‘Need’ Based, Not ‘Want’ Based Training

Every manager seems to think that ‘training’ is the answer to ALL  performance problems.

Two employees don’t get along? They need training.

Missed a target? You need training.

Errors in reports? Get trained!

A training needs analysis meeting is never complete without the supervisor or manager listing a plethora of ‘training needs’ for their employees. Yet, back those ‘requests’ and ‘suggestions’ up with questions on how those courses would enable staff to follow through on specific tasks, or how that learning is critical to the success of the department and I’ve ruffled some feathers! So, is this about ‘needs’ or about ‘wants’?

Training is perceived to be the ‘shot in the arm’ that can instantly boost an employee’s abilities and skills and eliminate ALL performance issues. Many organizations develop a training plan within a few hours, based on their managers’ or employees’ ‘selection’ from an extensive ‘menu’ of training options. An investment of thousands of Rials budgeted out in less than a day!

‘Not knowing how to’ is not the only factor that causes a performance gap. Dr. Thomas F. Gilbert, in his book, “Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance,” described the Behavior Engineering model (BEM) – a tool to analyze performance – which in my opinion, every ‘manager’ and training professional ought to be familiar with.

According to the model, for effective performance to occur, besides ‘knowledge’ there are five other conditions that play a role as below:

  1. Data :
  • Does the employee know what is expected of them?
  • Does they employee know how he/she is performing?
  • Has the employee been given guidance about his/her performance?
  1. Instruments:
  • Does the employee have the right tools for performance?
  • Are the tools and materials designed to match the human factors of performance?
  1. Incentives:
  • Are adequate financial incentives that are contingent upon performance available?
  • Are non-monetary incentives available?
  • Are career development opportunities available?

 4.  Capacity:

  • Is performance scheduled for times when the employee is at his/her best?
  • Does the employee have the aptitude and physical ability to perform the job?
  1. Motivation:
  • Has a motivation assessment been performed?
  • Is the employee willing to work for the incentives?
  • Does the employee recruited match the realities of the job?

It’s only when these factors are adequately diagnosed, with evidence  demonstrating fulfillment (don’t take the manager’s word for it!) should the ‘knowledge’ factor be investigated, before implementing a training intervention.

In these austere times, I’d say, a honest needs analysis is critical to any training investment. ‘Need based’ training is a truly valuable and important contributor to performance improvement and workplace productivity, but ‘unnecessary’ training efforts are a waste of money, effort and time!