Two Views of Training
Employee Management Articles
Submit Articles Back to Articles
You sent everybody on the Time Management 101 course and found
that it made no difference. Everybody is working just as inefficiently
as they did before the course. How did this happen? It may be because
of a foggy understanding of how training actually works in improving
employee performance and organizational results. I see many managers
hold to what I call the "naïve" view of training. On this view, all
that is required for results to improve is to get employees into a
training room or, in the case of e-learning, to get them in front of a
On this view, how training causes good results can be depicted
Attendance ? Organization Results
The arrows indicate this simple flow of causation from
attendance at the training event to the improved organizational
performance. This hoped for improved performance could be, for example,
reduced defect rates, higher product sales or more satisfied business
This view is held by people who see training as mostly about
"telling". During the training program design phase, they are mostly
concerned with the "content" of the program; the information to which
the trainees will be subjected. Here, the trainee is seen as a piece of
automata, like a piece of hardware. Training is seen as serving the
function of "programming" the employee machine. The "instructions" are
what are important here. Employee in ? programming ? employee out is
And if the employee does not act according to the instructions
back on the job, the assumption is that the employee machine is either
defective or the programming did not work first time around. With this
paradigm, in those cases where the training did not "work", the trainee
is often sent back to the same program for a second attempt at
installing the "instructions". And if this proves unsuccessful, the
trainee is deemed defective (unprogrammable) and discarded, or in some
cases, ignored and left to their own devices.
This "production line" thinking takes reasonable beliefs about
programming machines and applies them to people with damaging
consequences. Here are some examples of this faulty extrapolation from
machines to employees.
|Reasonable production line thinking
||Faulty application to training
"Any kind of hardware can be programmed at any time."
"Let's send the whole department on this course. Those
who already know it need a refresher anyway."
"Memory can easily be reprogrammed."
"Employees won't remember the time wasted on the last
"We can afford to have a certain number of rejects that
we will discard."
"We can't afford to spend time on people who fail."
"The same programming procedure programs all units
"Don't worry about role-plays or on-the-job coaching.
The 60 PowerPoint slides will suit everyone."
Do you recognize any of these statements in your workplace?
Contrast this simple linear and one-dimensional view of
training with a more sophisticated model. This more sophisticated view
of training highlights that the delivery of the training program is
simply one of a number of causal factors leading to individual employee
and organizational performance outcomes. The core of this view can be
summarized as follows.
Attendance ? Trainee Learning ? Workplace
Behavior ? Organizational Results
On this more sophisticated view, the steps in the causal chain
are more numerous, giving more possibilities for the training to go off
the rails and not achieve its objectives. The additional steps include
the causing of the trainee to learn the new knowledge and skills. This
step requires good instructional design with clearly stated learning
objectives, plenty of practice, trainee feedback, and so on. The
learning is not a given. There are other mediating factors that I won't
go into here. Most importantly, these include each trainee's innate
ability and motivation level.
The second extra step is causing the trainee to apply the
skills back on the job; that is, to change their workplace behavior.
This step requires appropriate incentives, performance feedback, and so
on, and should not be just assumed. Once again, there are other
mediating factors that complicate the outcome. These include the
opportunity or lack thereof for the trainee to apply the skills back on
the job. The actual level of application will vary according to a host
of workplace environment factors that I deal with elsewhere.
There is a final step in the causal chain leading toward
positive organizational results. This step is also not a given. Even if
the trainees do change their behavior back in the workplace as required
by the program, there is still no guarantee that the organization will
reap the benefits. There are mediating factors that can get in the way
of the desired results. For example, the amount of increase in product
sales resulting from training sales staff will depend on what the
opposition is doing in promoting their products in the marketplace.
Context is also important. If there is a sudden downturn in the market
because of a general economic recession, sales will go down instead of
The more sophisticated model of training takes account of all
of these variables. Why does this matter? It matters because if we
don't actively plan for and manage these factors when we design and
roll out our training programs, then we have no assurance that the
forces we need for success are moving in the right direction. And if
experience is any guide, if we don't organize our programs around these
factors, the universe is not so kind as to randomly manipulate them to
Some managers and trainers accept this more sophisticated view
of how training works, yet continue to act is if they believe the
"naïve" model. These people make all the right noises, yet subtly
sabotage the training process. Why? Acting in accordance with the
sophisticated view does require more time and resources. It also
requires everyone working closely together; executives, line managers,
instructional designers and trainers. For some, acting in sympathy with
the naïve view is the easier way out. Do not blame them for this. They
may be under resourced or have more urgent priorities on their agenda.
If this is the case, find out how you can help these people overcome
their hurdles, or delay the training until a more fortuitous time.
Others may not know how to apply the sophisticated model to
their training program design and rollout. They may not have the skills
to translate the model into the steps needed for success. For these
people, get them on side and demonstrate through your own practice what
needs to be done to get the most benefit from your training programs.
The above is a condensed adaptation from Leslie Allan's book,
Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance.
Copyright © Leslie Allan
About the Author
Leslie Allan is Managing Director of
Business Performance Pty Ltd; a management consulting firm specializing
in people and process capability. He has been assisting organizations
for over 20 years, contributing in various roles as project manager,
consultant and trainer for organizations large and small. Mr. Allan is
a prolific writer on business issues, with many journal and web
articles to his credit. He is also the author of five books on employee
capability, training and change management. His company's web site is a
rich source of information, advice and tools in a variety of business
and management areas. Visit Mr. Allan's Business Performance
web site to download trial versions of products, free
templates and introductory chapters. Authors Google+
Follow us @Scopulus_News
Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2013-05-16 09:06:20 in Employee Articles