Published on 2012/02/21

Training Or Development?

Training Or Development?
Being a successful developer is more of an art than a science. Photo by Jeremy King.

Well where do you start with training and development? Let me start with the trainer or even the developer. Developer is not a term we would use much in the UK but for me it sums up the roll more adequately than ‘Trainer’. I am a firm believer that to be successful in this role you have to have excellent interpersonal and communication skills and, of course, presenting skills. To be able to capture the audience and have them eating out of the palm of your hand. To engage them and include them and most of all to teach them. It is a fine art and one we often overlook. How many times have you been in a lecture or a workshop and have been bombarded by data, facts and figures that rarely stick? How many times have you listened to a trainer ramble on about how much the facts and figures matter? BUT! How many times have you listened with intent to a developer who will challenge your thought processes? Who will engage your thoughts on new processes, new ways of working without bombarding you with facts and figures you will probably never use? Yes ‘The Developer’ is someone to be treasured. There’s a saying, ‘You never forget a good teacher’. Think about it and I’m sure you’ll agree that person was a ‘Developer’.

We can all learn facts, figures and processes. Some of us can quote and reference methodologies and outcomes. But what about the processes behind them? Well that is when we call in the specialist, the developer. When I am running a program of work with students I like to get to know a little about them. I ask each person to give a five-minute talk on something they like, anything. Then I open it up to the rest of the group to ask them questions. It goes beyond the conventional ice breakers that give you a name and a little history about yourself. It introduces you as a person and not as a student. This is a huge step to gain that initial trust and buy in. The start of development.

What I also do is ask everyone in the group if they really want to be there. If they say ‘no’ they are asked to leave. And of course we have to make it comfortable. I recall a group I delivered a course to in London. When they arrived I greeted them all with tea, coffee, Danishes, etc. Initially, not one person accepted a drink or a Danish. Then I got everyone to bring their chairs and come and sit in a group with me. I asked them one by one, their name and if they wanted tea, coffee and water etc. In 10 minutes we were all drinking and eating something. Food and drink is a big part of most people’s socialising and communication in my part of town (Sunderland). It opens up so many doors and breaks down so many walls. The outcomes I had from the group and subsequent groups were massive. So take an interest in the people around you, keep it comfortable.

Top ten tips to improving training/learning and development:

  • Keep it interesting and relevant
  • Keep everyone engaged
  • Group participation
  • Give analogies on the groups level
  • Don’t overload with unnecessary data
  • Don’t do death by PowerPoint
  • Ensure you have sufficient discussion time on each subject
  • Don’t run it like a board meeting where everyone’s fixed to their seats
  • Make the important bits fun
  • If you’re the developer…enjoy what you’re doing
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Readers Comments

Charles Adams 2012/02/21 at 8:33 am

I agree with you almost all the way through.

The only point I find contentious is that you expel students who don’t want to be there. I would imagine that would make the room uncomfortable if learners are being threatened with expulsion if they aren’t interested in the subject matter. Isn’t it our job as trainers to get them interested?

Colin Colborn 2012/02/22 at 3:14 pm

Not at all, although I do take your point. In my opinion at the higher education level all students attending should be there as it is their chosen subject, topic or is of personal interest to them. Your comment makes me sound a tad cut-throat and threatening to my students. ‘If you don’t like what you’re hearing, leave now’ type scenario. Although there is an element of truth behind that, in reality it is almost as far off the mark as the UK government is to effective development and students 🙂
I work in a very specific area. My courses are based on the principles of project management and the majority of the training is done by facillitation and 360 degree learning so if students are not interested they will not succeed. So it is not that students are expelled. They are given enough information to make an informed choice and if they feel they cannot or do not want to participate… their choice. On the flip side the people who do participate in the course find it fascinating and something they can use in their every day lives. One of the biggest success areas is how it prepares people for exams and even more so when they enter the big fantastic world of employment.

So again I feel you may have a valid point but it is not through expelling individuals it is attempting to gain buy in and approval, then, giving people the choice to withdraw. It is that buy in period that you attempt to win the people over. One part I dissagree with is when you say ‘isn’t it our job as trainers to get them interested’. No, we are there to make it more interesting to open their minds to possibilities in THEIR chosen interest. Not to give them all the answers and solutions. That way we generate interest and new ideas and indeed new ways of working.

