“If they can do it with a gun at their head, they don’t need training”. It’s an old saying. And it’s true. Don’t use training to “fix” performance problems. Most performance problems occur because employees “won’t” or “don’t” do, not because they “can’t” do. Training is needed only when employees “don’t know and can’t do”.
Genuine Training Needs Testing
If you need to conduct on job training, you need to conduct on job testing. And you need to test both before and after. Testing before and after will save you time, money and frustration.
Testing Before Training
Test before you train to establish whether the employee is already competent. Few things are more frustrating and demotivating for employees than to be to receive on job training in something they can already do. You demotivate and aggravate the employee. You spend money needlessly. And you get frustrated when trainees react negatively.
Test After Training
There is only one sure way to find out whether your training has been successful: testing. It doesn’t matter what employees tell you. It doesn’t matter how well they answer questions either in writing or orally. What matters is whether, at the end of the training, they can do what they couldn’t do at the start of it: what the training was designed to achieve.
If, at the end of the training, the “trainee” can’t do what the training was designed to achieve, the training has failed.. And if the training’s failed, the responsibility usually lies squarely on the shoulders of the trainer. Sorry to say so. But that’s the reality. Don’t blame the trainee. The “trainee” hasn’t failed.
On job training fails for two basic reasons. The trainee didn’t need the training because he or she was already competent. The training was poorly designed. It boils down to that. In either case you end up with a demotivated employee, a frustrated trainer and a big hole in your budget. Failure costs lots, whatever the reason for failure.
To test effectively, ask only two questions
- What will the trainee be able to do at the end of the training that they couldn’t do at the start?
- What will the trainee need to know in order to be able to do what’s specified in point 1?
It really is that simple. But there are some “traps for young players’.
In specifying what the trainee must be able to do, use only “action” verbs: verbs that enable you to measure, beyond reasonable doubt, what the trainee can do. Avoid completely verbs that are fuzzy or imprecise. These include verbs such as “understand”, “appreciate”, “imply”, “comprehend” or any verb that doesn’t enable you to measure performance. That’s the basic technique to follow.
Testing And Performance Standards
Put another way, your testing specifies the required performance standards. But remember, you’re training for a “whole job”, not just a few skills included in the total job. You’re “able to do” statements are really performance standards. They should relate to all the competencies involved. That means doing the “whole job” well. “Before” testing may reveal that some trainees are competent at some skills but not others. That reduces your costs and your time.
Testing And Training Design
You’ve probably noticed by now that your competency tests form the basis of your overall training design. Design your training so that trainees can “pass” the tests. It’s all part of the overall perspective.
On job training without testing is like eating without tasting. You know you’ve eaten something but you can’t distinguish it from anything else you’ve eaten. And you wouldn’t recognize it if you ate the same thing again. Testing is integral to training. Otherwise training is an indigestible sludge.
What To Do Now
Resolve never to undertake on job training again without designing before and after testing. Pose that testing on this question. “What will the trainee be able to do at the end of the training?”