Is Training the Best Solution?

Training is Not a Problem

Like medicine, training is used to cure a problem, but it isn’t the problem itself (unless abused!). Saying you have a training problem is like going to a doctor and saying I have an Aspirin problem! Training is usually a solution to a problem that you might have.

Training is Not the Only Solution

On the other hand, training is not always the only or best solution to a problem. If you have an insomnia, then taking a sleeping bill might not be the solution. You may need to work on your sleep hygiene! Investigating the root causes will open up a vast horizon of solutions that training is only one of them.

What Problems does Training Solve?

Training is basically a potential solution to performance problems such as when your team’s performance is suffering. But jumping immediately to a training solution can either be costly, or simply ineffective. So analyzing performance problems should be your next step.

Analyzing Performance Problems

This is a progressive check list that poses questions you need to ask yourself, your team, and/or your organization. This check list provides you with short circuits to potential solutions to your performance problems. It saves you from jumping to potentially costly or ineffective training solutions.

1| What is the Problem?

State your performance problem or concern as a performance gap. A performance gap is the discrepancy between what should be done and what is currently being done?

Example: Rude Customer Service Team

Saying “my customer service team has bad attitudes” doesn’t help you much. Instead: “My customer service team receive customer complains with an aggressive tone, while they should be politely answering their requests”

2| Is it Worth Solving?

Evaluate your problem as minor with no real harms or major with severe effects. If major/severe then describe consequences quantitatively and/or qualitatively. This step helps you to (or not to) continue an extensive analysis of the problem

Example: Rude Customer Service Team

It is a major problem since we have received customer complains about how rude our customer service staff deal with them. We actually have five recorded cases of such calls where customers decided and terminated their subscriptions with us accordingly!

Example: My Team Come Late to Office!

“my team come late to office, and sometimes arrive an hour after the official time. We need a training on discipline and time management”.

If this is for a team of developers who work hard on delivering software solutions for the company, then it might not be a big of an issue. It could be that they compensate their lateness by staying extra time after the official working hours! If this doesn’t affect software project delivery then it might not be worth analyzing and trying to solve

On the other hand, if this is a team who serve customers and there are cases where customers arrive and no one is there to serve them! Then it gives you a hint that this is a worthy problem to solve

3| Can You Apply Quick Fixes?

Think of basic solutions and hot fixes that could solve the problem. Three things to consider to help you find quick fixes:

  • Work goals and expectations
  • Availability of resources
  • Performance feedback

Example:

Goals and Expectations

With the service team arriving late and customers wait for being served, It could be that service window coincides exactly with working hours! Shifting working hours one hour earlier can ensure the team arrives earlier before customers are allowed in. Problem fixed with a quick solution by changing the goal of the team and rearranging the service window

You could also clarifying the expectation that the team need to arrive no later than say 30 min from the official start of the working day

Availability of Resources

A potential solution could be to arrange transportation for the team, if they have issues in finding ways to get to the office on time. This addresses a resource availability issue and helps you solve the problem from a different angle.

Performance Feedback

How many times you have told someone about a problem, only to discover that they didn’t know about it? If outcomes from poor performance are not visible to the team, you need to give feedback on these outcomes and they might just adjust accordingly

4| Are Consequences Appropriate?

Appropriate consequences means that desired performance is encouraged and poor performance is discouraged. Raise a red flag if your environment has one of the following:

  • Desired performance is discouraged or sometimes punished
  • Poor performance is encouraged or even rewarded
  • Performance whether desired or poor is simply ignored

Examples:

Is Desired Performance Punished?

  • Being a hard worker only gets you more work to do
  • Staying within budget results in slashing your future budgets
  • Asking questions in the classroom triggers sarcastic answers
  • Wearing your uniform makes people laugh at how you look
  • Asking clarifying questions in a meeting renders you stupid

Is Poor Performance Rewarded?

