Is Training the Answer?

When employee performance issues come up, particularly in regard to customer service behaviors, organizations are quick to send their people off for training in order to fix the problem. Of course, I'm in the business of customer service training, so I'm all for employee education when it's appropriate.

Oftentimes, however, sending employees to a training class is a relatively easy alternative to holding those difficult conversations (coaching and counseling) or making difficult decisions (firing perpetually poor performers). In my consulting work I find that many organizations do a wonderful job of training employees on how to serve customers in ways that reflect the organization's brand. What I often find lacking is the communication, accountability, and support that must reinforce training when the employee is on the job.

When employee performance doesn't match expectations, it's important to look at what factors may be involved. Lack of training may be the issue, but it's just as likely that something else is afoot. Are the right people being hired? Do employees have the tools they need to do the job well? Is substandard performance corrected when it occurs? Is strong performance recognized and rewarded?

Here's a way to think about it: Imagine that you have an employee who isn't demonstrating a desired behavior and you say to him, "If you don't perform in this way, you're fired." If the employee still doesn't demonstrate the desired behavior, you may have a training problem. If you say to him, "If you don't perform in this way, you're fired," and the employee then does demonstrate the desired behavior, you have a motivation issue, and other leadership tactics become necessary.

The next time a performance issue occurs and you're tempted to send employees off to a training class, take a step back and ask, "Is training really the issue here?" My guess is that in some cases you'll decide that more training is not the solution; in fact more training may confuse the issue.

And if after asking, "Is training really the issue here?" you decide the answer is yes, customer service training is needed, by all means give me a call!

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