When Training Will Not Work


no training

Many training professionals believe in their heart that training can fix any performance challenge. If at first you don’t succeed train them again. Unfortunately training will not work all of the time, and all training professionals would do themselves and our profession a great deal of service to wake up to this reality.

When I first began learning performance management consulting, the instructor began by saying, “training only fixes performance issues about 50% of the time.” I remember not even being able to complete my notes when my brain was struck with complete shock over that statement. I was perplexed over even hearing that we trainers couldn’t fix everything. I was working for a company that had me in the classroom 3-4 days a week, so how was it possible that I wasn’t fixing every performance problem.

It was when he started listing out the other things that get in the way of correct performance that I began to realize training couldn’t fix everything.

To understand what training can fix most of the time, it is important to know when training should be used as a performance solution.

  1. Training should be used when a person does not have the skills needed to perform the job. Often new hire training will build the necessary skill for operations, product knowledge, sales and compliance. When I need to learn something new training will help.
  2. Training is also used to update people on changes in products, procedures, maybe a new software system.   I may know how to do my job, but enough changes have been made that I need training to understand what is different.
  3. Training is used to create a common focus, or a refocus on a particular skill set that has gone stale. Everyone in the room knows how to perform a particular task, but for one reason or another, no one is performing well. Customer Service training is refreshed annually in a lot of organizations to put new life into the service experience, or to energize the masses.

When I find people wanting to use training when the skills exist, I will ask a series of questions to determine what else is blocking performance. Often this is tricky with management that just wants the problem to go away and believes training over and over will change the outcome. It won’t, and we need to do a better job of getting to the root of performance problems before we prescribe another training cure.