Training What and When

Training is not an event, whereby an employee or client attends a training session one day and their boss expects the desired behavior (i.e. what has been trained and, hopefully, learned) the next. Training is actually a process. It begins before we even plan our first class or workshop and continues until the new knowledge, skills, and attitudes are applied regularly and competently in the workplace or when needed.

Please note all of these concepts are also pertinent and ideal for a business- client relationship where knowledge and manual skills are being transferred!

Many years ago, I was a corporate director of training for a large international company. I fulfilled this role across multiple units on three different continents. Part of my role was helping develop future company leaders and putting into place a corporate structure and a culture of ongoing learning and development. One of the first components of this was to analyze what training and development was already taking place and what needed to change.

From my experience, I identified numerous reasons why management initiates employee training. The most common of these is poor work performance. In most cases, however, this is because a more structured and strategic approach to training is lacking. If your organization has a culture of employee development, service excellence and operational efficiency, then it probably has an ongoing approach to workplace training and advancement and thus a more proactive approach to performance management.

Training is necessary in any of the scenarios detailed below, but before you can plan any kind of program, you must first establish why the training is to take place.

Ask yourself: (remember these are also great questions to ask of a client before you begin a training service with them)

  1. Is there a skill gap between low- and high-performing employees?
  2. Are there opportunities for service improvements as identified through client satisfaction reports?
  3. Are new services or products being implemented requiring supportive skill training or knowledge?
  4. Are there new standard operating procedures that employees need to be aware of to ensure legal compliance?
  5. Have individual employees been earmarked for career progression and, if so, are future development needs being addressed?
  6. Do company downsizing initiatives require employees to be cross trained as part of a workplace flexibility or efficiency initiative?

Each of these reasons requires that employees learn new skills, acquire supplemental knowledge or make a shift in behavior, and thus necessitates workplace learning.

Learning Defined

All learning principles are predicated on a definition of learning, so let us do just that. Learning is a process, a journey that leads to change that occurs as a result of new experiences. Through these experiences comes an increased potential for improved performance and future learning.

Ambrose et al. (2010) present that there are three critical components here:

  1. Learning is a process rather than a product.
  2. Learning must involve a change in knowledge, beliefs, behaviors or attitudes.
  3. Learning is not something to be pushed onto students, but is a direct result of how students interpret and respond to their experiences.

Learning has also been defined as the process of increasing one’s capacity to take action and the process by which a person acquires new knowledge, skills and capabilities. Honey (1998), as quoted by Armstrong, declared learning as complex and various, covering a range of components, such as knowledge, skills, insights, beliefs, values, attitudes and habits (Armstrong, 2003, p. 538). In each of these definitions, keywords such as “process” and “acquires” are used. The definitions focus on the critical aspects of the learning process in terms of Experiential Learning Theory, making it more about adaptation than content. We will review experiential learning in more detail later on when we look at our training implementation system.

To Teach or To Train?

Whether we train, teach, or both, what are we ultimately impacting? Buckingham and Coffman (1999) differentiate between skills, knowledge and talent and propose that, together, they form the three elements of any one person’s performance. The dissimilarity between the three is that, while skills can be trained and knowledge taught, talent can be neither. Skills are the “how-to” and knowledge is what one is aware of, cognitively speaking. Talent is a different phenomenon altogether, however, and cannot be taught. Rather, it is a repetitive behavior or action intrinsic to an individual’s natural ability.

In contrast to Coffman and Buckingham, Ulrich and Smallwood (2012) assert that talent is not a singular phenomenon, but relies instead on a formula of competence × commitment × contribution. As trainers, we need to be sufficiently self-aware to be able to place an emphasis on the areas where we can have the most impact. Ideally, our work should single out the development of skills through effective training and the transfer of knowledge through teaching activities. The assumption is that if we are effective trainers and skilled teachers, then our students will, in turn, be able to enhance their knowledge and improve their skills. As a result, they will experience the learning process.

Let us now take a few minutes to look a little deeper at training versus teaching.

