Performance Factors: What Are They and Why Do They Matter in Training?

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If you work in training, you’ve likely witnessed the following situation before: management spots a performance problem so they immediately request training to fix it. Training requests can sometimes be a knee-jerk reaction to a performance issue, and the problem there is that training won’t fix any and all performance problems.

If a performance problem in a call center is caused by a slow or faulty computer system, will training employees fix the problem? No. Training can only fix performance problems that are caused by a lack of knowledge and skills, which is what training provides.

If a workplace problem is caused by a performance factor other than a lack of knowledge and skills, training is unlikely to resolve that problem. That’s why it’s critical for instructional designers to follow-up on training requests and gain a deeper understanding of the training needs, why the request is being made, and the specific performance problem at hand. As you gather this information, the goal is to identify which performance factor is causing the performance issue.

Key factors that affect how employees perform:

  • Knowledge and skills
  • Incentives and motivation
  • Mental and physical abilities
  • Tools and equipment
  • Standard and processes
  • Feedback and measurement

Every time you identify or suspect a performance problem, run through a list of the following questions while considering the problematic task and the employees who perform it. Any questions you answer “no” to might indicate that that performance factor is contributing to the problem.

Knowledge & Skills

  • Do employees have the knowledge to perform the task?
  • Do employees have the skills to perform the task?
  • Have the employees been trained on how to perform the task?
  • Do the employees perform the task regularly?

Incentives & Motivation

  • Are employees motivated to perform the task?
  • Are incentives in place for employees that perform the task?

Mental & Physical Capacity 

  • Do employees have the mental capacity to perform the task?
  • Do employees have the physical capacity to perform the task?

Tools & Equipment

  • Do employees have the necessary tools and equipment to perform the task?
  • Do employees have access to the appropriate technology to perform the task?

Processes & Standards

  • Do employees have a clear and defined process in place they can follow to complete the task?
  • Do employees know the standards to which the task needs to be completed?

Feedback & Recognition

  • Do employees receive feedback or recognition on how they are completing the task?

Remember: training can only resolve performance problems that are caused by a lack of knowledge and skills. Many unnecessary training programs are created that don’t fix the underlying business problem. As an instructional designer, it’s crucial that that you analyze a performance problem and understand its root issue before you start designing a training solution. This will help you, and your clients, ensure the training you’re creating is valuable and provides a positive Return on Investment.

Have you ever had to build training that was unnecessary? Have you ever identified the performance factors affecting a workplace problem? Let me know in the comments, and follow me on Twitter for more e-learning and training content.

Tips for Successful Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Training

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Imagine this scenario: a company decides they’ve had enough of using systems that are outdated, slow, and inefficient. They embark on a project to implement a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to replace their legacy tools. The company spends months, maybe even years, working with consultants and employees to define new processes and customize the systems. Come launch time, they don’t provide adequate training and the employees don’t know how to use the new systems effectively. This leads to costly mistakes, wasted time, lost revenue, and many stressed out employees.

ERP implementations are typically large-scale projects with many stakeholders and moving parts; creating training for these projects comes with their own set of unique challenges. Planning for these challenges up front can help ensure you have a successful training program that plays a crucial role in the smooth rollout of a new system. Here are some important things to consider before you embark on your next ERP implementation training project.

Plan and prioritize training

Implementing and customizing an ERP system tends to be a huge financial investment, and as such, detailed proposals and plans are created to cover all aspects of the project. However, training for the new system is often listed as a vague deliverable that provides no specifics about how training will be designed or delivered. Not planning for training from the get-go is a costly mistake because the investment in a new system is wasted if the employees can’t properly use it. Include the training team in the project planning phase and allocate the appropriate budget, resources, and timelines for end-user training.

Identify training methods

You’re going to want to think about training methods up-front, during the planning phase. One of the most effective way to give learners a real world experience without risking costly mistakes in a real ERP system is through software simulations. They give employees the power to explore and use all the features of the ERP software they’ll use in the workplace. You’re probably going to want to consider at least some software simulations for ERP systems training. You might mix this with some instructor led training and live Q&A sessions to create a blended learning program.

Create curriculum by role

You’re not going to dump all the lessons on every employee; the employees who work in Engineering don’t need to take Accounting lessons on how to process an invoice. Instead, you’re going to tailor the curriculum by user roles. While you may have some core basic lessons that apply to everyone (logging in and out of the system, setting up your user profile, etc.), there should also be user-specific lessons that are pertinent to each role.

Work with the business

Training teams working on ERP implementations often find they have to work alongside the implementation team. You might find it useful to work with the business process analysts, as they create and test the new system processes (these are often called Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs). Consider using test scripts as a starting point for training development.  

Designate power users

For each role you identify, consider having one or two power users. These are (hopefully) helpful, quality employees who can help with the training and answer employee questions on-the-job. If there are employees who are already involved in the implementation, for example working as subject matter experts, these are great candidates for power users.

Incorporate real-life scenarios

Integrating real world examples and stories into your processes will make the training more practical and relevant. Instead of jumping into a step-by-step process without providing any context, introduce the process with a scenario that has realistic background information and details. Training that incorporates realistic scenarios helps learners know when and how to apply the tasks covered in the training in the real world.

Use change management techniques

  • Incorporating some basic change management techniques will go a long way to getting your learners on board. Be clear in explaining the benefits of the training, why it’s happening, and the impact of not completing it. Don’t assume end users will move seamlessly from one system to another, without detailing the specific reasons and benefits. Learn more about specific change management techniques for instructional designers here.
  • Following these tips will help ensure you have a successful ERP training program in place. Do you have any tips of your own for designing or developing training for ERP implementations? Let me know in the comments, and follow me on Twitter for more training tips and tricks.