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ASK, NOT TELL

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A broader view on training

Updated: Mar 13

I have attended a class by William Rothwell last Nov.  To me, the experience carried new perspective how I can look at training as a career.  Well, not an entirely new perspective, but the experience made the perspective more obvious to me.  In fact, I have been writing a number of posts on this realisation – ‘training’ is not just about speaking in the classroom.  It is about an attempt to change human performance.


In a specific ‘how to’ term, ‘training’ is about how to perform the responsibility to change human performance in the corporate setting.  It is about how to secure resources from the corporate budget.  It is about how to understand well and set a correct expectation what is the desired human performance change.  It is about how to maximize return with given resources.


Dr Rothwell outlines 9 steps in instructional design in his class (more steps in his subsequent publication).  Among all, there are a few steps which I find particularly relevant to myself.  Let me share my thought.


In the first step, Rothwell asks us to distinguish training needs from management needs.  In my understanding, management needs are those human performance issue which cannot be solved by training.  For example, an unmotivated sales cannot really become motivated by attending a training class.  Instead, modifying the reward arrangement is probably a better solution.   Basically training solves the issue of lacking skills and knowledge.  Other human performance issues include reward, system / process, resourcing, culture, etc


However, it is common that our business partners come to the training department for almost all human performance issues.  They may come to you and say, ‘We need a time management course!’ ‘Please arrange a business etiquette class within 3 months.’   Do these sound familiar to you?  Having said that, they cannot be blamed.  The Head of Sales is employed to sell, and may not be aware of the human performance concept.  It is in fact our responsibility (in the training department) or the HR people to tell the business partners the difference.


And here comes the practical problem – how to convince the business partners that they are wrong i.e. training is not a solution.  Rothwell suggested an interesting analogy – ‘If performance issue can be solved by pointing a gun to the staff members, training is not a solution.’  On the other hand, it all comes to our creditability.


Let me share other steps in the coming posts.

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