Sometimes employee training is the wrong solution used to fix an employee performance problem. This tends to happen when employee training is the “go to” solution in an organization when something goes wrong. There are some situations where employee training is simply not the best solution. Here are a few examples of when it may be better to look at other alternatives to employee training to solve an organizational or team issue.
- You can’t get the job done because you don’t have enough bodies. In lean times, management expects that you can do cartwheels with very limited staffing resources. Sometimes training can help speed up production or service times but sometimes training will just not resolve a short staffing issue. It is time to beg for more bodies.
- The equipment/tools should have retired years ago. You still have a dot matrix printer (and you are almost out of paper with the holes on the edge). You are running MS Word 1989 and Windows 3. The paper cutter is so dull it would be better to rip the paper. Your inventory system is on a clip board (and so is your payroll system). Training is not the solution here. Getting up to speed with the year 2000 would be a good start.
- The job is not a good fit for Ralph. Ralph is bright, capable and a good egg. The problem is that Ralph is just not cut out for sales because it does not fit his personality. You can send Ralph to all the sales seminars the world has to offer but that won’t fix the bad fit issue. Time to look at transferring Ralph to another department or role or, if need be, terminate poor Ralph but encourage him by explaining that it is not him, it is poor job fit (yes, give him the “It is not you, it’s the job” speech).
- Veronica’s attitude stinks. Can you train an attitude? You can send Veronica to soft skill training (training on Emotional Intelligence (EI), for example) to help her recognize her poor attitude but often it is something else at the root of the bad attitude that no amount of training will fix. Perhaps Veronica is frustrated by the lack of creative opportunities she is given or perhaps she is jealous because Frank got the corner office and the promotion she was after because the boss likes him better. Or, it could be absolutely nothing to do with work. Whatever is the bee in Veronica’s bonnet, it is probably more about coaching or counseling than competency building training.
- A promotion that should not have happened. Have you seen this scenario? Bob was fantastic as a field worker. He knows the industry/product/service inside and out. He is a super star and top producer. Bob gets promoted to a supervisory role. Now instead of Bob making rain out in the field, Bob is now supervising staff (i.e. coaching, hiring, firing, etc.). Bob is a horrible supervisor. He does not know how to delegate, coach or inspire his team. He is just not leadership material. So, like Ralph, it is bad job fit (#3 above) mixed with bad HR/succession planning. You can send Bob to supervisory training and see if that helps but it may not fix the situation if Bob is more of a follower (or a loaner) than a leader.
A lack of resources (staff, tools etc.), personality and attitude issues and a promotion that wasn’t a good idea can all be issues that employee training may only stall the inevitable real solution. Before you send Ralph, Veronica or Bob to another $3000 intensive, consider that employee training may not be the right option.
Do you have other examples of when employee training is not the best solution? Please add a comment describing your example. Let’s all learn from each other.
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