Training Solutions: Do You Even Have a Training Problem?
May 20, 2013 by Bill Rosenthal

Here at Logical Operations, we don’t want to be an answer in search of a question. Too often, managers grab reflexively for a training solution when training is neither the most economical nor the most effective answer to a performance problem. Consider...

Resources. If your employees aren’t performing the way you need them to perform, ask yourself first whether they have everything they need in order to perform. They may not be getting the right inputs. They might not have the right tools. And they might not know what to ask for to correct the situation. Training solutions are not solutions when employees lack needed resources.

Standards. Sometimes employees don’t perform the way you need them to perform because they don’t know what’s expected of them. Have you made it perfectly clear what good performance looks like? Have you told them when they meet the standards and when they don’t? That is to say, are they getting the feedback they need to correct their performance and stay on track? Training solutions are not solutions when employees are working under lousy supervision.

Incentives. Sometimes poor performance is a response to bad incentive strategy. Ask yourself if employees are rewarded for the performance you want. Rewarding here means more than salary and bonuses. Sometimes it’s recognition, sometimes it’s prestige, sometimes it’s advancement, and sometimes it’s just feedback (see above). Training solutions are not solutions when employees are rewarded for the wrong performance.

Environment. Look to see if the work environment promotes the performance you want. You can’t expect good performance, for example, in a job that requires a great deal of concentration in a work environment that’s noisy or chaotic. Sometimes work environment is a very subtle thing. Some kinds of work are best done by teams, some kinds are best done by individuals. Everything doesn’t have to be an assembly line. Look at the work and look at the employees and figure out the optimum organization. Note that it will vary from department to department. Training solutions are not solutions when working conditions prevent the performance you require.

If the resources, the standards, the incentives, and the environment all line up the way you need and want them to, then there are still two remaining approaches that are not training solutions. The simplest one is job aids. Why train an employee to memorize a long list of parts when you can simply provide a catalog? Better yet, give them a database with an easy-to-use lookup function.

The final approach is not a training solution, and it really should be the final approach (although too often, it’s not). That is matching the right employee to the right job. It may be that you’re not getting the performance you require because the employee is incapable of providing it, with or without training. It happens. Learn to recognize those situations, preferably before the employee is assigned mismatched responsibilities.

In 1966, Abraham Maslow said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” At Logical Operations, we believe in training solutions and have helped organizations successfully pound many, many nails with that hammer. But we have also seen situations that simply aren’t nails. When training isn’t the right tool, and you try to correct a performance problem with it anyway, nobody comes away with their thumbs intact.