Does Not Do ≠ Does Not Know
Just because an employee doesn’t do their job, it doesn’t necessarily mean they lack knowhow. There are myriad reasons employees don’t do what they’re supposed to do, and each reason requires a particular solution. Yet, some managers are quick to assume training is the "one size" that "fixes all" underperforming employees. That's just not the case.
Training is a particular solution for employees who "don’t know." But training cannot fix employees who "don't do" because of poor job design, wrong-fit hiring, unclear expectations, lack of coaching and feedback, low motivation, weak supervision, etc., etc.
For over a decade I’ve fielded training requests from managers whose employees were just not doing their jobs. And most of those requests involved employees whose underperformance was in fact due to a lack of knowledge or skills.
But some (many) of those frantic pleas were from managers whose employees knew darn well what was expected and how to do it, but they were either impeded by constraints beyond their control or unmotivated to do what they were capable of doing.
Below are two examples of actual training requests I received that illustrate this point:
* “Hi Don, this is Eric from Security. We’ve had a number of complaints about our security guards not wearing their hats on post and patrol. You got a training class on that?”
* “Don? This is Jane, the front desk manager from ____ hotel. I need your help! Our guest satisfaction scores dropped significantly, and the number one complaint is that our front desk is too slow. I need training that will help my staff speed up the check-in process.”
In the first example, there were a number of reasons security guards weren’t wearing their hats, not the least of which was that the uniform department had actually run out of certain hat sizes. But the primary reason guards weren't wearing their hats was simply that shift supervisors weren't holding them accountable to do so. Rather than confronting, coaching, or reprimanding the guards for not being in uniform, supervisors chose to overlook the issue and hope it would go away. It didn't.
In the second case, the primary factor that slowed down the guest check-in process was that guests needing to check in had to wait in the same line as quests asking lengthy questions about local attractions or making dining reservations for the hotel restaurant. The hotel had eliminated the concierge position and shifted concierge responsibilities to the front desk. The result: guest service and efficiency had become conflicting priorities.
Both of these issues were resolved by analyzing and addressing root causes of the performance discrepancies, not by spending time and money training employees to do what they already knew how to do. The key is to recognize when does not do does not equal does not know. And that is what performance consultants do best.