How Training and Education Differ and Why You Should Care

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You want to teach your workforce. You’ve got a bunch of great employees, something they need to learn, and you’ve already found a wonderful learning management system to help you.

But here’s where you’re stuck: are you training your employees, or educating them?

The situation

To explain this concept, I’m going to leave the corporate world behind for a bit and give you a real-world example.

Let’s say you’ve got a romantic partner. They were pretty darn great to begin with, but over the years you’ve had to teach each other some things to cultivate the relationship you have today.

Now, let’s add a dog to the mix. Your pup was pretty darn great to begin with as well, but you’ve also had to teach it a few things to avoid a torn-up sofa and chewed-up shoes.

You’ve taught things to both your partner and your puppy. But, you didn’t teach them in the same way! One of them has been trained, and the other has been educated.

What is training?

Training is a form of teaching with a dedicated and focused objective. Training is about imparting a specific ability or knowledge to a person or group of people. At the end of the day, you want them to have conquered a single task, skill, or method.

From the outset, my dog Kona was very smart and eager to please. But, he had some behavioral problems, including not listening and tearing up bags of trash that he decorated the house with. I couldn’t go on forever with him not knowing how to sit or thinking that his interior design skills were up to par.

Sleeping dog

Kona, being lazy.

I needed to teach Kona how to perform specific tasks to my satisfaction. Everything I wanted him to learn was a concrete, singular item like “sit” or “heel,” rather than abstract concepts such as “sit down because we’re in the car and I don’t want you to go flying if I hit the brakes” or “walk at my heel because I spotted a rabbit and I don’t want you to chase it and yank my arm off.”

Even if the abstract concept is why he needs to perform the concrete task, it’s more than he needs to understand to do what I want him to do. Since speaking his language to explain wasn’t an option, training him to perform these tasks on command was enough.

Single tasks doesn’t limit my options, though. I can give him tasks that differ from standard commands, and he grasps that they mean the same thing. For example: Kona knows how to shake, but it’s much funnier when he shakes at the command “put ‘er there, pal!” or “the contract is sealed.” Training doesn’t have to be simple, mindless tasks. It just needs to be about one solid thing.

What is education?

Education is systematic learning that teaches students why or how something is done. It may or may not train them in how to actually perform a task.

Our ever-constant guide Merriam and Webster defines educate as: “to train by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession.”

You’ll note that the definition includes the word train. When you get down to it, education can include training (and often does), but training typically doesn’t include education.

My partner Lex and I have been together for three years. As anyone in a long term relationship can tell you, there’s a lot that couples need to learn about each other to keep their partnership happy and secure. As our relationship progressed, it was important to let her know specific things about me and my preferences.

That’s bae.

While you could boil these things down to basic statements like “don’t ask how much I spent on this bike” or “help peel these carrots,” what I really meant when I said these things was: “this hobby is important to me, and it’s important that my partner doesn’t make me feel guilty about it” and “I like it when we spend time together in the kitchen.”

In these situations, the reasons behind a task or statement and the history supporting those reasons was more important than the tasks themselves. I didn’t necessarily need to teach her the best way to peel carrots, because the act of peeling matters less than her presence in the kitchen.

Educating learners on the reasoning behind certain requests lets them extrapolate the logic themselves.

How can you tell if you need training or education?

All these definitions and distinctions are really just details. When you have a workforce to teach, your choice often boils down to determining the difference for you and your employees. Do your employees need to be trained or educated? Does it actually matter, at the end of the day?

Let’s start with the last question: yes, it does matter. The best way to decide between the two is to determine what your employees need from their learning experience. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my employee need to understand how to perform a singular task?
  • Is the method or reasoning behind this task less important than the task itself?
  • Does my employee need to understand how to execute several different tasks?
  • Is the history behind why a task is performed irrelevant to my employee’s ability to do it?

If you answered mostly yes: your employees probably need to be trained.

If you answered mostly no: your employees probably need to be educated.

Next steps

If you have an answer, you’re ready for your next step. You should start working to design a course that focuses on training or education, as needed.

No matter which you choose, understanding how to give your workforce the experience they need to learn best is what separates a good training manager from a great training manager.

A successfully trained puppy and educated partner (with a side of derp).

Share this article on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and check out these other pieces for more info on designing a killer corporate training or education program:

Looking for Training software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Training software solutions.

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About the Author

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Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.

Comments

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I agree with this on so many levels.

As both an ex-teacher and an ex-army commander I know first hand the difference between the two.

Training works on different registries in your mind. It has less to do with knowledge and more to do with performance, which in the work place is certainly more important.

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Stress Resilience, Passion Power, and Team Coordination: How a Leader Builds Interactive Community these all skill training you will found in this site.

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