“Will Training Help?”

ID-10021481Again this week, I’m taking my cues from a discussion on the Chief Learning Officer LinkedIn group page.  The discussion centered on what skills are required of an instructional designer (ID). What struck me this time, however, was not the main question but one person’s response. He said a required skill that an ID needs is the ability to “Look at the problem deeply and ask, ‘Will training help?’”

“Look at the Problem Deeply”

Both parts of that statement are important. The first part is “look at the problem deeply.” Critical thinking is a skill needed by IDs, trainers, and business managers of all kinds. What is critical thinking? It’s reflective, disciplined, purposeful reasoning with a goal of making a methodical, logical judgment.

The second part of the question is equally important: Will training help? That is a key question that anyone tied to training should be asking before any education program begins. Will the right training solve or resolve the perceived problem?

Earlier this year, we wrote up the UNC Health Care case study about a tool that helps them link education to business outcomes. During an interview, Marilyn Pearson Morales, UNC Health Care Director of Nursing Professional Development, Practice and Research from 2006–2012, brought up an excellent point. A trainer needs to know how to distinguish a performance issue from an education issue. She rightly pointed out, “In many organizations, if someone is not performing then the first assumption is that they need to be reeducated. From there, it often grows to the belief that everyone needs to be reeducated on X  because of one incident or one person’s inability to perform.”

Easy Assumptions Lead to Faulty Solutions

Why does that assumption happen so quickly and, often, exponentially? Morales has a theory, “From a management perspective, it’s the easiest choice because it becomes the educator’s problem to solve. As an educator, I have to stop and ask is this really an educational problem? If not, then we’re putting a lot of money into the wrong bucket for the organization. We’re throwing time and resources in the wrong direction.”

How do you get around those wrong-headed assumptions? When we worked with UNC Health Care, a step of the program ensured that the trainers and business managers asked the question: Is this a behavior that can be impacted by education? Morales says, “We found that question to be a very early mechanism for knowing if something was an educational issue or not.”

Before starting a training program, do you ask if training will help? Do you apply critical thinking to the training issues faced by your organization? Tell us in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Will training help? If you have trouble answering that question, contact eParamus.
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