Upon examination of the relevant literature, it becomes apparent that teaching is theoretically oriented, whereas training has more of a practical application. Teaching facilitates new knowledge, while training helps those who already have the knowledge to learn the tools and techniques required to apply it. Teaching penetrates minds, while training shapes habits and skills. Teachers provide information and knowledge, while trainers facilitate learning. Or, as Trumbull (1890) states: “It has been said that the essence of teaching is causing another to know.” It may similarly be said that “the essence of training is causing another to do.” (Rao, 2008).

Training is an interactive activity that helps us to perform skills. It requires learning by doing and experiencing practical activities (Pollice, 2003). In my opinion, and stated across relevant literature, training focuses on skills and narrows the focus, possibly over a shorter period of time. Typically, we also associate training with repetitive learning until we achieve competency and the skill becomes second nature. A select review of the literature discussing teaching suggests that, in contrast to training, the search of, or transfer of, knowledge is deeper and broader, and takes place over a longer period of time. We often say learning is a lifelong occupation.

Essentially, the goals associated with teaching and training are different, but I am not suggesting the two roles are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, it is important we balance our roles between teaching and transferring knowledge, and training and getting the job done.

I conclude here that training is a subset of teaching. The table on the following page highlights some of the topics that we, within our scope as trainers, will touch on when teaching employees. It differentiates between topics that require skill training or hands-on competency, and those that require teaching or the transfer of knowledge. I think it is fair to say most of these teaching activities would be best taught alongside compatible skill training exercises.

Find out more and access a great system for teaching and training skill and kno


Part One of this book is dedicated to helping small business leaders understand their employees, because how any one individual learns is a large portion of what we all need to master in our roles as trainers. Having said that, anyone who teaches or trains others – no matter what the field – will find the book helpful because the concepts covered are both relevant and easily transferable. By the time you reach the end, you will know how to effectively communicate with your employees and help them through the entire learning process until they develop skill mastery.

How we train and develop our employees and the types of professional relationships we build with those who enter our sphere of influence are critical to our ability to impact and educate others. This has a direct effect on the operation and success of our businesses. Ultimately, knowing how to accurately assess our employees’ skills and knowledge – without intimidation – while creating a safe and trusting learning environment will empower us to help them reach an elevated level of competence.

In Part Two of the book, we will look at the role of mentor and coach and how these roles are defined, as well as focus on the skills needed to be an engaging, effective coach and trainer. I have also laid out the actual On Task Skill Coaching™ process I recommend for conducting on-the-job training. This, supported by your new teaching knowledge, covered in Chapter Two, will ensure you will soon be well on your way to shaping and changing the lives of those you work with.

Table of Contents

  1. Training What and When
  2. Learning Defined
  3. To Teach or To Train?
  4. The Model
  • Understanding Our Employees
  • Learning and Behavior – The Power of Reinforcement
  • Communicating with Powerful Words
  • Building Productive Relationships
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • To Influence We Must First Understand
  • The Human Component
  • The Adult Learner
  • Fundamental Principles for Teaching Adults
  • Assessing Current Skills, Knowledge and Talent
  • Helping Employees Develop Mastery and Competency
  • From Novice to Master
  • Practice Always Needs Supervision
Skill One – Formalizing Each Person’s Role
Skill Two – Managing Employees through Change
Skill Three – Managing Employee Training Performance
Skill Four – Managing and Resolving Conflict
Skill Five – Grasping and Using the Power of Persuasion
Skill Six – Building Employee Commitment and Compliance
Skill Seven – Employ the Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback
Skill Eight – Managing Employee Anger
Skill Nine – Benefit from Effective Time Management
Skill Ten – The Training System
  • Step 1: Open the Session
  • Step 2: Show the Finished Skill
  • Step 3: The One-Way Demo
  • Step 4: The Two-Way Demo
  • Step 5: Trainee Performs the Task
  • Step 6: Supervised Practice
  • Step 7: Wrap Up the Session
  • Step 8: Assign Homework
  • Implementation

 FREE Books are available for the first ten people to reach this point. Use Code FREETraining to access the book here