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Sunday, March 09, 2008

When Training is Not the Solution (At Least, It's Not the Only One)

I had several interesting conversations on this topic with some clients. I've received to help companies improve their employees' performance through training. While I always believe that training can help, there are several instances when I think training is not the best solution or at least not the first in the list. Let me share with you today what solutions I think managers should consider prior to training.

Hiring the right person for the job - If I understand Marcus Buckingham ("First Break All the Rules" and several other great books on Management)right, Training can only do so much to a person who does not have the right talent for the job. At most, they can turn a decent job but not great. If you want great performance, hire someone who has the right set of talents for the job and then train that person to use that talent in the performance of the job. Please note that, hiring the right person comes first, training, a distant second. Problem is, a lot of us aren't aware of this or do not know how to go about identifying the right talents and screening people to determine job fit. Some of us who have discovered it, thought that the process is expensive and won't pursue it, hence we resort to the next best thing - Training. This is why I think a lot of training participants arrive Dead on Arrival. If you hire a sales representative who is extremely shy, and then give her a two-day training on selling, what will you get? You might think, it would be foolish to hire somebody with that quality. Look around, I'm sure you'll find sales organizations who hire just about anyone who is interested in the job... or any job.

Equip them with the right tools - A lot of people who attend training complain of not possessing the right tools to do their job. Sales People who have poor sales materials, project managers who do not have the luxury of using modern project management tools, customer service representative who are not empowered to make "moments of truth" decisions. I'm thinking that maybe managers should look at addressing these first and use them as basis for training or, put together a mechanism for collecting information on how to best equip their employees to manage their business.

Create the right environment for high performance - There are a lot of theories on this topic that you can consider, Performance Management Systems, Incentive Schemes, Organizational Culture, Creating a fun place to work in, take your pick or picks. What's important is that you explore this area and create that environment for high performance.

Training to me is an important support tool to allow employees to grow in the professions that they chose, provided that they chose the right ones. Training is an important tool for employees to learn how to apply the "real tools" of the job. I'm talking about processes, methologies, equipment and devices... tools.

Training is a good support in creating a high performance environment, but without the right environment, training will not be applied and then forgotten. Managers should look at all these three elements before and when considering training.

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