Is Training the Right Solution?

In the learning and development world, we talk a lot about designing and delivering “solutions” and being “solutions-oriented.” Heck, some of us are even called “Learning Solutions Designers” or “Learning Solutions Architects.”

With so much emphasis on being solutions-oriented, it’s no wonder many of us feel obligated to offer up training at the merest whiff of a perceived performance problem. Not only is training an easy win for our clients, providing training can be a pretty easy win for us too. That’s because it provides a low-risk, relatively low-cost, and concrete response to a need—and with measurable outcomes (depending on what you’re measuring …). What’s not to love about that?

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more nuance to job performance than just having the right knowledge or skills. All of the passing scores and workshop certificates in the world can’t address poor performance when there are other factors in play; factors like a lack of motivation, a bad job fit, or workplace obstacles such as a lack of resources or support. When other factors are the underlying problem, training isn’t going to make much of an impact on performance—and may end up delaying more meaningful actions like providing better software, improving hiring practices, or addressing the root cause of poor motivation.

But how do you help managers and clients to recognize when these other factors are in play? And how do you know when training is really the right solution?

To answer those questions, I’ve built a simple branching interaction in Articulate Storyline. It was inspired by this 2010 article from Jane Bozarth in Learning Solutions Magazine. I've designed this interaction to be a manager-level exchange focusing on a small team of workers. (This may even reflect the types of conversations those of you in smaller organizations have.) The focus is on identifying individual performance barriers, but the underlying concepts can be applied to a broader audience. 

Can you steer this conversation in the right direction? Can you find the clues hidden in this manager’s assessment of his troubled team members? Is training the right solution for everyone? Dig in and find out!

Interaction: Is training the right solution?

Note: “Is Training the Right Solution?” grid used with permission.

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It’s not easy being the person who questions the root cause of a performance problem—especially when the nature of that problem and the appropriate solution have been predetermined by management.

Doing so can invite awkward conversations that bring up issues that aren’t easily addressed without a bigger change to the organization’s culture or strategies. But the way I see it, having candid conversations with your clients about the real problems is key to adding value to your organization and building a fulfilling career for yourself. Only when you’re talking about real problems can you put you, your organization, and your learners on the path toward real solutions.

Interested in learning more ideas and strategies for analyzing needs and uncovering solutions? Here are some more articles from the ELH archives that are on point.

Measure Training Success by Demonstrating Value

Training Needs Analysis: When Is Training the Solution?

10 Things You Could Create Instead of an E-Learning Course

What approaches have helped you uncover the underlying performance issues in your organization? Share your thoughts and experiences with us by leaving a comment below.

And be sure to follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

Dave Ferguson

I like this in terms of its look, its interactivity, and its capsulization of the performance-analysis approach to workplace problems. The interactions for meeting the team were effective while minimizing explanation -- e.g., nothing about "click the X to close this picture," relying on the learner's existing knowledge of working with computers. Switching the small portraits from color to black and white was a similarly low-key way to communicate "you saw this one already." Similarly, on the "final test," the use of a small but clear icon to re-display a summary of the backgrounds, combined with lightboxing that summary, fits this option into the main context of applying the principles. I might have said "employee doesn't seem to know what to do" for the "employee needs training" ... Expand

Tracy Parish

Great piece Trina. What I like about your demo is that it gives a "real world" scenario for IDs to walk through that might not have been able to decide where to even start when this question is thrown at them. Heck, even when you do know where to start and know the answer isn't training....saying it out loud, as you said is sometimes the harder more time consuming answer to give. I can think of several projects I have lined up right now that the client is convinced training is the answer. A few tweaks to this might just help drive the point home to them that there are and should be other options considered. I'm in an environment where there are constant changes, new best practices, new equipment, new policies to be aware of and follow. Those items might hit one department or the... Expand

Trina Rimmer
Jane Bozarth