Is Corporate Training the Answer?

Performance problems plague organizations both big and small. Wherever humans work, performance is happening, and so too are problems. Though each company’s performance issues are unique, often a formulaic—read: cookie-cutter— approach is the chosen remedy. In other words, let’s train and retrain everybody. In 2017 alone, the US spent nearly $90 billion dollars on training. That’s a 30% increase from 2016. With that kind of spending, all problems should be solved—cut, end scene. Rarely is that the case, however. Using training to approach every organizational flub can yield less-than-desirable results, especially in the sustainability department. The short of it: If training is warranted and effective, it will work the first time and stick around for longer than a year. When it’s not appropriate, you should try something else. 


Should We Train?

Dr. Barbara Bucklin, instructional design and organizational behavior connoisseur, unpacks  the truths and myths of employee training, effective instructional design, and what to do beyond all that in her CE course, “Behavioral Approaches for Instructional Design.” While companies throw time and money at training, seeing what sticks, 60-90% becomes irrelevant to the on-the-job task itself. Employees often go to work and then encounter problems, which higher-ups later address with more training. 


Won’t Do: The employee knows how to perform something but doesn’t.

From the start, organizations commit one of Bucklin’s first sins: failing to assess an employee’s entry skill level. Rather than leaning on certainty, they guess at what to teach. Meanwhile, cost and time-effective alternatives are waiting in the wings— modifying antecedents, consequences, and competing contingencies. Bucklin charges leaders to look at those small, but impactful changes first before taking the expensive training route. Ask and think, “What’s really causing this problem? Can I leave training as a last resort?” Answers and solutions to those questions will move you toward tackling “won’t do” problems. 


Can’t Do: The employee doesn’t know how to perform something.

Won’t do problems may require a performance analysis to identify what’s maintaining the performance and how to fix it. Of course, there are times when training is necessary, like learning novel behavior they can’t do. Notice, though, the two types of problems get separate treatments. Bucklin says assessing the root cause of a performance problem is the crème de la crème of leadership and moving an organization forward. While Bucklin focuses on improving training procedure effectiveness, she drops in some simple strategies to address won’t dos. And as ever, organizations should be wary of promises that a one-time classroom training will be the be-all, fix-all solution. It’s often a setup for major disappoint and lost money. 

Learn More

Register for Bucklin's CE course and titled, Behavioral Approaches for Instructional Design below.

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