How a Successful Training Program can Fail Your Company

Say you've identified a performance issue, analyzed the underlying causes of the gap, and developed a training program to address the gap. You've launched a pilot of the program that was met with a great response from the participants. After the program, you observe the pilot participants' behavior on the job and talk to their managers. The unanimous response is that your program changed their behavior for the better. Sound like a successful program, right? And it is. It just may not spell a success for the business.

There is a step many organizations forget to take when they recognize a performance issue: business analysis. Often as soon as we notice an issue, we jump to solve it. We create wonderful training programs and they do indeed solve the issue. But we forget to look at the issue in terms of the business goals. We need to first ask, what effect is this issue having on our goals? How will solving this issue help us reach our goals? What will it cost us to ignore this issue? What will it cost us to solve it? Is it worth it?

Years ago, I worked in the training department of an organization that was very responsive to any performance issues presented by management. As soon as an issue came to light, we immediately developed a training solution. Our classes were well-attended, fun, engaging, and loved by the employees. The training created behavior change and addressed most of the performance issues. Sounds like a success, right? As a department responding to the needs of the areas we supported, we were an absolute success. As a department supporting the business, we failed. We increased the speed at which agents answered customer questions, but the organization's goal was to focus on upselling. We decreased fee reversals, but the organization's goal was to increase customer loyalty. Our efforts were actually counter to the end goals of the organization.

An analysis of the business goals would have helped us determine where to focus our training and development dollars, how to craft our incentives, and which issues to address to give us the greatest bang for our buck. Without it, we not only focused on solving problems that had little effect on the bottom line and made little difference at the end of the day, but also undermined the actual goals of the organization.