When is Training the Answer?

Often, when employees are not performing or have behavioral issues, our instinct is to go back to their training: what went wrong? Can we fix it? What additional steps can we take to set them up for success? Training is a tool for employers that can help to mitigate risks, revitalize employee performance, and improve morale. That said, training is not always as effective as we would hope; there are times when the more appropriate response is another intervention.

When evaluating intervention vs. training, it is important to know what you hope to achieve. Knowing what your company needs, how the employee fits, and exactly where they can improve is the key to successful training. Take time to investigate the skills or understanding the employee’s deficiency. Without an adequate understanding of what you need and needs of the employee, it is impossible to adequately train. Jumping the gun and training without this understanding results in no positive impact and money unnecessarily spent.

Training is always a good option when an employee is new or moves from one department to another. Helping them to get an initial grasp of the skills needed allows them to understand their position on the team, what their team needs, and how this contributes to the goals of the company. Another time training can elicit positive results is when a good employee has a lack of knowledge or an underdeveloped skill. Identifying these gaps in employee knowledge provides the employer with the opportunity to be a support, provides the employee with the knowledge they’re missing and greatly improves their productivity, success, and satisfaction.

Other cases are not quite so crystal clear and need evaluation on a case by case basis. No matter the situation, training is only successful when the following are kept in mind:

Training must serve a strategic purpose. Providing training that will not result in additional contributions to your organization will not serve you well. In addition, without a strategic goal in mind, it is impossible to set up specific steps to success. Employees will not understand the purpose of learning a new skill and may not retain information or utilize it in a way that is productive.

Your company culture must empower employees to ask questions and acquire new skills. Training, for some, may be hard to swallow when not a new employee; it may feel like a punishment. For training to be successful it is important to facilitate a culture of education and growth. This creates a narrative where additional training is an opportunity for development and growth rather than a punishment.

Training is meant to develop skills or close a gap in knowledge. While it is an excellent tool in these situations, it is often not the solution to unproductive employees. To begin with, an employee must be committed to change. If your employee does not see a flaw in their behavior or productivity, they are unlikely to even attempt grasping a new skill. Instead, they may see training as a punishment, push back and create negativity within your office culture.

Some employees may not have a negative attitude but may not be able to grasp concepts. This can be due to a poor fit. While we hope all employees are a good fit, there are times when an employee cannot grasp the information, we need them to in a time frame that would allow them to succeed in the company. While additional training can assist some employees in grasping information they may have missed, for others it may make no difference. As the employer, it is important to take the time to note the difference.

Another situation that can be discovered through a bit of investigation, is an overloaded employee. When an employee has too much on their plate, they may be unable to succeeded; seeming unproductive or not knowledgeable because they cannot find enough time in the day to get to all their tasks. In this instance, training would do more to hurt their performance than help. Adding one more thing to their never-ending to-do list.

Mastering new skills takes time, patience, and support. It’s important to provide that for our employees and create a company culture that treats training as a learning opportunity rather than a punishment. Training has a purpose, and if it is utilized correctly it can positively impact your employee productivity, morale, and knowledge. That said, it is not always the solution you are looking for. Before retraining an employee, be sure to evaluate your needs, their needs, and whether or not these goals can be met.

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