Recently, one of my trainers received a request from one of her client unit managers to deliver a training class on a topic that she has trained numerous times before to the same learner population. The learners continue to struggle with a function that is critical to the unit’s customer satisfaction score, and there is also a financial implication to the company if the work is not done correcty.
In the past, she would have simply said “when do you want to begin?” However, this year our department has been focusing on developing a core competency of performance consulting, and so my trainer, whom I’ll call Maribel (I just love that name!), responded differently to the request.
Maribel met with the client and explained that she had reason to believe that the performance problem is not due to a skill or knowledge gap, as she had observed many of the employees exhibit behavior that contributed to the problem. Realizing that she needed data to support her theory, she negotiated with the client to perform a root cause analysis to determine the underlying issue. Maribel has established credibility with her clients, and so the manager agreed.
Maribel is performing formal observation of the employees in the unit, asking them to conduct three transactions of the type in question and explain to her their reasoning for following the series of steps they use. This observation takes approximately 20 minutes per employee, and although she has not completed all observations yet, she has already gathered enough data to determine the root cause of the problem is NOT a lack of knowledge or skill. The employees have clearly documented procedures to follow – and, when questioned, indicated they knew where to find the documentation and how to perform the steps… they simply choose not to follow them because they state that the steps dictated take too long. Period. So, obviously, bringing them all into class for several hours to show them the steps would not result in better performance, because they would continue to choose not to follow the procedures.
As Maribel works with her client, she will need to focus on helping them shift from the mindset that every performance issue can be solved by training. She is building a case to demonstrate that there is a behavioral issue that needs to be managed. There is no skill or knowledge gap, and so training is not the appropriate solution.
Maribel will help her clients see that taking their employees off of production to go to training will be expensive and will still not produce the behavioral change needed. The appropriate solution in this case is performance management – set clear expectations for employees that they need to follow the documented procedure and monitor their performance to determine compliance. Of course, this will require quite a bit of effort and accountability from the managers. It would be so much easier for them if we just delivered training to their employees. But then…that would still leave them with the performance problem, so we cannot, in good conscience, do what we’ve done in the past.
Performance consulting is challenging…not just for the clients, but for the trainers as well. It takes courage to push back and help clients to see that training is not always the answer. But we know that not everything that is worthwhile is easy…right? 🙂