Employees Hate Being Trained. But They Love to Learn.

July 25, 2016

The difference between training your employees and your employees learning at your organization is a mile wide.

Most employees dread training. It means time away from their day-to-day jobs in a brightly lit conference room to learn something the way the company wants them to learn it, to meet a specific business need.

Bottom line, training is all about the business, not the employee. And too much training makes people feel like this:

Compare that to employees learning. Learning happens on the employee’s time, and provides them an opportunity for them to reach their goals. Instead of treating employees like commodities, learning is about treating people as individuals, and allows them to get the most out of their abilities.

Bottom line, learning is all about the employee, not the business. And it makes people feel like this:

So what’s the difference between training and learning?

Let’s make something clear – training is inevitable, to a degree. When your company adopts a new software, or a new employee needs to learn your scheduling system, or countless other examples, you are going to have to do some training.

That’s fine, people accept that. But training, in it’s most Orwellian sense, is about getting someone to do what you want them to do in the way you want them to do it.

So, yes, you need to train employees on how to use certain tools and some basics around your company. But, if you go overboard with training on exactly what to say on sales calls, for example, or the exact way every PowerPoint should look, you are going to remove all innovation and creativity from your workforce

At that point, your people are going to think you don't trust them. And they'll probably think you have a button like this…

The philosophy behind a learning culture is the exact opposite of that. It assumes that you hired people who are smart, hardworking and want to do their best. And, therefore, you are going to give them tools to improve themselves, and trust them that they will.

Learning makes your employees feel empowered, keeps them engaged and unlocks their full potential. While training is about taking one idea from one central entity and having everyone else conform to it, learning is about believing that two is greater than one (and three is greater than two).

Okay, enough hypotheticals. Give me an example.

Let’s say you're a US-based company that sells computer software, and you want to expand into India. Let’s walk through the difference between how a training organization would handle it, versus a learning organization.

A training organization’s approach

A training company would come up with an all-inclusive strategy on how to best approach selling into India. A few people would meet in a room, come up with a top-to-bottom playbook, and hire a new sales team that would work exclusively off that playbook.

This Indian-based sales team would spend time in training being told exactly what to say, when to say it and will likely be given “conversation workflows” that have reactions to each prospect objection. After, they’d go to their call center and follow their scripts to a tee, with their calls monitored to ensure protocols are followed.

The amount of wisdom ascertained from that Indian-based sales team, which might have invaluable local knowledge? Zero. And the general feel around the office?

Something like this:

A learning organization’s approach

It’s not to say that a learning organization wouldn’t come up with a strategy before expanding into India. It’s more how that strategy would be developed.

Instead of treating new employees as a commodity who need to be trained to fit into the company’s image, people would be hired for their expertise in the field. For example, the company would prioritize hiring salespeople who have succeeded in India to learn from them on how they’ve done it.

Once this sales team is created, feedback would be a constant loop. Instead of the company's leaders always directing what should happen and when, employees would provide feedback from the field – and be given the freedom to experiment – to figure out best practices.

Successes would be cascaded throughout the organization, which other people could learn from. Additionally, these new employees in India would have the opportunity to take classes on a wide range of subjects to grow their own career, such as how to be a better manager or how to ask better sales questions.

Unlike the training organization, both the company and the individual grow smarter over time. Additionally, morale in this new Indian office is probably something like this:

The takeaway

Companies spend billions of dollars annually and dedicate countless hours trying to hire the absolute best people. But what good is that great talent, if you don’t trust it fully and do everything you can to make it better?

A training organization minimizes that talent, by limiting creativity and prioritizing control. A learning organization maximizes it, by fostering each individual’s ability to grow and encouraging them to be the best they can possibly be.

*Image by Realbrvhrt, Wikipedia Commons

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