Why Isn’t Training Enough? …3

People-development converts payroll costs to asset-investment

Post 3: The next day Justin and Gwen clarified that her less tenured employee, Sandy, could handle standard processes well and was only stumped when customer issues were beyond the scope of her training content. They also concluded that her learning gap would be narrowed if she understood ‘why’ many of the processes had been put in place so she could develop, apply and sustain judgement skills in relation to her job.

Justin commented, “You know this same kind of thing happened to me as a new leader. My mentor had suggested leadership courses for me to take and books to read, and I enrolled in classes and finished several of the books. Much of that was about organizing time, tasks and people. But there’s a lot of opportunity for things to not go right when you’re helping people, so my mentor kind of bucketed learning into two aspects: training and development. I think the principle applies with Sandy’s situation. He defined training as the learning needed to complete a task correctly and development as learning that helps you make judgement calls when the standard solution is obstructed or needs to change. So I’ve incorporated other less formal learning methods into my career development to help gain experience that is more than facts and methodologies. It seems like Sandy needs a development solution; what do you think?”

After brainstorming some ways Sandy might gain the experience needed to develop the judgement skills she seemed to be lacking, Gwen was satisfied with a plan. After some more thought, her plan developed into an opportunity to avoid this kind of gap with other agents that showed initiative like Sandy did.

First, she shared the learning challenge with three of her most tenured agents and asked if they would help by being resources for newer agents when needed. This was positive because it allowed Gwen to recognize the expertise of her former peers. She and Justin set parameters for their support: they would explain the whys but direct the newer agents to research answers that were in the training content; they would also follow guidelines to ensure the performance statistics of neither agent was impacted.

Second, after deciding that some of the ‘fluff’ cut from the training content might have value, she and Justin met with the training group. They worked to incorporate two aspects into the training that might help new agents start making sound judgement decisions when facing not-standard customer issues: some history, explaining the whys of evolved policies, and high-level work-flows, explaining the whys of practices impacting other teams in the company. They also confirmed that each trained process included the end-goal, so learners could align the results of any variance they were considering.

When he received Gwen’s email a week later, Justin felt especially good about the time he’d invested in his new colleague: “I feel like our work together last week was a DEVELOPMENT opportunity for me J. Thanks for taking the time to give input on the challenge with Sandy. Sometime I’d like to ask you some more questions about the idea of working with a mentor. Thanks again, G.

Reality: Using the term ‘training’ as a catch-all phrase for learning can be a misleading habit. Cultures that create distinction between training [as learning how to do a task correctly] and development [as learning how to do the task when the prescribed ways are weak] can offer powerful learning advantages to employees. This cultural distinction often drives faster, stronger results for the business.


  • A general semantic difference between training and development: training teaches how to do the job; development teaches judgement for when the process needs work. These are not always distinctly different concepts; there is always gray space where they run together.
  • Incorporating development basics into training helps lay a foundation for sound decision-making:
    • Combat Spatial Blindness by explaining how their work decisions impact others in their “space” inside and outside the company.
    • Combat Temporal Blindness by sharing history or evolution that explains why current realities and processes exist.  Partnering with tenured employees on this perspective can enrich development for everyone!
    • Frame expectations as behaviors instead of specific actions; give examples and expected results of the behaviors, and offer time in trainings to successfully practice key behaviors.
  • The term ‘leadership development’ is too often interpreted as being only for employees with leadership titles.
    • Every employee level contains informal leaders who might increase their positive impact with some development learning.
    • Developing front-line leaders often encourages them to be more responsible in their peer influence and focuses them toward business priorities.
    • Development opportunities usually are less expensive to implement than training but often require more creativity and sacrifice of personal interaction.
  • Engagement in business results increases significantly when employees feel they are developing skills that will be valuable for any future career direction they choose.
    • Development in how to navigate people interactions is appreciated by most employees.
    • Feedback on development results is most effective BEFORE it is critical to their performance because they can choose to apply it instead of feeling forced to accept a judgement.
  • Engaged employees should be coached to take initiative and partner with leaders to drive their own career development.
    • Early in their work-journeys students can develop valuable experience before they even decide on career direction. Employers win when they move past training with these employees and open the learning door to development with those who will take the initiative.
    • Leaders should not feel they are limited to only encourage the development of their direct reports; sharing influence across reporting-lines, departments or businesses can be even more effective.

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