Performance improvement: Is training the solution?

Recently, while presenting the learning capabilities of my organization to an august corporate audience, in due course I was describing the learner-centric approach when a very senior person from my organization asked how at the end it translates into business goals and if the focus is business goal (in dollar terms) then how it can be learner-centric?

The time constraint and the framework of expectation put forward by my boss withheld me from describing the systems approach where business goal defines the expected performance and identifies the gap in the first place, leading to the root cause analysis required to arrive at the solution which in this case is training. So, it is now focused on the learner to fill the knowledge or skill gap and if implemented successfully should address the business goal in turn, and be learner-centric at the same time. In this case, I tried my best to answer the question within the constraints I was in, and the answer I gave is not what I want to discuss here. I am visualizing the wider context within a corporate environment when the focus shifts from business goal to learner-centric approach to training.

I believe this happens exactly when we decide that training is the/one of the solution. Whatever the solution for a performance gap: lack of requisite knowledge/skill, demotivation, ill-defined business process, poor infrastructure facilities, or, communication gaps on the new changes, the performer or the learner is at the center of the entire performance improvement initiative and  does not stand alone in vacuum. There are many other elements like business processes, colleagues in the project, reporting boss/manager, reportée to the person, and so on. Also, there is the external business environment which defines the business goals and in turn the expected performance. It is a whole array of variables which requires attention before we can arrive at the conclusion that training is the solution.

The reason for the gap between the business goal and the expected performance to achieve that goal needs to be identified before we can definitively say that training is a solution. Any consultant in the field knows how difficult it is and what kind of adroitness (if I may use that term) is required to get all the data required from business to identify this before we arrive at the solution. Training is seldom a solution, let alone THE solution. When it is the solution there might still be a lot of other things in the environment that needs to be addressed to get the desired performance. For instance, when there is a migration from a legacy application to a new application, training is only part of the solution to achieve the business goal. In this case we will need to take care of motivation (to overcome resistance to the change), communication, user experience in the context of usability, and many other things.

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