  • Arriving late to office means less work assigned
  • Yelling at others in meetings gets your point across
  • Measuring a call center agent by how many calls he answers, and not the quality of calls or solutions he offers to close cases
  • Rewarding a physician on how many appointments he scores, and not how many cases he cures
  • Rewarding a consultant on utilization rate, ignoring how much was really accomplished

Is Performance Ignored?

Absence of praise in the workplace could mean that desired performance is ignored. And, absence of critical feedback could mean that poor performance is okay. So desired performance is not repeated and sloppy performance continues.

5| Do They Already Know How?

Answering this question simply saves you from training your staff on something they already know. The signs that tells you it’s not about a skill deficiency are:

  • The team has done it before but stopped doing it anymore, so provide practice
  • The team continues to do it till this moment, but sometimes they slip, so provide feedback

Example: Did it in the Past but Stopped!

A systems analyst knows how to conduct requirements analysis and has successfully applied that in his past jobs. But when he joined your team, he didn’t do that anymore so projects start with poor requirements in hand. Will sending this guy to a course on Business Analysis help? No! It might be a matter of explicitly scheduling a phase in the project for requirements gathering and analysis (opportunity to practice)

Example: Doing it But Slipping Sometimes

Your personal assistant knows how to assemble the monthly department report. Recently, she started doing that efficiently, but sometimes the report styles and design are not consistent. Before training her on something she already knows, try giving her feedback on the consistency of the report format. She probably knows about templates and themes but she misses to see the inconsistencies in her reports.

6| Are There More Clues?

Can you think of something that could solve the performance problem before jumping to a training a solution? Most importantly, try evaluating the following options:

  • Task complexity
  • Job fit
  • Environmental obstacles
  • Potential to Change?

Examples:

Task Complexity

You are looking for fresh candidates to fill two vacancies in your department. You have decided to interview applicants, only to find that you have 200+ applications. Would a training on “interview skills” help the person in charge of hiring? No! The task is complex, and you need to simplify it. You could turn into posing a way to filter through these applicants. Consider asking applicants to submit a verified test score which would result in lowering the number to 20+, for instance.

Job Fit

How many times you met a person who’s clearly not fit for a job, only to see him suffer trying to create that fit? Sometimes transferring a person to another job that fits would relieve you from endless and useless training. For example: an accountant who is better as a consultant, a consultant who is better an account manager, or a call center agent who is better a sales representative.

Environmental Obstacles

Training will not be a good solution when the environment is the cause of poor performance. Obstacles can be: Lack of authority, work overload, Team conflicts, Rude management, an atmosphere of inept criticism, Conflicting responsibilities, and/or power struggles. Removing these obstacles should be your target.

Potential to Change?

Sometimes a person doesn’t have the potential to change. In this case neither training nor anything else could help. Replacing with a person who have the skill or potential can be the only solution. However, it is important not to jump to this conclusion abruptly. Two things to help you out: previous (and still valid) knowledge of the person, and feedback from different prospects.

7| Which Solutions Are Best?

You have reached this far, because you either didn’t find solutions, or have some and want to compare with a training solution. If worthy, conduct a cost-benefit analysis and weigh your options out and see if training is a winning option. Remember that a proper training is a process not an event.

Training is a Process not an Event

And the training process should typically go throught the following steps:

1. Needs Analysis: Where is the performance gap in the organization? What knowledge, skills, and attitudes to bridge the gap? Who have that performance gap so we can train?

2. Design & Deliver: Learning objectives and material, and tTraining methods/techniques.

3. Evaluation & Feedback: Evaluation criteria and design, and acting on feedback

Training is Often Best When:

  1. The problem is clearly a performance gap
  2. Performance gap is worthy and correct performance is critical
  3. Performance goals are clear, resources available, and feedback is given
  4. Appropriate consequences are in place for desired/poor performance
  5. The employee doesn’t know how to perform as required (missing a skill)
  6. Change is a potential, and environment is not the problem
  7. Other solutions are ineffective or too expensive (such as coaching)

Have Meaningful Trainings!

And here is a slideshare of this post: