It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no…it’s SuperTrainer! Sometimes it seems as if training professionals are thought of as the superheroes who can fight all corporate evils and leap over any obstacle in a single bound. In reality, training can’t combat all evil—there are many factors that affect employee performance that even SuperTrainer or training itself can’t improve.

Factors that affect employee performance
In reaction to poor performance issues, companies will sometimes offer their employees top-notch training that has little or no effect on the participants’ job performance. Management may blame the ineffectiveness of the training on the training program or the trainer, when in fact the training effort was not the correct resolution to the problem in the first place. If training is definitely not the answer, the trainer must identify the root cause (or causes) of the problem and pass this information on to management. Easier said than done.

Before we, as trainers, are able to make recommendations, we must first look at the factors that affect employee performance.

Factors that affect employee performance
Factors: To meet “satisfactory” or “exceeds” performance goals, an employee should have:
Ability The capacity to learn and perform the tasks required
Standards Expectations to achieve and guidelines by which to achieve them
Knowledge and Skill The information and expertise necessary to perform the job
Feedback Feedback from management that effectively communicates the status of the person’s performance, based on measurable guidelines and tools
Environment Acceptable working conditions, such as enough time and equipment to perform the job effectively
Motivation Incentives in place that positively reinforce good performance

Although all of these factors are crucial to an employee’s success on the job, only one aspect—knowledge and skill—can actually be improved by training. If any of the other factors are the cause of decreased performance, management or other forces in the organization must institute the changes necessary to resolve the problem.

Why not just go along with the training effort anyway?
It couldn’t hurt, right? It’s job security! This is a dangerous attitude to adopt, however, because if the training effort does not improve employee performance, the most noticeable result is damage to your credibility. When management does not see the improvement desired, they will most likely blame it on YOU.
Most trainers will, at some point in their career, experience the blame game from management. It’s YOUR fault the employees are still experiencing performance issues. As trainers, we may know it’s not our fault, but management may not agree. Do you have a story you’d like to share or have suggestions on how you handled your situation? If you do, please post your comments at the bottom of this page.
How can you prevent this from happening?
One approach is to review a performance assessment checklist with the problem employee’s manager, which may help uncover one or more of the factors causing the decline in the person’s performance. If the source of the problem does not involve a lack of knowledge or skill, it’s crucial to get this out in the open before the company wastes a large sum of time and money to train the individual.

What if the manager wants the employee to go ahead with training anyway?
Even if you help the person’s supervisor discover the factors affecting the situation, some managers may still deny that it can be anything but a lack of skill. In this case, the performance assessment checklist becomes a means to back your credibility if and when the training effort fails to produce results—A.K.A. covering your assets.
Ms. Ray, Manager of the Consulting Services Group at ABC Corporation, has noticed a decline in her group’s overall performance in the past 6 months. The customer surveys indicate that consultants are not meeting objectives and sometimes have poor working relationships with clients. She has come to you, the trainer, since she feels they may need a refresher course in the areas of consulting and customer-relations skills. Ms. Ray is convinced that by the end of the training, consultants will have a fresh outlook and be better able to provide clients with the information they need.
Your instructions
What questions would you have to ask Ms. Ray in order to determine which factor(s) are causing this dilemma in her department? Would training be her answer? Think about these questions and stay tuned for next week’s Part II, when we’ll take a look at a performance assessment checklist. We will then apply the checklist to our example. The checklist only takes about 20 minutes to complete and can make a world of difference in the effectiveness of your training department.