Many initial client meetings I’ve attended have gone like this…
“We have a problem.”
“Can you describe the problem?”
“Sure. Productivity is down and we need to fix it. Can you make us a web-based course?”
“Well, can we talk a little more about the problem?”
“I don’t think that’s necessary. We’ve already figured it out. Besides, upper management said they wanted a web-based course, so I don’t have much choice. How soon can you make one?”
This scenario is all too common in our world and it leads to ineffective solutions and continuing problems. The thing is, training is often not the solution. And the problem is often not what you think it is. This seems like it should be obvious, especially to skilled and experienced managers and decision makers. But, there remains a strong tendency to jump straight to training when there is a performance issue or some problem with business outcomes (e.g. equipment repair time has increased). If you’ve ever found yourself on the “we have a problem” side of the conversation, please read on…
Lots of reasons exist for performance issues and of course some of those reasons can be solved by training. For instance, when new employees simply don’t know how to do their job yet. But, when we look a little deeper, we often find the performance discrepancy or negative business outcome is caused by something else. A slew of issues could be at play. If you really want to solve your problem, it’s worth taking the time to diagnose it.
If your car is making a funny sound, you don’t just change the timing belt or get new brakes or get an oil change. You take it to a mechanic, who figures out what is making the sound. Then she fixes the culprit.
And, once you figure out the real problem, there are often multiple ways to address it – some better than others. When training will work, it almost always takes more time and costs more than other solutions. Often, if training will work, some type of performance support (e.g. a job aid) may work as well. So, one should only take the training route when it truly is either the only or the most effective solution and it is worth the time and money trade off.
As an alternative to training, solutions can include but are not limited to updating restrictive policies, introducing incentives, removing barriers, fixing inefficient business processes, repairing broken equipment or updating software, providing job aids to assist employees at the time of need, creating built-in help functions, or creating a mobile app to use in the field. Solutions really are unique to the problem. Identifying the real issues, determining the best recommendations, and creating an effective solution takes someone educated and experienced in the learning and performance improvement field. This is where instructional designers or other learning consultants are most valuable. Call yours today!