When to Invest in Employee Training—and When Not to
To properly set the stage of whether or not to invest in employee training, you need to reflect upon the following truths.
1) Most performance issues are not training problems but systems problems.
It is natural to think that every non-performance issue is either a “bad attitude” of the employee or a skills training issue. Frankly, most problems you think are training issues are probably systems problems—confusing paperwork, inadequate tools, technology glitches, processing bottlenecks, etc. Rather than assume every non-performance issue is a training problem, look first at the system to ensure its efficiency.
2) Most non-compliance issues are not training problems, but communication problems.
My experience as both an internal and external practitioner is that in most cases an employee’s non-compliance is something other than a training issue. Most likely the non-compliance is a communication problem where the employee has not specifically been instructed why and when the task should be done.
I cover four more training truths in my book, Management 24/7: Six Skills Every Manager Must Master.
Things That Masquerade As Training Issues
Here’s a list of things that often appear to be employee-training issues, but are not:
- Systems design problems
- Operational dysfunctions
- Inadequate resources
- Inadequate equipment
- Poor incentives and rewards
- Oppressive management
- Unnecessary bureaucracy
- Poor performance standards and measures
- Inefficient controls
- Outdated performance measurement techniques
Think about this list and reflect upon each item. For example, it might be that a lousy reward and recognition system may be more the cause of poor performance than a training issue.
When Employee Training Is Not the Answer
Most performance issues are not training issues. Employee training is too often the easy answer for lousy managers. Rather than make the efforts to create the right systems and environment, mangers want to send everyone to training. Training is only appropriate if an employee needs a specific skill or knowledge set that he does not currently possess to successfully fulfill his job.
Steps to Determine If Training Is Needed
The first step for employee training is to assess the need for training. Here’s how to conduct a quick employee training needs assessment.
1) Clarify the Desired Result
Determine the specific outcomes or performance levels you expect on the work to be performed.
To help clarify the desired result, ask yourself such questions such as:
- What specifically needs to be done?
- What are the steps, actions, or thinking necessary for success?
- What does successful performance look like?
- How would I know the right result when I see it?
- How would my employees know the right result when they see it?
- Most important, what are the specific skills and knowledge sets necessary to successfully complete the task?
2) Assess the Employee’s Skill, Knowledge and Attitude (SKA)
Assessing the employee’s SKA isn’t as difficult as it may appear. All you need to do is answer the following three questions:
- Does s/he know HOW to do it (Skill)? What is the current skill level? Does s/he exhibit the skills necessary to successfully complete the task?
- Does s/he know WHAT to do (Knowledge)? What is his or her current knowledge base? Does s/he know what is expected, the procedures that must be followed or the importance of the task?
- Does s/he WANT to do it (Attitude) Does s/he have the motivation, desire and drive to complete the task to the desired result?
After asking these questions, the decision of whether or not to invest in employee training is pretty simple. If an employee does not know how to do it, s/he needs hands-on training. If s/he doesn’t know what to do, s/he needs information. But if s/he doesn’t want to do it, it may not be a training issue, but a motivation issue.
Discover the Six Skills Every Manager Must Master
Learn how to apply the six critical skills you need to be a successful manager.
- Solve real problems … and forget the rest.
- Separate what’s important from what’s urgent for you and your team.
- Implement the four steps of delegation … and give yourself more free time.