We all know there are numerous options for developing people. Yet we have all come across occasions when the response to a development need is to ‘send them on a course!’

And so an employee trots off to attend a training course, has a nice lunch, meets some nice people, and comes back full of and enthusiasm that lasts for a morning. A week later a perplexed manager is wondering why there is no discernible difference in performance, behaviour or skill.

The lack of improvement is usually attributed to ineffective training. A bewildered trainer will often respond by attributing the lack of impact on some inadequacy in the delegate, the client, the choice of training course, the content design. There may be some truth in all of these reasons, but the real reason often comes down to the selection of training as a solution in the first place.

I want to spend a few minutes showing you how a simple Three Question Calculation may help to decide if you should proceed to explore a training solution.

Let’s consider three factors that influence how employees learn to do something differently.


If any of these is deficient, then a training solution is unlikely to be the most successful solution. Let’s put this to the test:

On a piece of paper, name an employee you are about to send on a training course. Now using a scoring system where 0 is lowest and 10 is highest. Write down a score for these three simple questions:


I would suggest that if the Grand Total is less than 20 out of 30, then a Training Solution is not likely to have much impact.

Why? In my example, the opportunity to put the learning into practice is not really high enough, so Clive is likely to forget his learning before he has a chance to practice. His manager needs to know this and do something about it, if a training solution is going to be really effective.

More cases where this calculation helps avoid wasting training budgets are:

  • Employees who are given software training months before the implementation and forget it all.
  • People who are sent on project management training but are not given a project to manage on return to work.
  • An employee who asks to go on Advanced Excel training, yet does not have the numerical reasoning skills to grasp some of the formula concepts.
  • Employees who are sent on Supervisory Courses to ‘get their enthusiasm back’.

You will have your own stories, and you can modify the scores based on your own experience and situations.

I have found this a useful ‘quick check’ with managers who demand training solutions for their own problem people, or use training as a quick fix. Sometimes the best solution is for the manager to coach the employee, or link them to a buddy or shadowing opportunity, or a mentor. It could equally be solved by delegation or inclusive practices by the manager.

Whatever the other options are, this three-question calculation can often help you to get a manager to focus on what solution is really best for the individual.

If all else fails, then you will probably be asked to ‘send them on a training course’ anyway!

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