By Niki Tudge

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  above 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.

To learn more about both training and teaching employees and/or clients click below