Training and Job Performance

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Just as eating is the only reason for cooking and providing transportation the only reason for making cars, so job performance change is the only reason for train¬ing. However, the training field is not characterized by high degrees of accountability or concern for job per-formance change. Managers demand sales, not selling activity and pro¬duction, not plant operation. Why then, do they generally demand training rather than job performance change?

Job performance change is not to be confused with behavior change. Striking the keys is the typist’s be¬havior; the memo produced is an as¬pect of job performance. Any time a trainee passes a test or masters a skill, his behavior undergoes a change, but the job performance may or may not change as a result.

The honest trainer knows that it takes vigorous intervention and powerful forces to change a person’s accustomed way of doing a job. Any¬one who has ever tried to switch from hunt-and-peck typing to touch typ¬ing knows the tremendous difficulty of achieving even that relatively straightforward performance change. And yet, most training challenges we assume involve per¬formances that are far more complex and harder to specify or measure, let alone accomplish.

It’s not surprising therefore, that most training programs produce no job performance change at all, in spite of beliefs, promises, and even occasional supposed evidence to the contrary. One needn’t be a psychol¬ogist to realize that a few hours or days of sitting in a room listening, viewing, or talking will not alter per¬formance patterns that have become ingrained over many years, possibly since childhood. Salespeople return from enthralling sales training pro¬grams, fired up and determined to put their newly acquired knowledge to powerful use, only to soon find themselves under the usual stresses and pressures of the selling envi¬ronment and selling the same way they always have.

Even knowledge or skills that have been learned and practiced to high levels of proficiency are readily forgotten or shunted aside because of stressful conditions. Witness the actor who forgets his well-rehearsed lines once he’s on stage.

Training—it’s only the first step
Since trainees cannot be expected to put into practice knowledge and skills they never acquired, training is sometimes a necessary first step in the process of producing job per¬formance change. In those cases, the process picks up from where training leaves off.

To produce job performance change, different challenges require different methods and techniques. In general, the first task is to increase the trainee’s alertness to oppor¬tunities and situations in which new knowledge and skill can be utilized. The second task is for the trainee to integrate and assimilate new knowl¬edge and skill into the job performance as a whole, so that it works as a smoothly functioning system. These tasks can be accomplished only in the normal work environment.

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Job performance change always requires self-observation, self-criticism, attention to the details of each performance, and, in general, self-management on the part of the trainee. The boss’s or trainer’s proper function is to equip the trainee to change his or her own performance by providing suitable tools and pro¬cedures and then monitoring the use of these. The nature of the most ap¬propriate tools and procedures de¬pends on the particular type of per¬formance change involved.

Once managers cease to be satis¬fied with training programs and start demanding job performance change, they will be amazed by the range of methods and technological resources that suddenly will surface and by the results that can be achieved. The more the emerging technology of performance change is challenged, the faster it will develop and mature.

Source : Training Magzine, September 1978. By : Francis Mechner.