Train & Drain

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According to one credit union executive, of the $51.4 billion spent last year on training by U.S. industry, an astounding $46.3 billion was wasted.

Lee Alderman, training manager for the $1.2-billion Redwood Credit Union, which serves 110,000 members in the northern San Francisco Bay Area, told the CUNA HR Council's conference here that improving performance is a complicated equation that encompasses much more than sending employees to yet another class or seminar.

"All employees should be held accountable for their performance, but managers should not assume all performance issues are 'training' issues," he said. "Training is not an auto repair shop. Managers should not expect to send 'broken' people to a trainer and have them come back 'fixed.'"

Sometimes, neither the staff member nor the training is the problem. CUs must ensure they are not dooming employees to failure. "Put a good employee in a bad system, and the bad system will win every time," he said.

Alderman defined performance improvement as a systematic approach to analysis, an openness to all interventions, and a focus on the value-added achievements of individuals in a work system. "Look at what is going to make the organization better," he said.

There are seven essential performance factors, Alderman continued. If credit unions-as well as other businesses-examine these, they will understand what makes people perform:

* What is the goal of my job?

* What is the standard for success?

* Where do I get feedback?

* What opportunity do I have for success?

* What means are available to support me?

* What competence do I have?

* What motive do I have to reach the goal?

"Training does not address all seven factors," he said. "If someone is not motivated, if he or she does not know the standard for success, or does not get feedback, training won't help."

Alderman advocates examining all aspects of a CU's operations before designing a training program. He said credit union managers should identify their business and performance requirements, specify their staff's current performance, define performance "gaps," and specify performance gap factors. "Don't rely on gut instincts to decide the current performance is bad," he advised.

There are four performance drivers that must be accounted for, Alderman said. First: skill, knowledge and information. Second: environment, tools and processes. Third: motivation. Fourth: incentives.

For each driver, he identified reasons and potential interventions. For example, referring to skill, knowledge and information, Alderman said some people are unable to perform at desired levels because they don't know how, have forgotten how, or they feel there is just too much to know.

To address these, he said CUs should use training and education, information support, performance support, coaching and mentoring, and documentation.

Regarding environment, tools and processes, he said poorly designed jobs or processes can hold people back, and the necessary tools sometimes are not available. In these cases, CUs must retool their processes and invest in the proper tools.

As for motivation, Alderman said some people choose not to perform at desired levels because they don't care, they don't see the benefits or they don't believe they can. "Potential motivation interventions include performance support, coaching and mentoring, clarifying standards, and participatory goal setting," he said.

Incentives: people do not perform at desired levels because they think doing so is not recognized, doing so is a hassle-"which might relate back to environment," Alderman pointed out-or not doing so is ignored.

To fix the incentive issue, he recommended improving appraisal systems and recognition programs, realigning incentives, or job design or redesign. "Overall, make sure incentives are aligned with goals," he said.

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