Is Training the Solution?

Any time a client says “we need a training solution,” my internal alarms start to go off. The first question I ask (internally) is, “will training fix the problem?” Sometimes the answer will be yes, other times it will be no. It’s harder when the answer is no, but who wants to develop a training program that doesn’t solve the real problems? Been there, done that.

What Can Training Do?

By itself, training can’t fix a company’s culture, people’s motivation, or the environment. Training is really only meant to address a gap in people’s knowledge or skills. By conducting a needs analysis, one can start to get a sense of what that gap is, and possibly how to close the gap. Maybe the issue is a combination of a culture problem and a knowledge gap. In this case, it’s best to address the non-training related issue first, so the training can actually be about the knowledge gap. Other times, the gap will be entirely non-training related. The solution could involve something like a change in process or communication strategy.

What Does Training Do?

Cathy Moore developed this amazing infographic to help designers figure out if training really is the solution. There’s a corresponding video that’s equally as wonderful:

A needs analysis will often result in many different factors affecting people’s current performance. As instructional designers, it’s important to identify the problems and zero in on the solutions that training can actually solve. This way, you are clear with the client from the start about how the training will solve a business need related to generating revenue, maintaining revenue, or meeting compliance standards. If the solution doesn’t meet one of these objectives, it probably isn’t training related (Carliner, 2015).

How Can We Connect to Performance?

I recently had an “aha” moment in my Program Design course. If the training is related to performance (for example, you want employees to increase the total number of widgets sold next year), there needs to be connections to performance outside the formal training experience.

It sounds obvious, but I think this is often the missing link in the L&D world. We provide all these wonderful training scenarios and practice opportunities, but then what happens when they leave the training classroom or online portal? What if, instead, they had a follow up knowledge check, or a challenge sent to them, or a new component added to their performance review? And what if it actually meant something? I think we would start to see real performance changes as opposed to a “one and done” training solution. Plus, real adult learning happens when learners can transfer their learning to their jobs.

If we use the flowchart and acknowledge that training could address the real issue, I have one strategy that could help offer this wrap-around approach.

3 Cubed Solution

I learned this strategy from a company called xPan. After training, they follow up with learners 3 different ways, 3 different times: 3 days after the event, 3 weeks, and then 3 months. The beauty is, they build this out so it’s delivered automatically to attendees. The check in can be as simple as providing a scenario and letting learners choose the most appropriate solution, sending a smiley or frown-y face for learners to assess their understanding of a concept, or something a little more complex. It’s a great way to check in with learners, trigger their memories, and prod them to apply what they learned.


Carliner, S. (2015). Training design basics (2nd ed.). ATD Press: Alexandria, VA.

Caution image taken from

Moore, C. (2013, May 7). Is training really the answer? Ask the flowchart [Web page]. Retrieved from

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