Organization & Leadership Consulting

Employee Training vs. Employee Development

New employee training in a coffee shop

Employee training done well is a one-and-done event – True or False? It depends.

Some things to keep in mind for employee training vs. employee development:

Whether you focus on one-time employee training sessions or an employee development program, each approach depends on a few key factors. And there are times for a hybrid approach.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Is the position seasonal, temporary, or long-term?
  • Are the responsibilities and authority narrow and simple in scope or broad and nuanced?
  • Are relevant managers looking for quick traction or steady building of momentum?
  • Do you want to use the person to get the work done or use the work to grow the person?

Either approach has its merits. Just be clear as to what your desired outcomes are and create your employee training or development plan accordingly. Clearly stating the desired outcomes and reasons for them is also a matter of integrity. Doing so avoids misunderstandings and unmet expectations.

Here are a few recommendations for effective employee training events:

  • Integrate the organization’s value system and culture expectations throughout, not merely in one segment.
  • Consider multiple learning styles when it comes to content and delivery. For example, address visual, auditory, and kinesthetic approaches.
  • Use multiple media and “voices”. Reading, listening, video, interactive sessions. Include a variety of people and perspectives for the delivery of the content. Receiving all the information from the same person or media makes it easier to tune out.
  • Include real customer feedback. This is most effective through video. It allows employees to see and hear nuances of the customer’s nonverbal communications. Carefully vet the “customer spokespeople” for authenticity, articulation, and connectivity.

When it comes to employee development, in addition to the technical aspects of training content, you may want to consider:

  •  One or more approaches to increasing self-awareness: temperament assessments, team-participation tendencies, emotional intelligence, conflict-utilization approaches, etc.
  • A customizable personal development plan that is worked out and worked on in collaboration with the employee’s direct supervisor, with the relevant manager in the loop.
  • Integration of that personalized plan with the ongoing development of others in the organization. Isolation skews perspective. Well-guided cohorts are an excellent means of encouraging the “iron-sharpens-iron” aspect of training and development.
  • Identify milestones and means of celebrating them. Celebrations are most effective if they are meaningful to the employee and the organization. (i.e., Avoid giving gift cards to establishments in which the employee has no interest.)

A shortlist of best-practice concepts relevant to effective employee development:

  • Clear, comprehensive information, engagingly delivered with ongoing means of access.
  • Real-time, hands-on experience appropriate to the role and responsibilities.
  • A structured yet flexible approach to mentoring and coaching.
  • Guided reflection, through built-in time, space, and resources.

Doing the above well takes time, energy and resources. Doing it poorly, or not at all, will merely delay the expenditure of time, energy and resources; or diminish the gain thereof.

Your people are your most dynamic “resource”. Invest in them.

TurningWest – Your guide to a healthy culture with meaningful results, truly understands those dynamics of employee training vs. employee development. Organization, team, and leader development adapted to you.


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