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Why Most Training Programs Do Not Work

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I regularly get calls from clients asking me to visit them and put on a specific training program. It may be a request for “Soft Skills Training,” sales training, time management, conflict resolution, customer relations, and so on.

My typical next question is: “What type of problems or challenges are you having that need to be resolved?” I usually get the following type of responses:

  • We need to increase our revenue, and nothing has worked so far
  • Some of my people do not get along with each other
  • I just want them to be more professional
  • I need to have my guys sell more accessories and services
  • They need to be more organized
  • Employees need to take responsibility for what they do
  • I just really want them to just do their job and do it right
  • I need to have them check everything before leaving the customer location

I’m sure you can send me a few more challenges that you have had to deal with and make the list even longer.

The management team decides the only way to improve the issue is to hire someone and have that someone come to their location and “teach, educate, motivate, or train” a group of employees in the room to do something better, different, more often, less often, or whatever within several hours. The overall objective is to fix the problem they are dealing with and have not been able to resolve with current methods.

After listening to a list of deficiencies, problems or challenges, I usually ask the manager or business owner as to how did they determine that training will fix the problems? I usually hear something like; “We tried to implement several new things to make things better, but they didn’t work. My service manager said you are a great speaker and showed me some of your videos. So, we figured we can bring you in to put on a training program that would sink in and make a difference. Can you come in for a couple of hours one morning while you are in the area and do this for us, and how much would you need to do that? I don’t want you to make a special trip, just only when you happen to be in our area for something else.” This basically translates to: They want to invest as little as possible and are hoping to get a discount of some kind, because I will be in the area anyway. Most of the time, I find that the issues this contractor may be having cannot be resolved with training.

The big mistake that business owners make is assuming that if you put an employee in a room with a person who is good at training or speaking on certain subjects that somehow the employee will decide to change the way they do things forever. Keep in mind, every deficiency in a work setting is not the result of a lack of training. The only time training works is when someone does not know how to do something or needs help understanding how to do something and if someone showed them, they will be able to do it. It is pretty much, just that simple!

In one of my business leadership classes I discuss the five reasons why employees don’t perform well. They are:

  1. Personal problems
  2. Don’t know how to do it and need training
  3. Do not understand the rules or processes
  4. They are incapable of doing it
  5. They just don’t care

Let me run through each. Number one is obvious, if someone is going through divorce or other personal trauma, it will cause a problem in every aspect of their life, including their job. Number two, don’t know how and need training, that is where a training program works. Number three usually occurs either with a new employee who does not understand the methods and routines in your business or there has been a recent change in software or systems that confuses people. Number four is unique, and really may not have a solution. Being incapable of doing something could be explained with this example. Let’s say you have someone who was hired as a duct or pipe installer or helper and you decide that they are now ready to run service calls and start interacting with customers. Let’s say this person has terrible interpersonal skills and is not interested at all in having to talk to people he or she doesn’t know. This would create a problem and you may not be able to resolve it. The only solution would be is to not put this person in a position where they are required to do something that they just cannot do. Number five is self-explanatory. To this person, they have a job, do the minimum required, payday is Friday and they are only here because they need money to eat and drink beer, or whatever.

As you can now see, the only performance deficiencies that are trainable are number two and number three. Training will not fix everything. If an employee is unwilling to do something or is not comfortable doing it, training is not a fix. You may be better off finding a different solution or designing a process that eliminates the need for this employee to have to modify their behavior.

If you call me and start telling me that you want me to come to your place and present training on something, be ready for a series of questions and perhaps some other recommendations that do not include training. My goal isn’t to travel around and make money talking to people and having no significant positive result. My goal is to come up with solutions that make your employees perform at the highest level possible.

My dad always taught me. If you are going to do something, do it right, or find someone who knows what they are doing to do it for you.

Frank Besednjak

Posted In: Management, Money

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