “killing two birds with one stone”.

Without exception, our Indian participants regard training as an important opportunity to learn and improve themselves. There is never the feeling that they are there only because their manager ‘sent them’, which we sometimes encounter in the UK. Last month, the overall reduction in errors achieved by the groups trained in India was 71%, which is significantly higher than the typical 60% achieved in other parts of the world.

One of our associates delivered training in China recently and whilst the results of the training were very consistent with what we usually experience – an overall 63% reduction in errors was achieved – there was an increased focus on compelling people to be more accurate rather than on enabling people to improve through the development of their skills. 

Meanwhile in Australia, just a month or so later, participants were turning up late, chatting to their colleagues and checking their mobile phones throughout the training. In this case, the group was made up of recent school leavers but we often find that in the UK too, participants arrive late, whatever their age or the seniority of their job title.  Sometimes people even get called away from the training room, which can be extremely frustrating.  This doesn’t happen in India or China.

Accuracy is a human skill and the results of the training are shown to be broadly consistent whatever the wider context of the participants’ work and cultural background. From the UK and the rest of Europe, from India and Australia to China and the USA, accuracy makes a world of difference to performance.

Making a world of difference to performance

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Accuracy Asides is the name of our accuracy blog

You get to hear about our latest accuracy course results, the real-life 'bloomers' which come to our attention and all the latest news and juicy gossip about errors! We share accuracy tips and advice too.

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