By Dick Handshaw, President, Handshaw, Inc.
This has been a challenging year for internal training departments. Our company has seen many organizations go through major reorganizations in 2012. And with every reorganization, we have seen layoffs of trainers and instructional designers. Where is the role of performance consulting in these organizations? In many cases, it has been difficult to find evidence of a performance improvement effort.
It’s clear that many organizations are trying to cut costs by moving people around and reducing headcount. This is neither a new nor innovative strategy. A better idea might be to reduce the number of “Band-Aid” or “check in a box”-type training programs that are developed and only develop training for training goals that can be linked to business goals. This is the role of performance improvement, to link training goals to strategic business goals. This would dramatically reduce the amount of time productive employees spend away from work attending training classes or sitting through e-learning programs and increase the quality of training programs that contribute directly to the achievement of strategic business goals.
Perhaps the answer to why this isn’t happening is because there is some personal risk involved on the part of those who choose to practice performance improvement instead of being an “order-taker” for any training request that comes their way. We are sticking our necks out when we offer to be responsible for affecting outcomes rather than completing activities. This also might have something to do with the fact that many organizations rarely follow up training initiatives with any kind of data gathering to see if any of the desired results were achieved. Measurement and evaluation go hand in hand with performance improvement.
It seems to me that our resources would be better spent to find out why certain business results are not achieved, identify all the causes for the shortfall—not just those related to performance—and implement a variety of solutions designed to mitigate the causes of failure.
Launching a successful performance improvement initiative in your organization will take time, but it is not difficult. There are risks, as I mentioned, but the rewards will outweigh the risks. One of the most important factors in creating a successful performance improvement initiative in your organization is to find or cultivate leadership with a vision. Having committed leadership is the only way these initiatives can achieve sustained results. Next, you must build internal skills in a consistent manner. Attending training and reading books is not enough to build skills as a performance consultant. You need to practice your skills with a colleague who can coach you and give you feedback on your performance. You need to seek champions in your organization and make them successful. Once you can accomplish a successful solution or two, you only need to leverage your results to keep a sustained effort. Become a true performance partner to your organization.
Dick Handshaw is president of Handshaw, Inc., a training services, performance consulting, and technology solutions company. Handshaw’s capabilities include analysis, instructional design, development, and consulting with a focus on improved business results. For more information, visit http://www.dhandshaw.com. Handshaw will present a hands-on clinic on "Performance Partnering: Proactive and Reactive Performance Consulting," Wednesday, February 20, during the Training 2013 Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL. To register for the conference, visit