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When Training is NOT the Answer

to train or not to trainYou might think it odd that a company that sells training is telling you not to train.  Although training is extremely useful in onboarding and development, it is not always the answer to underperformance.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen managers waste time and money on training that is not going to fix the problem.  What do you do when you have an underperformer?  How do you know when training is NOT the answer?

You must diagnose the underlying reason for underperformance.  It’s all a function of willingness and ability.  Willingness is one’s inclination or favorable disposition to act.  Do they want to do a good job?  Ability is one’s competence at doing, or their skill.  Do they know how to do the job?

The ‘Willing and Unable’ employee is someone that wants to do a good job, but does not have the skill.  This is someone that would benefit from training.  A new hire would fall into this category.  This person is excited about their new job and would benefit from initial training during onboarding to ensure they have all the skills to meet expectations.  You can also train someone with experience just to be sure there are no gaps in their knowledge.  This way you’re ensuring your entire team has been trained on the same message. Training would also be relevant when you add a new job task or responsibilities to an employee's role. You can also train and develop someone for career advancement.  In all of these situations, the employee is 'Willing' yet simply 'Unable' until trained.

The ‘Unwilling and Able’ employee is someone that you have determined has the skill.  They have already been trained, whether at onboarding or after, but they are still not meeting expectations.  Generally, these are the folks that we personally like, or we would have let them go already.  We tend to describe them with a ‘BUT’.  For example, “Sam is such a nice guy…but he only hits his activity goal every few months.”  “Carrie has a smile for every person she meets…but she makes no effort to complete the Weekly Activity Planner for our meetings each week.”

More training is not the answer for the ‘Unwilling and Able’.  We’ve confirmed that they have been trained on what to do, now it’s just a matter of doing it (or willingness).  The first place to start with this employee is coaching.  Generally, the lack of willingness of the employee is a matter of preference.  In our example above, Carrie does not prefer detailed work, so she does other things than filling out the Weekly Activity Planner.  She is likely doing the activities, but just not filling out the form for your meeting. In this case, you would explain to Carrie why filling out the Weekly Activity Planner is important. Help her brainstorm on some ideas that would help her to get this task done.  In the end though, be clear with her that it is a non-negotiable task of her job, and you would hate for it to affect her job when she does everything else so well.

Every weak link on your team can hinder your chance to reach your goals and increase revenue for your organization.  It’s important to correctly diagnose underperformance and address it with the appropriate management tactic.  Ask these questions:

  • Does the employee know how to do what s/he is expected to do?
  • Has someone told the employee s/he is not doing it right?
  • Does the employee know that s/he is expected to do it?
  • Has s/he ever done it correctly?
  • Would s/he want to do it correctly, if s/he could?

When training is NOT the answer, focus on coaching and performance improvement to save time and money.


Check out these free tools to set up an impressive new hire orientation and training program for your sales rep or recruiter.

Orientation Schedule for Staffing Sales    DOWNLOAD

Orientation Schedule for Staffing Recruiters   DOWNLOAD

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