I am surprised how often training is identified as the “go-to” solution for people performance issues. Although I started my career as a corporate trainer, it did not take long to realize there are many other factors besides “know-how” that affect performance.
Robert Mager in his popular book, Analyzing Performance Problems, or You Really Oughta Wanna – How to Figure Out Why People Aren’t Doing What They Should Be, and What to Do About It (How’s that for a title?) was adamant that training was rarely the best or most economical way to address performance issues.
One of the most helpful models I found for addressing performance issues is Human Performance Technology (HPT) from the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). The HPT model has three main steps:
- Determine the performance gap at the organizational, team or individual level.
- Determine the cause of the gap.
- Select and implement the appropriate solution.
Step One requires data gathering to identify the gap between current and required performance.
Step Two requires detective work to determine why the performance gap exists. Possible causes could be a lack of:
- Consequences, incentives or rewards
- Data, information or feedback
- Support, resources or tools
- Individual capacity
- Motivation and expectations
- Skills and knowledge
Step Three is the art of matching an appropriate solution to address the cause. If the cause is a lack of consequences, incentives or rewards, the solution may involve changes to the performance management system; for a lack of data, information or feedback, changes to communications processes may be required; for a lack of individual capacity, staffing and work design could be effective solutions, etc.
Training has its place to address skills and knowledge gaps along with other interventions such as coaching and mentoring. But training has been overused as a “sheep-dip” solution for issues that require systemic process and/or policy solutions.
Beware defaulting to “training is the solution”. As the adage goes, if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.