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Telling ain’t training and training ain’t learning

I’m a firm believer in the notion that ‘telling ain’t training.’ Because it just isn’t. That said, training isn’t a one-off event but an ongoing process of learning and development. So, you can’t deliver a training session, have it recorded, and expect the trainees to go back to the recording. Sure, having a reference point always helps, but that’s not training but documentation.

The challenge with documentation is that it’s most useful when people are generally comfortable or want to know more about the thing/topic they are training for, which is quite normal in a corporate setting. And that takes time, which most people don’t have and certainly seems to be the number one impediment to a productive collaboration on a project, both on and off work.

So, you get trained on, let’s say a piece of software, you start working on it, go back to your trainer/training sessions with questions, get the answers, stack more information over what you already know, rinse and repeat. That’s what an ongoing training process looks like. But what if this was a limited training series? What if the trainees don’t find the software or the topic engaging, but it’s critical for success at the workplace?

Pointing your trainees to the recordings isn’t that efficient. Just like expecting them to come up with questions isn’t reasonable. They might not like the topic or want to get through the struggle because the supervisor asked them to attend the training. Those are typical scenarios. Not everyone has to love the processes in place, but they have to leverage what’s available to maximize efficiency.

That leaves us with the one thing most learning and development teams don’t do — equip the trainees with resources that make it easy for them to get answers. “Equipping” means enabling your trainees to act independently by giving them access to the right resources (video, audio, a manual or a guidebook, or even additional coaching) they need to succeed in their respective roles.

And of course, an effective training plan requires continuity, which might mean organizing frequent touch-points or coaching calls on the topic. Yeah, that’s a lot of work, especially if you’re part of the finance or Human Resources or even administrative teams, but you can’t get around the learning process. It takes time, effort, and a lot of patience to expect the end-users to develop a skill or two.

Like most mediocre leaders who assume communication has happened, a giant blunder people who train (or like to tell, because they think that’s what training is) make is to believe that learning has happened. And we know that’s not true.