Training is not the Answer to Every Question

“God, give us serenity to accept what cannot be changed, courage to change what should be changed, and wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”
– Reinhold Niebuhr

It’s not our job to make sure that employees are provided with challenging work in a pleasant setting and are paid a fair wage. Our job is to provide them with the skills to do their jobs and let management worry about the rest.

But It’s Not Working!

Even the best-designed, thoroughly constructed, and fully multi-mediated training programs can’t provide peace in the Middle East, cure global warming, or tear my twelve year old away from his computer games.

Training is not the Answer to Every Question!

Many years ago someone gave me an excellent piece of advice.

[f you are going to stay in the training field, never guarantee that you will change anybody’s behavior unless you can conduct long-term psychotherapy (figure on about 10 years), convert people to a different religion (new converts will do anything) or perform frontal lobotomies. “
Jack Asgar

No training program, as sexy as it may be, will be worth a dam unless the reason people weren’t doing the “right” thing in the first place was because they didn’t know how.

An old professor of mine was fond of saying, “If they can do it when you stick a gun in their head, don’t bother training!”

Few of us are fortunate enough to be able to implement this rigorous form of testing, so here are a few tip-offs that it’s the work environment, not the skills of the employee, that’s the culprit:

The organization has a history of management turnover
Deadlines are often missed
You observe substantial duplication of effort
Employees’ roles and responsibilities are not clear cut. People wear many hats
The flow of work appears inefficient or complex
Personnel spend a substantial amount of time on unimportant things, like searching for information
Equipment is often down

But Don’t Just Sit There; Do Something!

There is just something in the physical and nonphysical work environment that’s stopping them and someone’s got to remove it.

Muster up the courage to blow the whistle. Tell your management that training will not cure the problem and call their attention to what will, such as:

Providing better management
Clarifying and simplifying employee roles and responsibilities
Providing employees with the authority they need
Upgrading equipment and information resources
Simplifying the work flow or organizational structure

Give it a shot! You might get lucky

Copyright 2007, Joel Gendelman

Gendelman, Joel “Talking Ain’t Teaching 1 – 15, Performance Improvement, International Society of Performance Improvement, Volume 30, Issue 4

Reprinted with permission from the publisher. Published by the International Society of Performance Improvement