Training, the Means to an End: Four Principles to Maximize the Value of the Training You Provide

Welcome to the 21st century, where tumultuous changes in the economy and business environment require rapid-fire responses from our organizations, often resulting in increased responsibilities for many employees. Where organizations are looking for the same or greater results from fewer employees. And where training dollars are doled out with the highest expectations in mind.

As a general rule, when training is offered it is because we believe employees don’t have the necessary knowledge and skills to achieve the results we need. This assessment can be either reactive: problems remaining unsolved; decisions being poorly made; projects late, over budget, and perhaps worst of all, not delivering the desired value; or proactive: changing the way we manufacture products; make capital requests; investigate deviations; develop new products; implement projects. If we want different, better results, we need people to do things differently. We need people to change their behavior.

For over sixty years of working with clients in different industries to implement solutions that achieve measurable results and lasting value, Kepner-Tregoe has consistently had to consider four elements: skill development (training); feedback and behavior reinforcement (coaching); setting expectations and providing encouraging consequences (the performance system), and embedding new skills into work practices (business processes). When these four elements are aligned with the desired results and each other, it is much easier for leaders and individual contributors to use the knowledge and skills acquired in training back in the environment in which they work. It is easier for them to make the required changes in their behavior. Without alignment, people don’t change the way they go about their work, they continue to get the same results, and your hard-earned training effort will be considered a failure.

Structure the Training

What do people need to know prior to attending training?

Training is often the easiest of the four elements to address. To align the training with the desired outcomes, ask the question: If training is the answer, what is the question? If the person requesting the training cannot articulate the desired behavior change and the expected improvement in results from that change, how much more difficult will it be for the people attending the training to know what to do differently after the training and why? We need to start with the desired end result in mind.

Both the employees attending the training and their managers need to understand the purpose for the training. Which business results are driving the need for the training? How will using the skills presented in the training contribute to achieving those results? In addition, all need to understand the expectations for both using and supporting the use of the new skills after the training is completed. What should people do differently after the training? What evidence will they be asked to provide to demonstrate that they are effectively applying the new skills? What will be the consequences of using the skills learned in the training?

So prior to holding a training session, we need to communicate how the training will be used and its relevance to all participants and to the organization. To do this we need to ask the sponsors of the training to communicate:

Which business results are driving the need for the training?
What is the gap that needs to be closed?
What do they expect to see people doing differently after attending the training?

Participants need to know prior to a workshop how the training relates to their work and what managers expect of them after the training. Managers need to know what to expect of their people and how to support them in their use of the new methods. Management engagement demonstrates that the organization is committed to implementing the new skills and achieving sustainable results.

Structure the training

Telecommunications Firm

A major telecommunications and wireless device company, looking to maximize customer satisfaction in a changing customer environment with changing customer expectations, performed an analysis to benchmark their service environment and identify both strengths and weaknesses. Based on this analysis, KT worked with them to design solutions that made the most impact, both strategically and financially, and calculated areas of greatest ROI. As a part of the implementation of targeted improvements, we determined specific populations to be trained, the level of training required for each, and established the desired results expected.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

KT worked with an international pharmaceutical manufacturer to improve their approach to conducting and documenting investigations in response to an FDA warning letter that cited their backlog of open investigations and their failure to consistently get to root cause. To begin the initiative the Vice President of Technical Operations held a town hall meeting to review the need for change with the entire organization. They supplemented this with hour-long meetings with participants, held one week in advance of workshops, to provide an overview of what to expect in the workshop and how to prepare.

Healthcare Services Organization

At a major hospital group in the Midwest, the issue was one of confidence in their decision making as they added new hospitals to the organization and began to implement continuous improvement efforts. The gap, identified in their employee engagement survey, was both one of communication and of coordination of efforts across thirteen autonomous hospitals with a lot of independent thinking. People needed to see that the business leaders were making good decisions, decisions that were visible to a wide range of constituents, and that the organization was solving their problems to root cause and finding counter measures.

