Development and Training – Same, Same: Maybe Not?

CoachStation: Learn To Lead

Are learning, training and development the same thing? The short answer is no, however training is one avenue to learning and development. Why does defining the difference matter – aren’t I really just splitting hairs? Now, that is the interesting question!!

Having worked with many varied people and business cultures and recognising the similarities and differences, it is clear to me that many managers think training and development are the same thing. I have seen examples where a manager has sent one of their team to training to ‘rectify’ a skill gap and behaviour. Attending the training did not make the difference expected by the manager, so he sent the employee back on the 2-day training course at the next available opportunity.

Of course, there was no change as a result. When this manager attempted to send the same employee a third time, I felt it necessary to intervene and ask the pertinent questions to broaden the manager’s thinking and related actions.

I have written about this before, however it continues to surprise me that people in leadership roles too often do not have the skills, foresight or desire to understand the different components of learning and development in practice, not simply as a field within the HR function.

Professional Development refers to skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement. There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including consultation, coaching, communities of practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision and technical assistance.

Personal Development includes activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitates employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. The concept is not limited to self-help but includes formal and informal activities for developing others, in roles such as teacher, guide, counsellor, manager, coach, or mentor. Finally, as personal development takes place in the context of institutions, it refers to the methods, programs, tools, techniques, and assessment systems that support human development at the individual level in organizations.

Training is the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies…(and) goals of improving one’s capability, capacity and performance. (1)

At face value the definitions are similar, however there is a significant, almost palpable difference, possibly not obvious in the definitions, but evident in practice. Training is the imparting of knowledge. It is the provider of information, the opportunity to be exposed to new concepts, tools, standards or similar. In itself, it is rarely the changer of behaviours.

Having knowledge is one thing, applying this knowledge in a practical and discernible way that makes a difference, is quite another.

In order to make sure the learner takes in the information in a way that makes a difference for them, the learning must be reinforced post-training. This is where the manager or leader has a huge part to play. It is also where the process breaks down most often. Understanding and applying the basic principles of adult learning are sufficient to aid in development, reinforcing the knowledge gained from training. These principles assert that:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

I recently created a model to visually demonstrate the principle that training, coaching and understanding the nuances between people has significant power in the transformational development of an individual. Any one of the components can make a difference, but rarely does a person have the ability, knowledge or drive to take the learning program to its ultimate state of change without assistance. This is one of the key reasons that training, coaching and self-development tools exist in the first place.

John Wenger of quantum shifting articulates this exceptionally well:

For many of you in a leadership position, you probably don’t need more top tips or knowledge about your job.  You probably don’t need much more information about ‘stuff’; you would probably enjoy developing something else, something deeper that frees you up to apply the knowledge and information you have already acquired with greater ease and finesse.  It’s one thing to know about emotional intelligence, for example.  It’s quite another thing for you to apply this elegantly in a living, breathing workplace with real life people in real life situations…(when) more organisations wake up to the idea that, rather than sending people on more training courses that treat them like receptacles for yet more tools, tricks and tips, they should be investing in developing the users of these tools.

Many pertinent questions can be asked relevant to this theme, some of which may be applicable to you:

  • Do each of your team members have a development plan?
  • If not, why?
  • If so, when was the last time you meaningfully revisited this with your employee?
  • How actively involved are you in the development of your team?
  • When a member of your team is scheduled to participate in a training session, has the purpose been linked to an actual development need and/or built into their development plan?
  • Do you discuss expected outcomes and learning prior to the training session? Do you follow it up post-training?
  • In what ways do you reinforce the development of each of your employees, every week?

A good leader recognises that there is a difference between training and development.

An effective leader ensures that he or she is not only aware but actively participates in the development of each individual – this is a responsibility of the role. What are your thoughts?

(1) Source: Wikipedia, accessed on 18/7/12

2 replies
  1. Somewhere, is Alabama says:

    This explains the differences accurately. There is definately a difference between training, coaching, and mentoring.
    To go a little off topic, I’ve noticed that companies feel there is a lack of “need” for developing its employees for growth and advancement. Why is this?

  2. CoachStation says:

    Thanks for your comment. I think there are many reasons why companies feel their is a lack of need to develop ranging from funding, fear (about a leaders own skills and ability to assist and develop others), ignorance and many other factors. What is apparent is that those companies who are prepared to finance and actively support development of their people are better off for it in so many ways – this is difficult to refute, yet not always accepted or understood.

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