Is it Worth it?

Not to beat up on my own industry, but training cannot address all performance problems. In fact, it cannot even address most performance problems. On average, most studies indicate that only 10 to 20 percent of employee performance problems can be addressed through training. That's because training can only address one component of the performance model: undeveloped competencies (i.e., knowledge and skills). There are many other components to consider in the performance model, such as organizational constraints, environmental constraints (equipment and facilities), employee motivation/attitudes and poor communication of job expectations. When looking at something for which companies spend over $300 billion annually in North America alone1, the 10 to 20 percent impact of training doesn't seem like much. But in today's ultra-competitive marketplace, can anyone afford to lose 10 to 20 percent productivity? How about 10 to 20 percent of satisfied customers?

Stepping back, it may be necessary for fleets to do a "needs analysis" and/or "gap analysis" to determine if a training solution would be effective. For smaller fleets, this can be a self-analysis that may require only a few good resource materials to perform properly. Larger fleets may want to hire a performance consultant. The process generally includes the following2:

  • Setting company goals and objectives (e.g., "increase on-time deliveries by 10 percent over the next six months");
  • Setting service department goals and objectives (e.g., "reduce the number of hard start/no start comebacks by 15 percent over the next six months");
  • Determining acceptable employee performance standards;
  • Measuring current performance against the standards;
  • Determining why current performance is not meeting the standard (filtering out factors that cannot be "trained away"—lack of equipment, substandard facilities, not enough staff, poor direction from supervisors, etc.);
  • Performing a "gap analysis" if the performance problem is at least partly due to substandard knowledge and skill levels; and
  • Recommending a plan to improve performance.

The gap analysis is can include surveys, observation and interviews with both the employee and supervisor. This can be an eye-opening experience. In general, you are seeking to answer the following questions:

  • Does the employee need this knowledge or skill to meet performance requirements?
  • Does the employee feel he or she has mastered the knowledge or skill?
  • Does the supervisor feel the employee has exhibited the knowledge or skill in the past?
  • Can training or coaching increase the knowledge or skill level?

You may find an expensive training solution is not required, or does not make sense from a Return-on-Investment standpoint. For minor gaps in procedural knowledge, for example, a simple job aid may suffice. If the problem only has a minor effect on short- and long-term profitability, and the cost of training exceeds the benefit, investigate other business solutions.

If training is determined to be required, the next step is to find a reputable company that specializes in training for that knowledge and skill area. In general, be wary of training delivered by component and tool manufacturers. An after-hours session by a manufacturer of injector cleaning kits, for example, may be inexpensive, but most training of this type winds up being 25 percent content and 75 percent sales pitch.

The performance problems approach to determining training needs is, of course, a reactive approach. Be aware that fleet operators must also take a proactive approach to training. Looking down the road at new products, new technology, new environmental regulations or even new processes/procedures may reveal training needs for getting to "where you want to be."

1 Source: Center for Effective Performance (Atlanta, GA).

2 Many thanks to the ATMC publication: Return on Instructional Investment—A Process for Measuring Effectiveness