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A Toast to Second Chances

When companies promote a learning environment where workers enjoy what they’re doing, those workers are going to want to stay longer.

September 9, 2013
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Sometimes learning opportunities can be uncorked in unconventional places.

This past Saturday, the kids were at a sleepover, so my wife and I had a rare opportunity to go out on a date night without having to worry about getting back to drive the babysitter home.

We went to dinner and a movie, and afterward I suggested getting a glass of wine. I suggested going to a wine bar that was about 20 minutes from our home, but my wife said that we should go to a place in town instead. A place I vowed I’d never go to again.

A few years ago, we went to the same establishment. We had a coupon for a free cheese platter and we heard that there was music on Saturday nights, so it sounded like a perfect place to enjoy a leisurely evening.

When we got there, the host informed us that the musician had canceled.

Not a big deal, we thought, as we ambled to our table. My wife pulled out our coupon and showed it to the woman. The host looked at it and said, “We don’t honor these anymore.” We told her, to no avail, that there was no expiration date on the coupon, but she replied: “The only way I can give this to you for free is if they take it out of my paycheck. I’ll do it if you think that’s fair?”

We certainly didn’t, so we let it go.

But, much like the pricey cheese platter that we ordered, the very idea left a bad taste in my mouth.

After that incident and a slew of other customer-service gaffes, I decided I never wanted to patronize such a patronizing place ever again. But, at my wife’s urging, we gave it another try. And I’m glad we did.

This time, as we entered we noticed a man playing synthesizer in the back. Live music! The host who greeted us seemed amiable, and we even met an off-duty waiter who gave us an enlightening crash course in oenology and spirits. He told us that the owner gives the staff weekly training sessions so that they can explain the products better.

And it was obvious that he and the other workers knew their stuff, and they also seemed to enjoy what they were doing. They were working hard, but they were having fun doing it. We told our story about our previous experience, and they all seemed perplexed and very apologetic for what had happened. We weren’t seeking an apology — after all, it wasn’t their fault — but the very gesture seemed to remove the bitter taste from my mouth.

They explained that the new management team prioritizes training and customer service, and it showed. We couldn’t have been more pleased.

When companies promote a learning environment where workers enjoy what they’re doing, those workers are going to want to stay longer. And with the cost of replacing workers costing in the neighborhood of 20 percent of the workers’ salary, it behooves companies to promote a positive work environment.

But what I also realized from this experience is that it’s important to give second chances.

Unlike the food-service industry, bringing in someone new in the business world to replace a bad hire can be expensive. In a recent CareerBuilder survey, about a quarter of respondents said the cost of replacing a bad hire is about $50,000. That’s a lot of cheese. But perhaps if instead of “cutting your losses” you choose to educate and develop the person you might be able to remove that glass-half-empty feeling and save money in the process. No doubt that sometimes the relationship is a bad blend regardless, but sometimes you can ferment a better fit with proper training.

Then you and that worker can toast to second chances.

James Tehrani is Workforce’s assistant managing editor. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Tehrani on Twitter at @WorkforceJames.

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