In today’s economy, what are the greatest assets for companies?

Two indicators of a successful company remain: 

  • The ability to adapt quickly in a rapidly changing, technologically advanced world
  • The ability to develop and retain high-performing employees

It was once said, “Give a man a fish and he’ll have food for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and he’ll have food for a lifetime.” Effective training of employees is a core requirement for an organization to achieve these interdependent needs.

Determining when and how to train presents a different set of issues, most of which depend on the standards and expectations set by management:

1. Is training really necessary, or are there other reasons for performance issues?

2. Do employees learn best by observation or participation?

3. At what level will performance be satisfactory? (If the golf score required to achieve par was increased, would the standard at the professional level decrease accordingly?)

Beyond “what’s in it for me?”

Research has shown that employees want to be participants in the development of something greater than themselves. They do not simply want instruction using memorization techniques. If it doesn’t relate to what they are doing, how they are going to do it, or what’s in it for them, it’s unrealistic to expect them to retain the information.

The Cone of Learning represents the relationship between trainee participation and retention:                                We’ve all seen this diagram before. But do we apply it? Active learning methods result in much greater retention by the learner. Employees respond positively when they believe they are part of something greater and can impact the outcome. A 1994 national survey by Princeton Research Associates showed:

  • 63% of workers want more influence in workplace decisions
  • 76% believe their companies would be more competitive if employees were involved in production and operating decisions
  • 79% believe employee involvement improves product and service quality

Needed: Knowledge, Skills & Attitude

For years we have measured student success in terms of how much time has been spent in the classroom, and how well a student does on a series of tests, most of which assess memorization skills. But how important is memorization skill to a supervisor who needs employees with a critical mass of all three job performance necessities: the Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes (KSA’s) to competently do the tasks required? When employees have both a high level and an equal balance of Knowledge, Skill and Attitude, it leads to both performance and accountability.

If we want people to really get it, we need to do more than just have them read a placard or manual, or watch a video. One way to measure the effectiveness of training is to have employees train other employees. Most people can remember the sweaty hands the first time they had to present or train others. Silence can be deadly when you have an audience and you don’t have the competent words to speak. William Glasser, (MD in psychiatry and author of 21 related books) states, “We should provide opportunities for students to teach what we want them to learn.” In one of his studies, he notes:


  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we both see and hear
  • 70% of what is discussed with others
  • 80% of what we experience personally

Actions speak louder…

Andrew Carnegie once said “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say. I just watch what they do.”

We need to employees to demonstrate the real thing! When we specify the level of accomplishment that meets the company cultural standards, then we can hold employees accountable for meeting those standards. 

This does not mean reading a manual, watching a video, viewing a demonstration, or even engaging in a web-based training course are ineffective methods. Each has its own place and purpose and can be effective when put into proper perspective. But studying to get a driver’s permit can’t be compared to driving the car for the first time. It’s the real thing.

When compared to other developed economies in the 21st century, advantages will come to organizations that work better and manage smarter. Unleashing the full potential of the workforce is critical in sustaining our nation’s safe economic growth, and demonstrating the real thing is the most effective mode of training our workforce how to get there.