Learning vs Performance at Work
How do you differentiate a lack of training from poor performance? Choosing the right solution is important when improving employee productivity, or you can end up with a workforce that is both underperforming and demoralised.
Metrics, stats and analytics can seemingly show exactly how productive an employee is, and can be helpful when making difficult decisions regarding staff.
But does data tell the full story? Numbers presented without context won’t you show the exact reason an employee’s productivity is lower than their colleagues. The two biggest culprits are a lack of training and poor performance. They may sound similar, but these major indicators of low productivity need to be properly understood to run an effective workplace.
A lack of training, or performance issues?
When is it a lack of training?
When trying to identify an employee’s lack of productivity, training and performance are the two biggest considerations to keep in mind. A lack of training is usually step one to consider. To remedy this, managers will often place the employee on a more intensive training course or an advanced skills course which could potentially lead to a more productive employee. Sometimes it works. In other cases, you may end up investing a lot of money for little to no performance gain.
So what’s the problem here? Training only affects two variables in each employee; their skills and their knowledge. Skills and knowledge can be easy to determine in an employee if you’re able to look at their history or academic achievements. If an employee has a certification for a certain skill then it’s clear that they do have the right qualifications. If they have had periods of great performance in the past, there are other factors at play contributing to their current lack of productivity.
However, if there is no evidence that they possess those skills or the knowledge required, then it may indeed be a lack of training that is holding them back. Engage with the employee and ask if they would like more training or if they believe training could improve their performance. Transparency is important as putting an employee on a course without consultation can lead to a negative situation.
What affects performance?
There are four main factors to consider when it comes to performance; attitude, motivation, resources, and workflow. Targeting these softer skills and capabilities through employee coaching initiatives can often be used to mitigate negatives, but this absolutely requires the employee to engage with any kind of development program.
Attitude is self-explanatory. If the employee has a poor attitude towards their job, then this is a performance issue that doesn’t have a simple explanation or solution. It’s something that will need to be solved over time and through many coaching sessions to help understand their concerns or problems with their position.
Motivation is similar to attitude and can affect it. An unmotivated employee may work more slowly, be mistake-prone, and resist making changes. Motivation is another performance-related problem that has no ideal solution. Through coaching and engaging with the employee, you’ll be able to see why they lack motivation. Is it their lack of connection to the business, or because their skills aren’t being used to the fullest?
Resources refer to the resources available to them. Employees will often have reduced productivity without the right resources available to them. For example, if an employee doesn’t have access to powerful and reliable computer systems, then their performance will suffer not because of a lack of training, but due to a lack of computing power.
Workflow is the last factor to affect performance. Workflow refers to the processes that the employee is responsible for and how it integrates into the company. Workflows can be something that an individual employee has little to no control over. For example, if they are asked to do something in a very specific way, then they often have no say over how to change things for the better. Having a more open company policy may help improve an employee’s workflow, especially if they are more qualified to say how they want to carry out their job.
Balancing training and performance
There are more factors that affect performance than training. Naturally, this means that we should put a slightly heavier emphasis on improving performance issues than training. While the two are certainly important, performance issues can often have a bigger impact on an employee’s productivity than training.
More learning could actually hurt performance. It may result in the employee feeling disconnected from their role, it tends to waste money, and it even pulls them away from their role and gaining experience in their designated position.
So let’s focus on employee performance. First, identify why their performance is lacking and what’s causing it. For example, if an employee finds it difficult to use a specific piece of equipment, then this can be solved with training and coaching. However, if they work slowly because they aren’t feeling motivated, then this is a performance problem that must be solved with coaching and feedback.
Maintaining a balance
Coaching is arguably one of the best ways to maintain a balance of performance and learning. It helps to deal with the majority of the performance-related issues that an employee may face, but it can also teach them the skills they need to overcome training-related problems. Leadership coaching in particular is an ongoing process that will assist employees and their managers over a long period of time, making it a continuous solution to a problem that has no clearly defined or fixed answer.
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