When Training Isn’t the Right Answer

In most companies with a mature Learning & Development function, managers will, at some point, identify a problem and declare a need for training to solve it. It’s a natural answer that L&D teams strive to achieve. The cashiers didn’t treat customers with the right level of service? Train them. Accounting misclassified a whole category of transactions? Train them. The receiver didn’t process the returns correctly? Train them.

EPSON scanner image Peterborough East train

One of my first management jobs after college was running a bookstore. Whenever my staff would make a mistake, my internal dialogue always told me I needed to train them better. Now in many cases, this was absolutely correct and I credit my parents for teaching me management skills early in life so that I could recognize this. But sometimes, training wasn’t the answer. I doubt I’d have been mature enough to admit it at the time, but I was the issue.

You see, training will fix a lot of things, but you can’t train away symptoms and expect problems to get fixed. Your cashiers weren’t providing the right level of customer service? Look around, are they modelling a long-time, disgruntled employee who needs to be let go? What about the accounting team the classified transactions incorrectly? Maybe they are too afraid of their oppressive boss to ask the proper method. Or how about the receiver that keeps messing up returns? Did anyone stop to verify that the returns process actually makes sense and is understandable? Maybe the procedure is so complicated that no one is doing it correctly.

Good managers and training leaders need to take a look at the big picture when planning training to correct a problem or a potential problem. Start with a deep look at why something is happening. Someone once told me that when you’ve asked “why” six times, only then have you gotten to the heart of an issue. I think this may be a bit of overkill, but the principle is solid. Keep digging. If training is indeed the answer, then design training around the real issue instead of the perceived one.

This entry was posted in Analysis, Development, Management, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to When Training Isn’t the Right Answer

  1. Pingback: Advice for Those New to Learning and Development | Steven Potratz

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