Companies often throw training at employee performance problems. In an effort to correct the problem, management will decide that what these poor performers need is training. But unless poor performance is caused by a real lack of knowledge or skill, training will have little or no effect on the problem. So, how do you know when training is the remedy?

The following tool—a Performance Assessment Checklist—just might help you save your training department time and your company money. This checklist is designed to determine the true cause(s) of the performance problem, and, in turn, how best to correct it.

To apply this checklist to your organization, you might want to create your own sub-questions in order to discover what is really occurring in the department. For example, ask the employee’s manager exactly how performance is measured in the department. Does the company have standardized performance review forms to guide managers through the process, or are they left to their own devices?

The scenario (from Part I)
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.

In Part I, we asked you to think about what questions you might ask Ms. Ray in order to determine what is causing the performance problem in her department. What do you think? Is training the remedy?

Is training the answer?
In our scenario, Ms. Ray completed the Performance Assessment Checklist for each consultant. After answering the questions, Ms. Ray received an overall assessment of her department’s need for training. Take a look below at what is discovered about her group’s performance:

The problem, then, is caused by a lack of measurement and financial incentives. Even if Ms. Ray’s request for training were filled, these two factors would not improve. Training would not resolve the performance problems in Ms. Ray’s department

Keep in mind that the Performance Assessment Checklist will not help you assess the quality of training—that’s a whole different ballgame. What the checklist will do is help determine whether training is the solution to the performance issue(s) at hand. By helping to determine the underlying factor(s) causing the decline in performance, you become a key player in the company’s effort to boost performance.

Susanne E. Krivanek is a training coordinator/analyst for Systems & Computer Technology Corp. , Education Solutions Division, which specializes in the development of software product training and certification programs. She has a training background in brokerage software, office applications, and business entrepreneurship, and she speaks on maximizing training effectiveness.