Information Gap

If you've been reading this column regularly, you should now know that training cannot fix every employee performance problem. In fact, according to many sources, about 80 percent of employee performance problems cannot be addressed through training.

There is a tendency in the fleet maintenance industry to assume that any vehicle concerns that regularly do not get fixed correctly must be due to a lack of training. Even if the fleet manager rules out external factors—such as company policies, lack of motivation or rewards, work environment and lack of equipment—there may be one additional step to take.

A common mistake among fleet maintenance managers is to assume an employee has a knowledge or skill gap when it is really just an "information gap." While it is true that "knowledge is power," it is not true that "information is knowledge." Knowledge must be learned or acquired. Information is a necessary element in acquiring knowledge, but information doesn't necessarily have to be learned. In many cases, it just needs to be available.

I can think of an instance at my place of employment where I sent one of my training developers to a computer software seminar. He returned from the seminar with a user manual for the software, began working with the new product, and told me, "If you'd just ordered me the user manual, I wouldn't have needed the training."

I hadn't taken the time to assess this employee's core computer skills. If I had, it would have become clear that only the new information in the user manual was needed—there were not any new skills or knowledge to be acquired. The employee already had the core skills and knowledge to apply the new steps and procedures in the manual.

Of course, the flip side is also true. I've been to many training classes where all the instructor does is provide the student with piles of information. Remember, training is only effective if it transfers knowledge and skills that affect behaviors on the job. If it just moves information from the instructor's hands (or head) to the student's hands, it isn't training.

Before making decisions on sending employees to training, fleet managers should ask:

  • Are there new skills or knowledge that the employee must acquire to perform a job task correctly? (Or could they perform the job if just given new or corrected information?)
  • Do the new tasks to be done require practice, analysis, application or problem-solving skills that the employee currently doesn't have? (Or are there just new procedures?)
  • Are the technical items to be learned, such as new vehicle systems, truly new and different? (Or are they just new applications of existing technology?)

If you can answer "yes" to the first part of any of the above, training is still a possible solution. If you answer "yes" to the part in parentheses, there is likely just a need for information.

Sometimes, the information gap exists because the documents or job aids required simply aren't available (difficult to find, too expensive, outdated, etc.). That is a problem, but not a training problem. Most times, the employee just needs coaching on where and how to find the required information.