Computer Chip/Electronics Manufacturer

An internationally held computer chip/electronics manufacturer wanted to offer a one-off workshop on effective troubleshooting and decision making. To better understand the current state and identify specific improvement objectives, KT conducted an analysis. The analysis highlighted areas for improvement and allowed us to communicate improvement objectives, prioritize product issues to be resolved, and identify which skills and skill sets were required at different levels of the organization for them to achieve their desired results.

A note on metrics and measuring results:

The challenge for organizations, as the rest of this paper discusses, is that training alone is insufficient to produce a change in results. But, if we need metrics to measure the value of the training, this would be a good point at which to establish ways to measure that value. Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation: a) reaction; b) learning; c) behavior; and d) results; provide a good starting point. If we understand both the desired behavior change and the desired results, we can:

Assess the learner’s initial reaction to how well the instruction prepared them for the specific behavior change;
Assess the extent to which the learners learned the skills required to affect the behavior change;
Assess the extent to which the learners actually change their behavior in everyday work after receiving instruction;
Assess the change in results.

Integrate the Use of the New Skills into Existing Processes and Routine Activities

How do the ideas learned in the training relate to what we already have?

Once back on the job, people now have to determine how to use the new knowledge and skills within processes and systems that may have been perfectly adequate for the old way of doing business, but have not kept pace with the changing environment. We need to embed the learning by integrating the skills within the daily business processes.

Whether during the training or shortly thereafter, we need to show the participants how to use the skills learned in conjunction with existing business processes, business systems, and other tools. These links must support the message provided during training regarding when and how to use the training as they manage their day-to-day responsibilities as well as in other business and operational processes to accomplish goals. How does the use of new skills help them perform steps in the processes? How do the outputs they produce using the new ideas become inputs for the next step in the process? How should the information gathered be documented and communicated to others? Which fields should I use on which screen? Organizations need to align the new tools with issue resolution work flows and documentation standards.

Achieving sustained performance improvement through targeted embedding of the skills learned into the organization’s current processes ensures that the ideas become a part of “the way things get done”. When the existing business processes and systems do not support using the new methods and do not contribute to achieving the desired results, this may require the organization to modify their systems, or design new ways to communicate, document, and store information regarding the issues being addressed to guarantee the application of the new skills learned to achieve the organization’s performance goals.

Integrate the use of the new skills into existing processes

Telecommunications Firm

Based on feedback from their customer about the need for consistency, predictability, and efficiency in their processes, the telecommunications and wireless device company, developed common procedures for meeting the service needs of their increasingly global network of customers, based on KT’s problem solving methodology and documentation framework. When technical support engineers are talking to clients, they are now prompted by their computer screens to follow the process and gather the information necessary to help them quickly resolve the customer’s issue.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

At the pharmaceutical manufacturer, we worked with a team drawn from QA, QC, and Technical Operations to revise their existing SOPs and templates to support people in better documenting and conducting investigations. Initially, they streamlined issue resolution by integrating decision making techniques into the SOPs that govern how deviations are escalated. They then specified the information needed so that QA could determine the most appropriate path to resolution. Finally, for deviations that required a full investigation, we specified the information that investigators should provide to justify their conclusions.

Healthcare Services Organization

Because the hospital group is a non-profit, all capital expenditures go through a building and lands & technologies steering committee which will not even evaluate a decision unless it has been through the KT decision analysis process. They also have a group of community hospitals that have to make decisions about capital asset equipment purchases, MRIs, Digital Mammography, etc., which they can’t make in isolation any more. Because they have to come together to make those decisions, their steering committee also requires a KT decision analysis template in order for them to present the purchase ideas they have. Still, the focus is less on the templates than the conversations that go along with the templates. Electronic templates are available to help people who have had the training to facilitate the conversation and provide documentation for follow-up and for people who weren’t in the room. The emphasis, however, is all about the conversation and having the right people in the conversation.

Computer Chip/Electronics Manufacturer

The computer chip/electronics manufacturer incorporated our troubleshooting and decision making worksheets into their division’s issue resolution process as part of their data base tool. They have an internal web site for posting facilitation efforts/results and they have incorporated a common language for troubleshooting and decision making into a much wider based Issue Management process that already existed in the organization. In addition, they have incorporated KT’s Problem Analysis and Decision Analysis worksheets into their client presentations and project reviews.

