When Training Isn’t the Right Answer

Booking your team onto training courses is often seen as the solution whenever things have gone wrong or are not working well. However, staff training is not always the right solution.

I was recently asked to meet with Sally, the HR Manager of a large organisation, to discuss a training programme for a particular manager’s team. As Sally discussed the various issues with me it emerged that the team in question had already attended a number of training courses and knew what they were supposed to do. The root cause of the problem was not a lack of knowledge in the team but rather the failure of the team members to implement the knowledge.

This is a common problem, and all too often it is the trainer who is “blamed” for this. However, training is a partnership and requires the active support of the delegate’s line manager both before and after the training event. If line management support is not in place, then even the best training is likely to be of limited benefit.

When measuring training effectiveness Kirkpatrick’s four level evaluation model is often referred to. If we consider the first three levels of this model, then the responsibilities of the trainer and the line manager in making training effective become clear.

Level one of Kirkpatrick’s model is about the reaction of the delegates to the training. How valuable they felt the training was and did they enjoy the course. Course design plays a large role in this and so is directly under the influence of the trainer. However, even a well-designed course will not be seen as “useful” by delegates who don’t know why they are on the course, or have been sent to the wrong level of course. Managers need to speak to trainers to ensure the course is right for the delegates level and development needs, and to their delegate so they know why they are attending and what they are expected to gain.

Level two of the model is about learning. How much the delegates learned and whether the course objectives were achieved. Whilst learning can be measured during the course by the trainer and by the delegates, an accurate measurement on what has been learned will also rely on information gathered by the Line Manager comparing the amount of knowledge the delegate has before and after the training.

Level three of the model is behaviour. This looks at how the delegates apply the information. Behaviour can only change when conditions are favourable. And it is the line manager who is responsible for creating these favourable conditions by encouraging and supporting their delegates in practicing the new behaviours until they become habitual. This responsibility cannot be abdicated to a third party (such as to the HR department or the trainer).

So, as in Sally’s situation, there may not be a need for more staff training but rather a need for line managers to be trained in the effective support of their staff!