Share this content

Is training actually needed? A performance gap approach

by
8th Dec 2010
Share this content
Sometimes we just need to stop and ask ourselves, is any training actually needed? TZ member and featured blogger Garry Platt presents his methodology.
In many quarters there is an increasing disillusionment with the contribution and function of the training and development arm of HR departments. A recent survey commissioned by Capita, 100 of the UK's top 500 companies (by turnover) illustrates this dissatisfaction with startling clarity:
  • 70% see inadequate staff skills as a barrier to growth
  • 55% claim L&D failing to deliver necessary training
  • 46% doubt L&D can deliver
  • Less than 18% agree that L&D is aligned with the business.
In some instances this antipathy is well founded with the training function delivering programmes and events with little to no heed of defined outcomes and results. In order to be clear about what our clients needs and what we must deliver, the process must begin by focussing on the performance gap we are seeking to address. Sometimes there is no performance gap analysis and the result is frequently a pointless waste of time and money. This article seeks to illustrate what the major steps are in order to avoid this.
 
"A performance gap is the actual or inevitable shortfall in the results or outcomes of an individual or group. If there is no performance gap the legitimacy of any development undertaken would have to be questioned."
We start with an enquiry from an internal/external client for some development of one form or another. Our first responsibility is not to say 'yes' and ask for the target group's availability. We should begin a dialogue and explore what the performance gaps are that this development should address. A performance gap is the actual or inevitable shortfall in the results or outcomes of an individual or group. If there is no performance gap or none that can be identified the legitimacy of any development undertaken would have to be questioned. Training departments have limited and restricted resources and their energies should be strategically and deliberately wielded. In the long term this will probably mean no more paintballing, bongo drumming or fire walking. Life can be tough sometimes.
If we can clearly establish a real or firm likelihood of a performance gap and that shortfall is important and a priority for the business, we still have some questions to be answered before any development is rolled out. We now have to establish if we understand the reason for the performance gap. There are many potential causes; Resourcing processes, materials, procedures are just four of hundreds of potential reasons. But we should primarily be interested in only two, the absence of either knowledge or skill which leads to less than desirable results. It is the embedding of knowledge and skill which feed into clear outcomes and results which is the raison d'etre of training. Somewhere along the line in some organisations this purpose has been forgotten or abandoned. Hence we get events that have no direct or indirect linkage to real world outcomes. Instead a tenuous association is described. Vague and none specific claims are asserted and the result can often be training and development which superficially is enjoyed by some people, deplored by others but either way results in no impacts for the organisation participating in the development.
If we can establish that the performance gap is predicated on the absence of knowledge and skill then training can have a clear role and we also have a clear method to evaluate the effectiveness of the development which follows; the performance gap begins to close or it doesn't. With those kind of data to draw from suddenly the training arm of the HR department becomes a core function feeding directly into the results of the business.
If we establish that the performance gap is due to anything but an absence of knowledge or skill then frankly training has no role to play, it's as simple as that. And it might well be that simple but blunt irrefutable logic that makes so many trainers move into areas where their usefulness and impact is next to nothing. Many people in this field are what I call 'hobby trainers', they focus on the things that they like and enjoy, regardless of the real needs and requirements of the client. Please forgive me but there was indeed a time in my early career when I was so enamoured with transactional analysis I could even fit it into 'Excel for Beginners' courses, such was my enthusiasm. Was it appropriate? Certainly not, but I could make a case for its inclusion using a 'smoke and mirrors' argument.
 
"If we establish that the performance gap is due to anything but an absence of knowledge or skill then frankly training has no role to play, it's as simple as that."
If at the conclusion of all this we have clearly established that a shortfall in results is linked to a shortfall in knowledge and skill then - and only then - would we move into undertaking a full training needs analysis, establishing in depth what the training content should be and what should be covered.
Linked with this article is a flowchart that I have created. If you're in any way associated with training and development, have it tattooed on the inside of your eye balls so you will be constantly reminded of the process you should follow establishing what your client actually needs rather than doing what either you or they want. If this is a step too far then print it off and have it on display in your office and follow its advice. Begin now before the next round of job cuts, redundancies or tenders commence.
(If anyone wants an 'Excel for Beginners' course with a strong emphasis on transactional analysis please get in contact with me offline.)

Academically qualified to Masters Degree level in Education, Training and Development his work combines current research and study in Human Resource Development with a pragmatic and workable approach. Visit the EEF website for further details. Gary writes the Platts Puzzlings blog here on TrainingZone as well as managing the Transactional Analysis discussion group.

Tags:

Related content

Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.