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Why Companies Perform Best with Performance-Based Training
Better performance is always the intended outcome of learning. Alternatively, there can be no learning without actions. We perform some actions, thus we learn. When it comes to employee performance, we talk about actions that drive business results through the effective use of time, knowledge, skills, technology and other resources. Reaching full potential is almost impossible without proper training and the experience gained as a result. What’s the point of training if employees can’t apply it to practice?
Yet, in many companies, we see how learning activities are disconnected from operational needs. Employees keep getting the same generic training modules that were developed years ago and take ages to complete. More importantly, in many cases, the business needs surpass the training content being delivered to the employees; but because current LMS systems require significant resources in updating and personalizing those modules, the learning needs of businesses remain unaddressed while employees become uninspired by the lack of quality or relevance of the training made available to them.
As a result, many L&D professionals have an extremely hard time proving clear business ROI on their learning initiatives.
Even if the training program is thoroughly designed and employees pass tests with flying colors, there might be no improvement in their performance. The thing is that learning activities don’t necessarily reflect what happens in practice. Consequently, the main goal is to make training hands-on, customized, relevant, and measurable or, in other words, performance-based.
Performance-based training centers around not teaching everything relating to the subject matter—it is about analyzing each employee’s job performance, previous learning success, expected outputs and tasks to be done to achieve certain business objectives.
Six key benefits of performance-based training
According to the Human Capital Institute survey, only 27% of employees think their performance management is effective enough to help them develop necessary knowledge and skills. Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, concisely describes the very core of how performance management together with training keeps your organization afloat:
“In business, we have limited amounts of time, talent, treasure and technology. A good performance management system ensures that people make good, effective use of their time; that the talent in the organization is developed; that the treasure is well invested; and that your technology is properly used to support the forward momentum of the business.”
In other words, performance management is a tool that is used to develop employees to see real results. We should understand that learning and development is a long-term investment that shows impressive outcomes. Basically, here’s the “What’s in it for me?” of performance-based training:
- Reduce training costs and time.
When training programs are developed to meet specific goals and are performance-driven, they are more cost-effective. Since they focus on certain areas that require improvement, employees don’t waste time learning irrelevant material and companies don’t spend money on training in the “wrong” areas, those that contain material that employees already know or is not needed for dealing with a particular challenge.
- Make employees more productive and efficient.
When employees receive only relevant just-in-time training, the gap between training and the actual job becomes naught. Employees not only become competent in a required area much faster, but they also make fewer errors that in most cases occur due to the lack of knowledge and skills required for doing a specific task. Continuous training based on performance promotes further competency enhancement, arming your workforce with the latest top-notch knowledge. This way they can do tasks and render services much better.
- Improve profitability and customer satisfaction.
Highly-skilled employees deliver excellent services, thereby improving customer satisfaction. Happy customers play a great role in increasing the customer base by promoting the company to their friends and colleagues. This, in turn, enhances business competitiveness.
- Increase employee retention.
Performance-based training creates a talent pool. When somebody leaves a company, gets a promotion or accepts a transfer, it takes some time to adjust to changes. Cross-training can come in handy since it bridges the gap between what employees know and what they are expected to know in such cases. For example, an employee promoted to a manager can be aware of new job responsibilities but lack leadership skills. Thus, he will receive training tasks that are designed to enhance these skills.
- Boost business KPIs.
Performance-based training is tied to business KPIs. By identifying current employees’ strengths and weaknesses, you will be able to pinpoint skill gaps that need improvement. This works not only on an individual level but also can potentially track common challenges employees deal with and solve company-wide issues. As a result, a highly skilled workforce is more productive and innovative.
- Improve employee experience and increase employee engagement.
Performance-based training is people-centric since it focuses on individual learning paths. Training comes exactly when it’s needed, empowering people. This way your employees feel prepared, fully armed with the latest knowledge and skills, to face tasks of any level of difficulty. Moreover, this kind of training sets clear goals. If people know what is expected of them, they are more likely to experience job satisfaction.
How to make performance-based training actually work
To see the above-mentioned benefits of performance-based training, it’s important to evaluate your training solution’s success by analyzing employees’ performance at four different levels of the learning process described in the Kirkpatrick Model:
Level 1: Reaction. The degree to which participants find the training favorable, engaging, and relevant to their jobs.
Level 2: Learning. The degree to which participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence, and commitment based on their participation in the training.
Level 3: Behavior. The degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.
Level 4: Results. The degree to which targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training and the support and accountability package.
Though this model seems logical and natural, we think that the right way to use it is by applying the reverse approach. If you are unsure of what final outcome your training program should give, then there’s no point in checking the first three levels. Start with what you want to achieve, think about what your employees should do to reach this specific business goal, then make a list of the skills and knowledge they will need. Level 1 will come naturally. If training helps your employees to perform effectively, then they will definitely find it relevant and engaging.
Say you want to increase sales revenue—this is the result (level 4). Your employees need to improve their sales skills to be more effective when talking to prospects. This is the behavior (level 3). You provide them with a training program that concisely explains how to answer incoming queries, what are the best practices in following up with clients, how to stay organized and keep track of all the sales activities, etc. This would be the learning stage (level 2). Once your employees use the acquired knowledge and see the results, they know they didn’t waste time and that the training actually helped them in doing their job better—this is the reaction (level 1).
As we can see, performance-based training is a smart cost-effective tool that unlocks learning and development opportunities for all your employees. It also grants increased engagement, improved performance, and higher profitability if done right.
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