As a reporting manager, you become rightly concerned when:
- Your team can’t get reports out the door on time
- The reports that do go out look unprofessional
- The quality of the reports is inconsistent
- Your team struggles with the reporting tool
You look at your budget and, seeing you have enough money for an instructional class, decide to purchase training for your team.
Don’t buy training just because you have a problem and some available resources. Training should not be a knee-jerk reaction, but a great solution for problems centered on a lack of knowledge. It’s not so great if your team has other problems, such as lack of motivation or an incoherent reporting process.
Behavior Engineering Model
Before you run off and throw training – and money – at your team, you need to identify the problem you have. One tool to help you is Gilbert’s Behavior Engineering Model (BEM)1. The chart below is a stripped down example of the BEM.
The BEM chart is split into environmental and individual factors that affect work performance. I am not going to talk about incentives and motives, as I’ll assume people want to work for you and that they do a good job.
Let’s start with Information first. Does your report writer know that writing reports is their job? This is not a silly question. Just because you think this is their job doesn’t mean that they think it is – or even that it is their job. Is the business analyst supposed to be writing reports? Review their job description and confirm that reporting is something that they are supposed to be doing.
Resources are next. Do you have the necessary materials (people, tools and time)? Review the people dedicated to this task. Are they enough? The second element, a defined process, is key to an effective reporting program. Without it, your report writers will be hobbled.
The individual factors are two sides of the same coin. Do your report writers have the Knowledge/Skills to write reports? Do they have the Capacity to learn and then apply those skills?
Knowledge and skills are fairly easy to identify. Do your report writers know SQL? Do they understand the database? Can they use the reporting tool to produce operational and analytical reports? The other side of the coin, having the capacity to learn those skills and knowledge, is a bit more complex. Learning SQL is like learning French. You can memorize all the vocabulary you want, but if you can’t string the words together to hold a conversation you can’t speak the language. Sitting a person in a SQL class is not going to help if they aren’t able to apply logical reasoning to build a query.
Once you have used the BEM to review your reporting program you should be able to identify where your problems lie.
Training as the Solution
In general, if you have resource or knowledge problems, that’s when training may be the right solution.
Training can address resource problems by expanding the number of people capable of writing reports. If your report writers don’t have the necessary knowledge and skills, then training is a fairly obvious solution to that problem. It is also useful when the skill level amongst your report writers is inconsistent. There will always be rock stars, but training can help assure a common skill level across a team.
Training may also be part of a multi-prong solution. For instance, when a team has a problem creating analytical reports, the problem may lie in both the resource and knowledge areas. You may need consultants to bring your reporting process up to speed, plus training for your team members on the analytical aspects of the reporting tool.
This, then, brings me to my last point. Once you’ve decided that training is going to be a helpful solution, you still have one more task to accomplish: Define your goal! The kicker is that you only get one goal per training. You may have multiple problems, but it is extremely unlikely that one goal will solve all your problems.
You may need to expand your reporting capacity by training new report writers. At the same time, you may need to increase the knowledge and skills of your existing reporters. These are separate goals. (You can’t cheat by adding “and” between the two goals to come up with one goal.) Both of these learner groups start out at very different skill levels, each with different expectations of the outcome of training. Grouping these different learner types together makes the method of instruction uneven for both groups. It is very difficult to manage the instruction for a class that has multiple, and in some cases, competing, goals.
Always review your reporting situation to identify the problems you have with your reporting process. If training is deemed to be an effective solution to your problem, decide on what goal you want to accomplish and make sure that all the learners align with it. While this will mean that you’ll need multiple trainings to achieve multiple goals, those sessions will be more effective and a better use of your financial resources.