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To Train or Not to Train

This was originally posted on on October 15, 2018.

3 Scenarios Where Training Is Ineffective

Recently, we explained why training isn’t always the answer to workplace performance problems. Now let’s look at another dilemma: just because you can address certain behaviors with training doesn’t always mean you should. Sometimes training is ineffective and a different course of action is required.

Let’s look at three scenarios featuring concerns that could be addressed with training, but arguably shouldn’t be.

Training Scenario #1: Unqualified Umberto

Delia, a hiring manager, needs to hire a new mechanical possum engineer for Awesome Possum Corp. She interviews several qualified candidates with extensive experience in mechanical possum engineering, but the one she feels most drawn to is Umberto.

Umberto has an extensive background in mechanical duck engineering, but no education or experience in mechanical possum engineering. He’s missing several key qualifications. However, because Delia thinks Umberto would be such a great addition to the culture at Awesome Possum Corp, she’s thinking about hiring him anyway and training him in possum engineering as part of his onboarding.

Why shouldn’t Delia train Umberto? Onboarding training in a professional business setting isn’t usually designed to cover gaps in work experience. It’s not realistic for Delia to expect Umberto to pick up during the onboarding experience what normally takes years to learn. It makes more sense for Delia to hire one of the more experienced candidates than to invest time and resources into extensively training Umberto. If Umberto were the only candidate to apply for the job, then Delia would be more justified in bringing him on – though even in that case, it might be better for her to repost the job and try again, than hire someone who needs that much training.

Training Scenario #2: Trained Tara

Lauren is an Awesome Possum Corp executive. Her assistant accepted a position in another company, so Lauren hires a new assistant, Tara. Tara’s very personable and smart, and Lauren’s excited to work with her. The old assistant trains Tara on all the job duties before leaving.

Though Tara completes the training, afterward she really struggles. She’s great at person-to-person interactions, but she isn’t a very detail-oriented person, and she constantly forgets to forward Lauren’s calls to her. Lauren finds an online course about administrative work and wonders if she should purchase it for Tara.

Why shouldn’t Lauren train Tara? Tara’s already been trained! It looks like she simply may not fundamentally be a good fit for the job, so it doesn’t make sense for Lauren to invest in an online course. Lauren should instead put Tara on a performance improvement plan and coach her through it. If Tara doesn’t improve with individual coaching and clear expectations, Lauren will probably have to let her go.

Training Scenario #3: Misbehaving Marvin

Jack manages the Awesome Possum Corp sales team. He recently discovered that his top performer, Marvin, has been involved in some unethical selling practices for several years. Marvin admits that he suspected what he was doing was wrong, although he didn’t know for sure.

Marvin secures about 30% of Awesome Possum Corp’s contracts, so Jack doesn’t want to fire him. He instead scours the Internet looking for ethics and compliance training for Marvin. Jack figures that if Marvin takes compliance training, even if he doesn’t change, Awesome Possum Corp at least won’t be liable for Marvin’s behavior.

Why shouldn’t Jack train Marvin? Marvin’s been behaving unethically for years. If this were unintentional, it might make sense to give Marvin compliance training. (If Jack can find the right training, that is – studies show that traditional compliance training isn’t very effective.) However, it sounds like Marvin willfully chose not to consult with Jack about his behavior, and at this point, it’s unlikely that a single training will affect much change in Marvin. Even though Jack is more concerned about the optics of liability than about real change, Jack now knows can’t trust Marvin, and he needs to fire him.

In Conclusion

Training is an excellent tool, but sometimes it’s not the most effective way to address an issue. Some scenarios are better handled without training. If you’re unsure whether training will be an effective tool in your situation, you can always contact our learning experts to determine the right course of action.