Just Say NO….

Dan Carusi Employee Communications, HR, Training and Development

Ok training professionals, it’s time to face the facts:  not all problems can be solved by training.  Which means, we shouldn’t say “yes” to every training request that comes across our desks. Our role is not to take on as many requests as possible as a means to demonstrate value as a learning organization.  Training departments exist to ensure that employees have the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs well, while helping a company execute its corporate strategy.  Fifty percent of training requests on average are not training related, so why do we keep saying yes?

I think I get it.  If I’m not saying yes to all the requests from the kids in the neighborhood… I’m not going to get invited to the kick-ball game. Or even worse, I’ll be the last one standing in a school yard pick.  (A weak analogy offering way too much visibility into my childhood.) In business terms – we’ve convinced ourselves that if we are not taking on as many training initiatives as possible, we become obsolete, lose budget and are forced to reduce staff. But is it not part of our job to weed out requests that are not valid?  Attempting to resolve a non-learning related issue will only cost resources and frustration.  Roll out as many classes and assign as many coaching sessions as you want, but the problem would still remain unresolved.  Taking it a step further; you now own it, including the failure of not resolving the issue.  Didn’t see that one coming did you?

I grew up in the sales world prior to becoming a learning geek so I’ll use an under-performing sales rep as an example.  If the rep is missing quota, the manager often looks at product knowledge as the cause.  The manager dials up the training team for help with a refresher course, training says “yes” of course and then provides intensive coaching.  However, a month later, said sales rep is still missing quota and underperforming.  So what happened?  The root cause for the performance issue is not product knowledge.  It could be motivation, sales territory, leadership…… or they just suck at sales.  When I was a child, I would not make my bed and it was not due to lack of skills or knowledge, I didn’t want to do it!  The point is, no due diligence was done to determine the root cause before applying the training intervention.  Whenever there is a gap in performance, training is almost always viewed as a solution.  However, this is not always the case.

So how do you avoid this trap?  The best way to determine which requests are valid and which are not is with a simple Training Needs Analysis.  That may sound really scary and like way too much work, but by following just a couple of easy steps, you’ll have all the data you need for better decision making.  The first step is to establish a process and guidelines for determining the needs.  The second step is to work with managers to set performance expectations by identifying the skills and knowledge needed to execute the strategy – basically a skills inventory.  Third, isolate the gaps.  Now that you have determined the skills gaps, you need to identify which gaps can be resolved through training intervention.  Fourth and most importantly, prioritize.  If you are like most of us you have finite resources, so don’t go out and try to solve the gridlock in Congress and set yourself up for failure.  Finally, develop the plan and execute based on what you prioritized.  Still scary?

If you follow the above steps, you will have more success identifying which requests are learning-related.  If you discover a request is not learning-related – just say NO..  This approach ensures your team will correctly allocate resources, reduce frustration and successfully execute training programs.