Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Training and Development cannot fix performance problems – Some Square Wheels

Companies spend money to improve results. They spend BILLIONS on doing surveys on organizational engagement and they spend BILLIONS on training and development classes. Often, they call these kinds of training “hard skills training” because they are focused on job-related skills and show immediate impacts.

Hard skills are often defined as those that produce immediate and tangible results – measurable stuff. The desired results are well-defined, visible, and instantly obvious and usually involve a human being gaining mastery over an inanimate object such as a machine or a computer system.

This as opposed to “soft skills” like leadership development or facilitation / engagement skills. You know, those “easy” things that may not have any impact. Team building or creativity / innovation might not be measurable, so it might have less value to an organization, seems to be the rationale…

The reality of most kinds of training, though, is that they focus on skills and not so much on how things really work. I can teach you some skill and improve your use of it. The idea is that you will immediately perform better or with more power. Let’s say, for example, that I do some weight training to improve one’s capacity to move our wagon forward. I will expect some measurable gains from that training and development and I can measure things like body mass or number of bench presses made possible.

Training builds personal strengths and capabilities

Training builds personal strengths and capabilities

The reality of that training, then, should be expected to look something like this:

T&D Before After square ©

(I think you can see where my thinking is headed.)

I believe we need to involve and engage the whole performance team in some discussions about issues and opportunities. The issue is one of Engagimentation, using soft skills focused on employee engagement and then focusing on removing roadblocks and aligning the organization to actually implement changes and improvements. It is this collective effort that will better impact results.

Training (and by definition, Human Resources) cannot really impact a lot of the realities of how organizations really work. All they can do is set the stage for improvement. It is the direct action of the management team to generate change and install those good ideas. You can read a bit more about this in another blog post you can find here.


For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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  1. This line caught my eye: “Training (and by definition, Human Resources) cannot really impact a lot of the realities of how organizations really work. All they can do is set the stage for improvement.” I’d agree with this… with an asterisk.

    It seems to me that training/HR should be teaming together to identify basic/core competencies and providing managers with a host of options to address gaps between those competencies and actual skills/performance. It seems there is an important triangle: manager-training folks/HR-trainee. And I have seen this triangle in tact in very few organizations.

    • Brian –

      Thanks for the comment and I agree. It should be a collaboration. No question.

      But sometimes, managers do not really want to change things and that is often a reason why new skills that a person acquires in training are not actively supported post-training in the workplace. Or, the manager is not really sure of what is being trained since they do not have those skills themselves, or a zillion other factors that rise up.

      This has been a real issue since I started consulting (and training) back in 1978. I know of few instances whereby HR gets the manager’s needs correctly identifies and gives them an active role in the actual training (aka “ownership”) — the reality is that Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car.” (we dialoged on that a while back!)

      Yeah, the words are Alignment and Congruence and Engagimentation! Impacting results should be one of the goals of every HR initiative.

      People have really good intentions. It is just that organizational realities and politics seem to sometimes get in the way of success.

      I think the TS Eliot quote is this (or close):

      Between the idea and the reality Between the motion and the act Falls The Shadow.


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