Sunday, April 6, 2014

The 3 Things You Need To Maximize Employee Performance

I am a corporate trainer because I enjoy communicating, problem-solving, leading, and helping people get better at what they do.   When I can provide the knowledge and skill development that employees need to do their jobs better, I know I've helped both the employees and the organization achieve their best.  

I also know that when performance needs to be improved, training is not always the answer.

For that reason, it should make perfect sense that I'm the first to object when the bosses send people for training when training is not the solution to the problem. And very often, it isn't.

I have a diagram that I use to explain how this works.  Here it is (see below).

In my experience, many organizations default to ordering more training for staff whenever they have a performance issue.  Employees aren't productive enough? Make them attend a webinar or go to a class. I call that the "Using Training As Duct Tape Approach."  It puts a patch on the problem, and then when the patch doesn't hold, everyone blames the Training Department... and orders new training.

I first drew this diagram during a corporate conference in Las Vegas.  I was the only training designer sitting at a table full of managers. I was asked the question, "How are we supposed to meet our numbers when the company doesn't provide enough training for our staff?"

I sympathized with their plight and asked a few clarifying questions before I said, "Did you know that training is only one third of the answer to better employee performance?"  I pulled out my conference agenda and drew three intersecting circles in the margin. "Training can only give people knowledge and skills -  the know-how."  I tapped one of the circles.  "But people also need the know-why.  They need to be given reasons that will motivate them to apply the knowledge they learn in training."  

I tapped the second circle.  "Motivating people is a separate issue than training, because training involves engaging people's brains, but motivating involves reaching their hearts.  A person who is trained, but not motivated, will continue to operate at levels just as low as before training happened."  

I tapped the third circle. "Suppose you have trained and motivated people.  They should be superstars, right?  Not if they're missing what's in this third circle. Aside from being trained and motivated, they also need to be equipped to do their jobs.  That means they need a full range of the tools and systems necessary to perform.  Those tools and systems need to be simple, available, and understandable."

"Training can train a person how to do their job better, but if part of doing that job means having to use clumsy tools, or inaccurate and unwieldy systems, then performance will still be a problem no matter how much training takes place. Worse still, if the right tools and systems don't even exist to empower or measure performance, then all the training in the world will be a waste of time."

I met the eyes of the managers around the table.  "Which of these do you think your staff is really lacking?  Training, Motivating, or Equipping?"  As they thought it over, I went on to say, "I would love to brainstorm with you about any actual missing training that is needed for your teams.  But I know the skills and knowledge that your folks need, and I know the programs we offer, and there are no real gaps there.  So your teams probably need either Equipping, or Motivating."

The managers were staring at my little circles.  One of them ventured, "Can't you do motivational trainings to motivate employees?"  I smiled and said, "We can add motivational content into our training courses -- and we do.  We can tell people the reasons we think it makes sense for them to do what we are training them to do.  We can explain and justify and promote those reasons, and hope that they will take away enough rationale to get them started.  But motivation mostly happens outside of training time.  Motivation..." I paused and surveyed the table.  "Motivation needs to come from you." 

What do you think of my little drawing?  Does it ring true for your situation at work?  Leave a comment and let me know!  

I'll be adding more to the diagram in my next post, The Easiest Way To Diagnose Performance Issues.  To be continued...



  1. Beth u have empty space outside the red line. I would add a word or two in that space maybe how the objective is met one word that comes to mind is communication another is listening. Hope that works for u

    1. Welcome, Andrea! That's a great suggestion. Listening and communication are definitely necessary. You are remarkably close to guessing the additions I will make to the diagram in my next post! Keep watching for the next installment. Thanks for your comment.