Saturday, March 15, 2008

Training vs. Performance Support

Having recently taken on the CLO role (in addition to my role as the Director, Customer Experience) at my company, I was faced once again with the need to accelerate the potential of the training team. I inherited a group of instructor-led classroom training professionals that provided three types of 'training'. They provided technical instruction that covered the primary areas of Operations and the programs that we sell. They delivered 'soft skills' training to customer-facing employees (and a few internal-only people). They delivered motivational presentations. They put a curriculum together for every position and measured success by the percentage of the curriculum that was completed by each employee and by the number of employees that attended each class. Of course, these were very complimentary goals because forcing someone to take all of the assigned classes ensured positive 'butts in seats' numbers as well. But what happened when an employee needed to enhance some knowledge or skill immediately and that class was not scheduled? This team was sharp enough to realize that they also needed to be available to sit with employees to provide that just-in-time assistance.

I needed to do two things very quickly:
  1. This team was full of wonderful people and we needed to fully take advantage of their skills and knowledge across all areas within our parent company. This meant that we needed to organize the existing 42 classes and fully flesh them out so that these 11 trainers could advertise their offer and become fully leveraged.
  2. We needed to identify methods by which we could quickly put answers in the hands of our employees without making them wait for a training class or for a trainer to become available and sit with them.
It took three weeks to accomplish number 1. and the results of that effort will be shared with the leaders of the training organizations at our sister companies this coming week. The trainers created pre tests so that employees who did not need the training could place out of it and stay productive (keep on working). They created post tests so that we could measure an increase of knowledge 30-45 days after training (based on an increase between the pre-test and post-test scores, if any). They created job aids for the students' bosses so that the bosses would know the learning and performance objectives of each class and could hold the students accountable for using what was learned on the job. (The company has also recently beefed up our performance measurement with a more robust set of KPIs that I will monitor pre and post training to reach a Kirkpatrick level three measure of the team's effectiveness.) All of the class materials have been stored in a folder on a shared drive along with an overview so that anyone can pick up and deliver the course with only a little homework to prepare. This also cut down on all travel as there are trainers in each of the three main cities in which we have Operations and Sales groups.

The second objective has taken more work to realize and we must also get IT's approval, which is always interesting. Because people learn different ways we must provided a blended approach to increasing knowledge and improving skills (training ONLY improves gaps in knowledge and skill - see my blog on Gilbert's Model). Not every knowledge gap is also best filled by attending an instructor-led course. Some information should be at the employees' fingertips at all times. Some employees know what to do, but not how to effectively do it. They simply need to see it done right a few times until they master the skill themselves. Employees also need access to experts, and no trainer can be an expert on everything. Finally, we need to expand the offering beyond the line employees and help the leaders effectively do their job. Many people are sent to training to be 'fixed', but training does not fix 'broken' people. Leaders must learn how to identify the root cause of performance problems, and leaders must take ownership of developing their employees. The training team is a support team and our customers are the team leaders and executives. We should not do their job for them.

I am presently working with the trainers to develop skills in the following areas (which will help us realize the second goal):
  • Subject Matter Expert Created Content
    • Enterprise Wiki - a searchable database of information that is updated in real time by the employees (and confirmed for accuracy weekly by assigned experts who have the final say)
    • Behavior Model Video - the video shows an expert executing the skill well (e.g. pre-positioning to prevent a common sales objection) and the attached job aid outlines the steps that were viewed
    • Screencasts - Flash-based software tutorials that demonstrate 'how to' use key functionality in 30 to 60 second clips
    • Facilitated Case Study - the 'students' review a deal prior to the session and identify issues; they share, discuss, and debate the issues during the session; the facilitator types up the documented agreements and sends them to the students and the students' bosses (collectively the group knows more than the trainer/facilitator)
  • Trainer Created Content
    • Self-Paced Training - whether a workbook or a web-based module, the trainer bases the content of the self-directed materials on job analyses (only facts and decisions are taught this way)
    • Job Aid - a quick how-to reference guide (not an FAQ) for common skills that employees should post on the walls of their cubicles
    • Instructor-Led Class - some topics require the opportunity to interact with others, practice the new skill in a safe environment, and to get feedback on that performance
  • Special Learning Activities
    • Assessment - valid and reliable test of soft skills, aptitude, and/or capacity that might be a self-assessment, boss-assessment, or 360 degree-assessment followed by an interpretive feedback session
    • Individual Development Plan or Performance Improvement Plan - specific improvements are defined and documented along with the steps that the employee agrees to take to execute the plan (and improve)
    • Coach - based upon a specific interpersonal skill gap a weaker employee (protégé) is partnered up with a stronger employee (mentor) and their interactions are guided by a plan such as the IDP above
    • Developmental Assignment - most learning comes from doing and evaluating the results of our decisions and actions (both successes and mistakes) so employees are put into roles on projects, etc. where they are forced to excel in the area that needs to be developed


blair said...

That sounds very comprehensive. Is that an approach/model you've used successfully in the past?

Darin Phillips said...

Yes, this is very similar to my team's approach while I was at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.