1- Lack of Alignment with Business Needs. A training program’s payoff comes from the business measures that drive it. Simply put, if a training program is not aligned or connected to a business measure, no improvement can be linked to the program. Too often, training is implemented for the wrong reasons – a trend, desire or perceived need that may not be connected to a business measure.
Initial training needs may be linked to the objectives and evaluation through the use of a consistent four-level concept. If we accept this evaluation framework, four corresponding levels of objectives and needs assessment exist as well. Without the business connection at Level 4, the program will have difficulty in credibly driving any business results
One major telecom firm in the USA faced this problem directly as they reviewed its corporate university’s major programs. A first step to check for business alignment was to connect core courses to some business measure or need based on perceptions of the corporate university staff. When the staff could not readily make the connection, they determined the linkage did not exist. The company needed a more detailed up-front analysis.
2- Failure to Recognize Non-Training Solutions. If the wrong solution is implemented, little or no payoff will result.
Too often, training is perceived as a solution for a variety of performance problems when training may not be an issue at all. A recent evaluation of a leading bank’s major training program illustrated this problem. In its training program, the bank attempted to prepare the commercial loan officers (relationship managers) to sell products other than commercial loans, such as the bank’s capital market products and cash management services. But the training produced little change in the managers’ behavior. An impact study subsequently revealed that the culprit was the compensation arrangement. When probed for a reason for the poor results, the bankers clearly indicated that unless their compensation system changed to account for the new product lines, their behavior would not change. They will continue to sell only the products on which their commissions were based.
Attempting to solve job performance issues with training will not work when factors such as reward systems, job design, and motivation are the real issues. To overcome this problem, training staffs must focus on methods to analyze performance rather than conduct traditional training needs assessments – a major shift in performance improvement that has been developing for many years.
Up-front analysis should be elevated from needs assessment, which is based on skills and knowledge deficiencies, to a process that begins with business needs and works through the learning needs.
3 – Lack of Specific Direction and Focus. Training and development should be a focused process that allows stakeholders to concentrate on desired results. Training and development objectives should be developed at higher Kirkpatrick levels than traditional learning objectives. These objectives correspond with six measures that lead to a balanced approach to evaluating training’s success. Most training programs should contain objectives at multiple levels, ideally including those at levels 3 and 4.
When developed properly, these objectives provide important direction and focus for a variety of stakeholders at different time frames. For designers and developers, the objectives provide needed insight to focus on application and impact, not just learning. The facilitators need detailed objectives to prepare individuals for the learning experience’s ultimate outcome: job performance change.
Participants need the direction provided by level 3 and 4 objectives to clearly see how the training program’s outcome will actually help the organization. Sponsors of training and development, the key clients who pay for the program and support it, require such objectives to connect training with important business-unit measures. Finally, evaluators use this type of direction to know what data to collect to determine whether the program has been successful.
Recognizing the importance of multiple objective levels, including business impact, a vice president of corporate training and development at a major package delivery company recently posed an important question to the organization: “How can we expect our management team to support a program when we cannot define the behavior expected from participants and the subsequent business impact driven by the program?”
While not all programs should undergo such detailed up-front analysis, it is a critical issue that needs more attention.
By Jack and Patti Phillips