Learning and Development: Don’t Train On Everything

By Emerson Associate Director, Chris Harper

Bussiness man overwhelmed by training

A couple of years ago, I worked on a Learning and Development effort for a major retailer’s new financial system. It was the largest ERP implementation in their history. I’d be a very wealthy man if I had a nickel for every time I heard my client say things like:

  • “We have to train them on that.”
  • “That’s a training issue.”
  • “We have to include that in training.”
While I appreciated the client’s zeal and passion for developing employees, they didn’t realize what they were asking for. If they trained their users on every aspect of a new system before go-live, employees would be over-worked and – worse – unfocused. They would spend way too much time in training, away from their work. And they wouldn’t be able to apply what they had learned in the context of their jobs. In other words, they wouldn’t know how to deliver the behaviors on which the ERP business case depended.

Instead of training the employees on EVERYTHING, we helped the client see that they needed to look at three factors to decide what to train. We call them the three C’s.

Critical: These are the most important behaviors employees need to perform - typically their core job responsibilities. Ask your stakeholders to answer questions like: What are the most important things for employees in this role to do? What are the essentials? What drives the performance of their team or business unit?

Common: These are the most frequent behaviors employees display - the things they must do routinely to successfully complete their work. Ask your stakeholders to answer questions like: What will the employee need to do most often? What are the everyday tasks?

Catastrophic: These are the behaviors that, if done incorrectly, would have a significant negative effect on the business. If the employee got these tasks wrong, the department or function would suffer. Ask your stakeholders questions like: What will shut down the business? What would open you up to lawsuits or employee injury?

If you can get your stakeholders to agree on these elements, you will focus your training development efforts in the right places. You will help the organization deliver on the project’s business case and get the greatest bang for their training buck!

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