Provide Coaching On-the-Job to Support Success

What support do people need to successfully use the new ideas back in the workplace?

Using new ideas in a workshop and applying them in the workplace are two very different situations. In the workshop the issues may not be real, or may not be of the moment. There is a workshop leader and other participants to provide support in using the new ideas. To reinforce using the new ideas back at work, it is important to ensure that real time guidance is available from skilled practitioners of the new ideas. Skilled coaches can monitor application of the new ideas and provide feedback to the process users.

It is important when choosing coaches to understand the capabilities that mentors need to have and then set clear expectations for their role. Coaches should be:

  • Credible within the company (known as a knowledgeable and capable individual);
  • Comfortable critiquing others using new training;
  • Willing to create and sustain change;
  • Able to devote a significant portion of work time to the effort; and
  • Competent applying the training to work issues.

In addition, coaches need to understand:

  • What management expects them to do;
  • How they will know when to coach others;
  • Who will cover their day-to-day responsibilities while they are coaching or facilitating;
  • What will be the consequences for effective facilitating or coaching.

Under stress, people often revert to their comfort zone, the way things have “always” been done. The presence of a coach to recognize what they are doing well and to provide guidance on how to improve is often the difference between training that is used and training that is forgotten.

Provide coaching on-the-job

Telecommunications Firm

The telecommunications and wireless device company, to support the adoption of the new common procedures, created new positions within the company, one of which was to coach and support engineers after training in the new common procedures as they worked with clients.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

Managers in the pharmaceutical company recognized that adopting a common approach to conducting and documenting investigations represented something of a cultural shift for the supervisors who represented the primary writing population. They also recognized that QA would need to be a part of the change as they were the reviewers of investigations and the initial source of feedback about the quality of the investigations. So, they identified a select group of QA auditors to train as Facilitators to coach corrective and preventive action teams.

Healthcare Services Organization

At the hospital group, they have certified six (6) KT program leaders, who are part of a shared service in the quality division. They offer training on monthly basis, training over 200 people a year, and the program leaders are also available to provide ongoing facilitation help and coaching. People who have been through the training can contact the coaches at any time to facilitate, coach behind the scenes, and help them plan.

Computer Chip/Electronics Manufacturer

The computer chip/electronics manufacturer recognized from the beginning that coaching was an essential component in their improvement efforts. After the completion of the first workshop, the participants continued working on and successfully resolved important issues begun during the workshop. In addition to training close to 100 people in effective troubleshooting and decision-making techniques, they have trained three (3) in-house Program Leaders to train additional Troubleshooters as required, and have trained seven (7) Facilitators who travel across sites and lead groups of Troubleshooters. To support the coaches, KT consultants have visited the site to observe facilitations and review documented facilitations. They now work in teams to provide coaching to each other and the stronger performers have become in-house coaches.

Integrate the use of the Training into the Performance System

How do you support and encourage people to continue to use what they have learned in the future?

Once people have received training, they are ready to apply the ideas. But they may be reluctant to do things differently. This is especially true if they are surrounded by others, including managers, who may not be familiar with their new skills. Managers need to encourage, support and monitor ongoing application of new skills.

The performance system is a way of describing and managing all the cues people receive that influence what they do and how they work. Although the most important cues people receive may come from our peers, it is the cues coming from managers that we can most easily change. Here we need to create an effective work environment and remove any barriers that impede the desired behaviors. If the work environment makes it difficult to use new skills, training dollars are wasted.

Best practices include managers’ need to initially:

  • Reinforce the expectations for performance that were presented during the training;
  • Demonstrate and model the use of the new skills; and
  • Provide guidance to employees as to when they should use the new skills.

The organization may want to consider adjusting job descriptions to reflect the desired behaviors.

Once employees begin applying the new ideas, managers need to continually encourage their use. How is the use of the new skills contributing to achieving the goals of the organization, the department, the individual? Finally, managers need to close the loop by providing individuals with information to help them hone their use of the new skills. (One way is to integrate use of the new skills into regular job performance reviews.)

