Thursday, December 29, 2016

Is It Really Training?

Being a Training Manager (and in the past a Trainer), I often contemplate just what we mean by "training". Much has been written on the subject, and we can come up with all kinds of comparisons like training vs. education, training vs. learning, and more.

I tend to agree with the experts that say in essence, training is the act of assisting a learner to change behavior - or add new behaviors - as a result of learning. And that learning can be both skills and knowledge.

Here's one way to look at it. I have Trainers that facilitate new hire programs for call center agents. In these multi-week programs, participants learn a great deal about systems, procedures, rules, and techniques. That's education, which is heavy on presentation of content and on the learner's part, memorization and the ability to find reference information. They also practice the procedures and techniques, starting out with simple tasks and working up to very complex call management. That's learning and skill development. Together, they make up training.

For another example, professional pilots are highly trained to correctly respond to emergency situations. In that training, they learn information (and review it annually), and practice in simulators. The Trainers simply deliver the education and monitor practice, providing feedback to the learners.

Police dogs are also highly trained. They learn to obey certain commands, and through practice with feedback to sniff out a suspect or drugs. Since they're not human, they receive very little knowledge (education), and maximum practice, which is their primary mode of learning. Whether the learner is a call center agent, pilot or police dog, the goal is the same: new or improved, reliable and effective behavior.

So, a Training Manager like me is really responsible for learning and the resultant behavior changes, not so much just the act of providing training. Training is a complex effort of providing education and  opportunity to practice with feedback all for a specific goal: performance. And that's why I named this blog Learning. Training is meaningless without it and performance is dependent on it.

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