We have a saying around here when something doesn’t get done: Was it a case of Will? Or Skill? Meaning, did the person know how to do the thing and decide she didn’t want to? Or did the person want to complete the task but didn’t have the skill?
All business activities have an element of required training. Whether that training was received years before the current task or given annually as a refresher, at some point, everyone has to learn.
Any project in an organization is going to catalyze change, and change requires training.
Sometimes the change is subtle, the shift of a task from one role to another, the use of one font instead of another on a template. Sometimes the change is huge – payment collection from a customer, data extraction for a specific report, or the way your customer experiences your website.
Any time a change occurs, the people affected need to be trained how to do the new process, how to read the new data, how to operate the new software, or how to communicate the change to the other stakeholders in the business.
Often, employees need to learn all of these things. Even though the need for training is recognized, it is often downgraded as the side item of tech firms and consultancies. It’s the piece they barely sell. It’s the “with fries” addition or the “supersize” part of a deal. Over and over our clients tell us they can’t sell training. And because training isn’t sold, it isn’t actually done.
Like the supersized fries, training is often abandoned as the budget becomes bloated and executives move on to tastier, newer treats.
The problem with training is evidence. Training professionals turn themselves inside out looking for ways to produce return on investment (ROI). They do everything from administering graded exams to measuring the progress of class alumni through the organization. One of our trainers discovered that her new-hire classes had a 30% higher retention rate than employees in the company who were trained by someone else.
Trainers can measure anything they want. They can predict success, tell stories of achievement, and try to convince executives of the importance of early involvement, immersion, and practice. In the end, though, training takes time away from customers, requires resources that could be used in other capacities, and has little more than anecdotal evidence to show for its effectiveness.
So, if not for evidence, why train?
Change is painful. It makes people uncomfortable, leaves the organization vulnerable to errors, and risks customer dissatisfaction. Change can discourage good employees and frustrate competent contributors. The only salve for the kind of pain suffered by change is knowledge.
Change Management experts will tell you that employees must be aware of the change, recognize the need for it, and have an understanding of what’s expected of them. These three elements can all be conveyed through proper training. How can you not sell training when the reason for doing it is to make the coming changes easier on everyone?
All change requires some level of training. If you’re assuming your people have the skills to weather the change, ask yourself if that’s a gamble you’re willing to take. Training can address not just the skill to enact the change, but the will to do so as well.
Done well, training can be your Change Management ace in the hole, a true no-risk investment.