Training - too expensive to use as a band-aid.

I want to tell you a story.

Your sales reps are supposed to upload sent proposals to a shared server for future reference or reuse by other team members. One problem: the company firewall restricts access to the portal when reps are not on the company Internet network. When they are able to get connected, the portal is painfully slow. IT knows about the issue but has not fixed it. Since the sales reps are busy, they have learned NOT to upload completed proposals to the portal.  Instead, they email each-other asking for past proposals when they need them. As a result, work gets duplicated, and the reps spend lots of unneeded hours working around an inefficient process.

When the VP of Sales notices that a large number of proposals are not ending up in the portal, he pushes for a series of six 20 minute eLearning courses on “Sales Process Awareness.” The company pays an eLearning provider $30,000 to create the courses and organizes an all-day instructor-led training session for sales reps on best practices.

The sales reps take the courses and attend the training… then go back to their regular jobs. Their day-to-day work does not change. In fact, they are even MORE busy playing catch-up from all that time they were taken away from their jobs to complete training. The portal still does not work correctly and proposals are still not getting saved. The problem continues.

That’s right, folks… sometimes training is not the answer. Improving performance is as much about process as it is awareness.

Analyze Until You Find a Root Cause… then take action

While the story above is fictional, I think it is a great example of a situation where training and eLearning are used as the solution to a problem that is a process problem, not a skill or knowledge problem. When we skip past the “A” in ADDIE, forgetting to conduct a thorough and thoughtful analysis, we risk embarking on a fool’s errand with little hope of success.

Training can help accomplish many things…

  • Help new hires learn the basics.
  • Introduce a new process or procedure.
  • Provide opportunities for practice and reinforcement.
  • Teach people background information and foundational knowledge.
  • Give people a “so what?” or “what’s in it for me?” that motivates them to perform better.
…But if a process is dysfunctional, re-teaching someone how to do it is not going to solve the problem. Sometimes, your team members are already motivated to do their jobs well, but they feel frustrated or limited by the structures in which they work. Over time they become numb to this frustration and just deal with it because “that’s the way things are around here.”

The Role of eLearning Providers

As consultants, we often end up producing some form of eLearning, mobile learning or gamified learning solution to help clients meet their objectives. But we also take the time to analyze the state of their business and make recommendations for process improvements when appropriate. It’s our job to offer the perspective of a neutral third party that knows a thing or two about helping people do their jobs better.
Use flow charts and process mapping

In a recent post discussing compliance training needs for the healthcare sector, I referenced a past project for a major pharmaceutical company that needed to implement good research principles across its organization. A pure “training” solution might have involved a serious of eLearning courses or instructor-led courses showing what the new principles are and telling people how to follow them. Since our client actually needed people to follow the principles and not just abstractly know about them, we had to take a more holistic approach. We learned that people didn’t need training on the principles – they needed training on how to audit their current functional areas and determine where principles need to be applied. They also needed a process defined for formulating implementation strategies.

Another recent project, conducted for Harlan Laboratories, had us creating an all-new curriculum for lab technicians. We spent lots of time on-site interviewing people and seeing what the work was like first hand before making any recommendations. If we had skipped this step, we would not have seen the necessity of forgoing eLearning and creating physical materials the techs could carry with them in their lab gear. More on how we make sure solutions hit the mark with target learners here.

Put People in Position for Success

Organizational change has to happen at both the macro and micro level. Too often, C-level folks assume that delivering training to drive “better awareness” for front-line team members will help them perform better. In so doing, they neglect to examine the organizational structure those team members are working inside of… and what role that structure plays in both their positive and negative performance. They also forget to address company culture issues that prevent people from speaking up when a problem is happening again and again.
Whether you develop learning solutions internally or rely on an outside vendor, make sure the responsible parties take their time to complete a thorough analysis… and have the experience and confidence to recommend process improvements when necessary. Because after all, an eLearning course is a pretty expensive band-aid.


TiER1 Performance Indy

4022 Arbor Lane
New Palestine, IN 46163

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phone: (317) 861-7281

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