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So Sorry—Training Won’t Fix That

10-11 Vault Lights

When something isn’t working right, managers often ask for training. Is training the right answer? Not as often as people think.

I’m sure you’ve seen times when people wanted to make things better, assumed training would be the right answer, but didn’t get the result they wanted (no matter how great the training was).

Here are some examples of situations where training (or training alone) won’t fix the problem.

The Goals Aren’t Clear

  • “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that.”
  • “I didn’t know I could do that.”
  • “People don’t agree about what success looks like.”

The Process Isn’t Clear/Isn’t Rational

  • “We don’t agree about which steps to take.”
  • “They’re all experts, and each one follows a somewhat different process.”
  • “We have five different ways to process the same kinds of orders.”
  • “My manager tells me to do it this way, but my peers tell me something else.”
  • “We have three different compliance centers, and you can get a different answer from each one.”

The Environment/Organization/Culture Hinders Performance

  • “People interrupt me when I’m in the middle of writing (words or code). It can take 15 or 20 minutes to get back to where I was.”
  • “It’s so noisy, I can’t think.”
  • “We spend 25% of our time in unproductive meetings.”
  • “Our managers fight over who gets which resources.”
  • “We make a decision, then we change it a few months later.”
  • “We’re constantly reorganizing. Just when you get used to your new manager and new responsibilities, they change again.”
  • “Our employees are the only ones who know how to do this process. They just pretend to go along with changes.”
  • “We don’t have job aids or documentation.”
  • “Our computers are slow. We don’t have up-to-date software.”

We Don’t Have the Right People

  • “Since the merger, the new folks don’t approach customers correctly. We always hired for a certain friendly personality, but the new folks just don’t have it.”
  • “Even with ideal training, it takes 2 to 3 years for people who do these jobs to come up to speed. But here’s the thing: we only have them for 2 to 3 years.”

When people have to know something, but don’t, training can be (at least part of) the right prescription. If you offer training, consider what else must be fixed or changed (for example, goals, process, tools) so that people will use what they learned.

If you offer training when it’s not the right answer, you’ll be wasting time and resources. And while you’re doing that, the problem, issue, challenge, or lost opportunity that you wanted to fix will likely continue or maybe even get worse as time goes by.

So what to do? Suggest an alternative that will work. Partner with an expert. Make recommendations that will actually move the needle in the right direction.


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