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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Are You an Efficionado?

perfect efficiency may not be perfect for your organization

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

"Efficionado" is what I call an overzealous aficionado of efficiency.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think efficiency is usually a good thing. But I also believe it is rarely the only thing that matters.

I have been involved in a lot of conversations recently about delivering training online, about communicating with employees through webcasts of various kinds, about delivering communications and training as efficiently as possible. And in some of those conversations, I have to tell you, I get the feeling that efficiency is the only outcome, the only metric, in the speaker's mind!

As a result, some organizations are going to find themselves delivering content to employees more quickly, with less delivery cost . . . and with less impact. And if their enhanced efficiency at the training department level produces less improvement in employee performance for the company, it may be a net loss!

You are a customer of many businesses, so you experience high-efficiency interactions all the time. After all, how much time do you spend in voice-menus, pressing "1" for more options, then "3" to get to the right department (maybe), then "2" to describe the nature of your problem? The business you're dealing with isn't investing any employee time into delivering those choices. But are their savings having an impact on how you feel about dealing with them?

Let's make up an imaginary scale, in which your ideal for efficient delivery of training content and employee communications rates a score of 100. Maybe you are at 60, or 75, now, and you are ready to invest a lot of effort and resources into getting to 100. (Never mind that that investment of resources really should be factored into your efficiency rating, something that is often overlooked.)

Now make up a second scale, which rates the impact, the actual application of best practices on the job, the behavior changes on the front lines that advance you toward your organization's goals.

Here's the question: Is achieving an efficiency rating of 100 the definition of "success"? That certainly is the case in many organizations, in reality if not "officially."

Sure, it is wonderful that your employees can sign up for courses on your intranet, and get their training online. And perhaps, if they have a question about a course, depending on the size of your department, they can even navigate one of those voice menus when they have questions.

Is that good enough? Or would you throttle back to a score of 90, or 85, on your efficiency scale if it would raise your impact score? Is efficiency=100 and impact = 70 better than efficiency = 70 and impact = 100?

Don't tell me that those comparisons are unrealistic, that everyone looks at the effectiveness of their training to ensure that nothing is lost with more efficient delivery methods. I know better. The appeal of the numbers, of being able to point to cost savings and throughput, is too strong for many training functions to resist.

Fortunately, there are some who are not seduced by the siren call of single-minded pursuit of efficiency. They do inefficient things like having someone call or e-mail everyone who finishes a course, a few days later, to help them get started applying what they have learned. They are willing to pay a small price in efficiency to generate a major return in effectiveness.

We'll never be able to bestow the title of "efficionado" on people like that . . . for which their employees, and the executive team that hopes to implement key corporate strategies, should all be grateful.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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