If managers maintain an interest in the use of the new skills, so will the people they manage. If managers need to provide encouraging consequences to people for changing the way they work, people will put in the extra effort often required to achieve change. Helping learners to overcome on-the-job barriers, paving the way for them to demonstrate their use of new skills, quickly transitions training to application, integrates skills into the workflow, and accelerates the return on the training investment.

Integrate into Performance System

Telecommunications Firm

The telecommunications and wireless device company made several structural changes to align new roles and responsibilities with their vision. Teams were created that were dedicated to supporting specific subsets of customers. Managers were assigned to specific accounts and given responsibility for coaching and training new Technical Service Engineers. The Technical Service Engineers were located close to their most important customers so they could respond quickly to provide on site support during crises. In addition, they began measuring and reporting results more quickly and recognizing the achievement of results. This was supported by senior management regularly reinforcing the achievement of results.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

The pharmaceutical company, by building the new ideas into their investigation SOPs, made using the processes a job expectation. By providing training in the processes to Operations and QC managers and QA mangers and reviewers, they ensured that writers would get specific feedback about their use of the ideas. By tracking % of root causes found and time to closure, managers tracked the writer’s performance and progress towards their goal of compliance.

Healthcare Services Organization

At the hospital group, the expectations for using the new ideas started at the top. The senior leadership team, their executive presidents and vice presidents were the first to be exposed to the tools and all agreed the organization would benefit from adding the KT methods to their transformational core competencies. Next, they began to train directors. Now for anyone to take the training, there is a requirement that their director has completed the training first, so that people are going back to a supportive environment where their director and managers and vice president understand the need for these tools. Because the KT rational thinking processes are one of their four core competencies for transformation, the CEO who receives acceleration briefings from high-impact teams, expects the teams to report on how they are using the core competencies on their projects. Finally, proficiency in using these tools is a consideration in performance evaluations as well as assessments of their potential for promotions, career development and opportunities for future growth.

Computer Chip/Electronics Manufacturer

Management at the computer chip/electronics manufacturer established triggers so employees could determine in which circumstances they should use the new troubleshooting and decision making skills and with what level of rigor they should use the new skills. For Facilitators, they set the expectation that they should cross functions and sites to provide help. They added the use of the new troubleshooting and decision-making skills as a requirement for certain quality and program management positions within the organization.


When you have evaluated your organization’s readiness to implement training as part of a change management solution and identified opportunities to align the four elements, you may have identified more gaps than you have resources to manage in the short term. If this is the case, you might want to consider using the following criteria to prioritize the improvements: cost of the solution; ease of implementation; time of implementation; fit with organizational strategy; and fit with organizational culture.

In all the client examples provided, we worked with them to implement more than just training in their efforts to improve organizational results and, ultimately, they were able to sustain the benefits of the training long after the completion of the workshops.


Telecommunications Firm

The telecommunications and wireless device company saw their time to resolve cases decreased by up to 39% at the same time growth caused their case load to increase substantially—in some cases by 125%. The cases with vague, incomplete documentation decreased from 75% to 23%. Finally, their customer satisfaction scores increased by 23 points.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

The pharmaceutical company reduced the average time to close investigations from over thirty days to less than 20, decreased the effort required to review and approve investigations, and significantly increased first-pass approval rates. As one Director of Operations noted, “The time it takes me to review and approve an investigation has dropped from two hours to fifteen minutes.” Most importantly, they satisfied the FDA’s auditors that their new approach to investigations was sufficient to ensure product integrity.

Healthcare Services Organization

At the hospital group, the systematic, tactical, and strategic implementation of KT’s rational thinking processes, led by senior management, resulted in a net positive impact of more than $32 million saved in the first full year after project implementation. They now consider acceptance and use of a common, systematic set of rational thinking processes to be imperative to transformational success.

Computer Chip/Electronics Manufacturer

Using the new approach to troubleshooting, the computer chip/electronics manufacturer in one month closed 21 events with 88% resolved and an estimated savings of over $2,000,000.

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