[Columnist Note: This article is not about politics, but about performance—please read it that way.]
Why did it take so long to decide on duly elected officials after the elections in the United States in 2022? This wasn’t even a presidential election year, yet so many states seemed to have had problems with their elections processes and results. Did training (or lack of training) play a part in this?
- Was someone trained to inspect and maintain voting machines? Did someone fail put policy and procedure in place requiring that, 60 days prior to an election, all voting machines would be inspected, tested, and given whatever maintenance they needed? It sounds as though we may have some training issues here.
- Let’s consider the absentee ballot question. Absentee ballots had to be received within 10 days of election day in order to count. Was that a bad policy? Should absentee ballots be due by election day, so all votes are counted at the same time? That’s probably not a training issue in and of itself, but rather a process issue.
- How much help voters should receive before, during, or after voting in order to make sure their vote counts? Should there be a clear and standard definition for what constitutes a correctly cast ballot? There could be a flaw in both training and process on this point.
- What about the infamous butterfly ballot count? What was the process for approving the ballot? Did all interested parties have a chance to critique the ballot first?
- Were clear guidelines in place directing how ballots should be designed? If so, did the people designing the ballots know this and apply the guidelines? Who approves the ballot once a prototype is ready, to ensure it meets the guidelines? Here we may have a breakdown in communication more than a training shortfall.
Be More Proactive and Diagnostic
I don’t know the answers to these questions, and I’m not trying to start a discussion about who should have won the various elections. I’m simply raising what I think are questions that trainers need to ask whenever we’re trying to identify and overcome a performance deficiency.
I’m focusing on performance problems that seem to have emerged in preparation for and conduct of the election.
I’m suggesting that, as trainers, we need to be more proactive and diagnostic.
- How do we improve performance—and how can we apply our knowledge of performance improvement to ensure we look at all the elements as we develop a plan?
- Are we considering not only the skills and knowledge necessary to accomplish something, but also the impact of policies and procedures on performance? The impact of systems on performance? The impact of recruiting and placement? And the impact coaching and training?
Let the quagmire of the 2022 election serve as a reminder and a warning: When addressing a perceived need, look beyond the obvious—knowledge delivery, or training—and consider what you might be overlooking.
- Will training alone fill the bill? Must we also attempt to influence trainees’ managers?
- Are people held back by inadequate equipment or resources?
- Are policies in place that interfere with workers’ use of the learning we have tried so hard to deliver?
Let’s Use Our Entire Toolbox
Problems should be addressed holistically if we’re to have any sense of confidence in our solutions. Training is often the answer, and almost always part of the answer.
To a man with a hammer, the saying goes, every problem looks like a nail. Let’s use our entire toolbox. That just might save us from the frustration and embarrassment experienced by the people whose job it was to straighten out the election fiasco.
Home, Sweet Home
One final thought: My wife and I were in New York City the month after the elections. We talked to several international visitors and listened to their views on the affair. We heard it all—that it was a joke, that it was inconceivable.
The one thing the international visitors never mentioned was this: In many countries, such a contested election would have resulted in bloodshed. The military may have mobilized, the opposition may have attempted a coup.
None of that happened here. For all its quirkiness and for all the emotion that partisan politics play, when it’s all finally over, it is over. In my opinion, the United States is still the greatest country in the world, and a wonderful place to call home.
Until next month—add value and make a difference!!