I loved your comments though and hope I don’t sound too cynical. It’s these discussions that make us progress and as in my first article, makes us open our ears.

Many thanks

Colin 🙂

Frank Palatnick 2012/03/08 at 2:01 pm

I personally have a problem with the term ‘ trainer ‘. We are educators and facilitators. When we teach an animal new things, we are training them. When we guide the student on his learning journey, we are facilitating their understanding. We, as facilitators and educators, are like the rail of a train. The student is the car on that rail. The people who ‘ get on and off ‘ are the individuals who have dialogues with each other as well as the student’s mind to possibly alter the student’s understanding of concepts found in life. To use the term ‘ trainer ‘ to me is an insult because I feel like an animal that needs to be trained. We are living, breathing humans who are a summation of our understanding/s based on our experiences. We have the capability of thinking critically and logically which no animal can do. We have the gift of being able to question ourselves as well as other people and concepts. Again which no animal can do.

Jim Wilson 2012/03/08 at 2:50 pm

Frank, though I’d never thought of this point of view – prior to your enlightening analogy – I really appreciate what you’re getting at. Some might say semantics. But I’d say its what makes all the difference.

So here’s a related question for you…

What role does “training” (as you’ve led me to understand it) play in society at large? Does it indicate a shortcoming, or lost opportunity? For instance…

In reflecting on your statement (and the animal comparison) I’m inclined to deduce that training is like the bare bones essentials. Any dog can learn to sit. But surely Fido doesn’t spend her afternoon thinking about WHY she’s being told to sit. Or how she could sit more effectively, right?

So to bring this thought experiment full circle then, is there any human/workforce equivalent to training a dog to sit? And are there negative implications? Off the top of my head…

Joe Manager could train John Laborer to operate a widget press. John’s quota is to make 100 widgets a day. And that’s what he’s been trained to do. Its a menial job. But it pays the bills. And it doesn’t require any thought. A monkey could do it, (let’s say).

So Joe Manager makes sure John can operate the widget press. He trains him. But he doesn’t really care about John, and isn’t going to give up his coffee break to help John improve beyond the quota. A monkey could do it, after all.


I bring this up because I imagine there are a lot of “John widget makers” who could add a lot of value. But they’ve only been trained to do the bare essentials. No one is educating, motivating or facilitating their ability to add value beyond their actions, think critically and be creative (even though the result of this would ultimately benefit the widget corp Joe works for). So I guess what I’m trying to say is… what are the implications of all these derailed train cars? How do we get them back on the tracks?

Colin Colborn 2012/03/11 at 4:59 pm

Frank, Jim, Both fantastic comments. Thank you!
Frank, very deep and interesting what you say although I feel it merely something we both lose in translation to each other. Where I come from in northern UK when we greet someone we say ‘Alright, how are you?’ in London or in southern UK they say ‘Good day, good morning’ etc in Ireland my friends all say ‘Top o the mornin to ya’ They all mean ‘hello just we say them different to each other. You say educator I say trainer, although it should be said I say that in a vocational setting and not the school environment. I love your analagy about the rail tracks however I’m sure if on reflection you don’t entirely mean what you say. If we all followed the same track we’d lose all innovation however if some of change at crossings or junctions I do agree with you. 🙂

Jim, Hi! or should I say ‘allright how are you?’ I totally get where you’re coming from, However… some people are happy to keep doing the widgets as some are happy to serve in fast food outlets. Some are more suited to conventional education and some prefer the vocational route. So I guess it depends what you mean by ‘back on track’???
I suppose that in turn leads us to another conversation. I recently came across a person who had done the same job for over ten years. I asked them if they wanted to possibly train to do something else and broaden their horizons. They quite firmly replied they did not. They were happy with their job, in fact they ‘loved their job’ and got immense satisfaction from it as they did from their home life. So why change? If it aint broke don’t fix it. I guess what I’m trying to say or I think agree with what you’re saying is. We’re all different, some serving cheeseburgers, some Directors, some wash dishes. some with a high level of education and some with none. It’s an interesting topic.
Thanks guys I really appreciate your comments.

Keep smiling


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