When dealing with difficult situations, it is as important to have a comprehensive understanding of the problem as it is to come up with an elegant answer. When there appears to be a problem with issues even loosely connected to training—employee behavioral or performance issues, etc.—companies are quick to finger one’s training program as the culprit. But as Jane Bozarth’s diagram outlines below, not every problem is a training problem. Employee effectiveness issues may be related to a lack of motivation, resources or any number of issues unrelated to training.
When you have a disengaged employee, internal obstacles, or simply an unqualified employee, attacking the problem with a training-related solution will be ineffective. The solution to performance problems is not always reinforcing techniques or processes employees may already understand. The best solution may require deeper analysis of business processes to improve, simplify, or add resources—or to find a more qualified employee.
Understanding and Addressing Performance Problems
If you’re working with a manager to address a structural or performance issue, there are a few steps you should take to assess the problem.
- Job shadowing. If the performance problems affect a wide swath of employees, spend a few days with them. Keep an open mind, ask a lot of questions and take the time to understand how processes work currently before you make recommendations or develop training resources. Talking with a broad group of employees will give you a better sense of which challenges are rooted in personal issues, and which challenges are the result of ineffective processes.
- You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. Often, training managers play the role of group therapist. Sometimes, managers impose their vision of “what’s wrong” onto a situation. Other times, simple communication breakdowns turn into bigger problems. It’s your role to unearth the root causes of performance and structural problems by bringing together diverse perspectives, and approaching the problem with an open mind.
- Use technology tools. Start by using technology tools to gather data and collect feedback. Making data-driven decisions will help balance out individual decision-makers and promote good action plans. Explore tools like Tableau (for data visualization) to see what performance gaps may map to weak points in your overall organizational performance. For example, if you map your company’s sales cycle, can you see where customers drop out the most? Can you address that weakness with training or more resources?Use technology tools to assess where your employees are looking for help. What questions are most popular in internal social networks? Can Google Analytics tell you what resources employees are accessing most in your learning management system?As you move into solution design, technology tools like internal and external social networks are a fabulous resource for enabling easier communication and performance support. A culture of communication and sharing will go a long ways towards interrupting performance problems before they develop.
Training managers who are integrated in the business process from start to finish are prepared not only to design and manage excellent training programs, but also to recognize when the answer isn’t training and to make a useful recommendation to leadership.
About the Author
Kelly Meeker is the Community Manager at OpenSesame, the elearning content marketplace, where she creates, curates and shares with the learning and development community. Find her on her blog at www.OpenSesame.com/blog, on Twitter (@OpenSesame) or at firstname.lastname@example.org.