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  • Writer's pictureMichael Simon

Training Is More Than "Checking the Box"

In my career, I once had an executive say to me "they just need training," as she sought a solution for some substandard performance metrics that were troubling her. This simplistic prescription for a complex problem has stayed with me over the years. Even then, I pondered, "How is more or new training the solution to issues identified through data analysis?"


The reality is that it isn’t. It wasn’t back then, and it’s still not today.


Training alone will not inherently change performance nor elevate it. While training can lay the groundwork for the behavioral changes necessary for improved performance, it is not a magic bullet. Performance improvement is fundamentally behavioral, requiring a shift in mindset and practices that training alone cannot instigate. For training to be effective, it must be part of a broader effort that addresses the root causes of performance issues.


A comprehensive analysis of data metrics or a deep study of employee engagement levels often reveal the truth that high performance isn't absent because of a lack of training. In fact, high performance often happens in spite of a lack of training. Even the best L&D programs with master trainers cannot drive high performance when there is poor culture, insufficient resources or change resistance. These are quite simply problems that no amount of training can fix.  


I'm sure we've all heard the phrase "People don't quit jobs, they quit managers." This speaks to another critical point—performance is directly impacted by management quality. Poor management can lead to retention issues, as employees seek to leave environments where they feel undervalued or mistreated. In such cases, no amount of training can compensate for the detrimental effects of poor leadership. Training cannot mitigate the damage caused by a poor manager; instead, organizations must address management issues through leadership development, organizational change, and creating a supportive environment.


All of this underscores a crucial truth: training should be about equipping employees to achieve goals, enhance performance, and align with business strategy. It should be a tool to increase both skills and knowledge, not a superficial remedy for deeper organizational issues. Training is most effective when it is part of a holistic approach to performance improvement, one that includes addressing cultural, managerial, and systemic issues within the organization.


To leverage training effectively, businesses must first diagnose the root causes of performance problems. This requires a comprehensive analysis of the workplace environment, management practices, and employee engagement levels. Only then can training be tailored to address specific needs and be integrated into a broader strategy for organizational improvement.


In conclusion, while training is a valuable tool for professional development and performance enhancement, it is not a panacea. Businesses must avoid the trap of viewing training as a "check the box" endeavor. Instead, they should adopt a more thoughtful and strategic approach, ensuring that training initiatives are part of a larger effort to foster a healthy, productive, and engaged workforce. By doing so, they can create an environment where training serves as a catalyst for genuine and sustainable performance improvements.

Michael Simon, Principal Consultant with BlackFin Group who runs BlackFin University leadership development program. Michael is nationally recognized as a senior training and learning executive. During Michael’s decades of learning and development he has been responsible for the development and delivery of strategic training and learning programs with Ellie Mae, Accenture World-Wide, TD Bank, UBS, PennyMac, AmeriHome, and University Bank in Michigan. For more information on how we can help contact

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