I remember going through a fast food drive thru with my family and receiving extremely poor customer service. I decided to contact the franchise owner to share our experience and was surprised when he shared that he’d send the employee through training. Yes, training! I don’t know why I was shocked since training is usually the “knee jerk” reaction when an employee’s performance is poor. To me, it was very clear that training was not the solution. Why is training the initial reaction? Why is there a belief that training can fix everything? Training is not always the solution.
As trainers, the first thing we need to do is change the way training is perceived. Let’s be performance consultants rather than trying to fix everything with training. As a performance consultant, we can partner with the person who requested the training to help identify: a) if there is a performance gap, b) what is causing the gap, and c) the best solution to address the gap.
Expected Performance – Actual Performance = Performance Gap
To identify whether training is the solution to a performance gap, you must conduct a training needs analysis. This is a five-step process:
Step 1: Define the Problem/Opportunity
- Identify the specific task(s) not being performed to standard.
- Focus only on defining the job performance problem/opportunity, not the cause or solution. The goal is to simply understand and define the problem/opportunity. It is still too early to jump to conclusions or provide solutions.
- Use data collection techniques to gather information about actual job performance. For example, records, work samples, interviews, surveys, and observation.
- Ask questions to summarize the problem/opportunity. For example:
- What task is not being performed?
- What does expected performance look like?
- When did this problem first appear?
- What relevant changes have occurred?
- What attempts have been made to solve this problem?
Step 2: Identify Potential Causes
Determine which factor(s) is causing the job performance gap. There are seven factors of job performance that must be in place for employees to meet expected performance. In every situation the problem will be due to at least one of these factors: standards, knowledge and skill, measurement, feedback, conditions, incentive/motivation, and capacity.
Step 3: Test Each Potential Cause
Analyze each cause using a performance analysis checklist which contains questions for each of the seven job performance factors. For example:
Is the standard clearly defined?
Are the expected results clearly defined?
Knowledge and Skill
Have employees received training on the task?
Could they perform the task without further training?
Is performance measured to standard?
Are measurements based on employees’ performance of the task?
Are employees given feedback regarding their performance of the task?
Is feedback tied to performance, not personality?
Do they have the necessary tools/equipment/materials to perform the task?
Is enough time available to perform the task?
Is there incentive for performing to standard?
Is “punishment for good performance” prevented?
Do they have the physical capacity to perform the job?
Do they have the mental capacity to perform the job?
Use the performance analysis checklist to identify which of the seven factors of job performance deficiency is the key cause for the current problem.
Keep in mind that training can address only those problems that are due to a gap in knowledge and skill.
Step 4: Confirm the Cause(s)
- Verify your analysis with the client before you consider possible solutions.
- Review the results from the performance analysis checklist and come to an agreement about the performance problem/opportunity and the cause(s).
Step 5: Propose Solutions
- Discuss possible training solutions with the client if the cause of the performance problem/opportunity is a lack of knowledge and skill.
- Discuss possible non-training solutions with the client if the cause of the performance gap is caused by one of the other six factors.
Before saying “yes” to training, or agreeing that training is the solution, take time to do a thorough training needs analysis. By doing so, you will be able to provide proof to whomever is requesting training on whether training is, in fact, the best solution.
This article was first published September 24, 2018.