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.