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There's nothing wrong with this word.
Last week, I erased the word “learner” from the L&D dictionary. It’s true! I totally did. 😜
The resulting conversation yielded the most impressions I’ve ever recorded on a LinkedIn post along with a 25% bump in ECOSYSTEM subscribers. Hi, y’all! 👋
So this week, I want to give back by restoring a term to the L&D lexicon. And that word is “training.”
Why do so many L&D pros avoid “training” like it’s a four-letter word? Articles. Memes. Pithy LinkedIn comments … all arguing that “training” is inferior to “learning.” I was part of a team that rebranded from “Operations Training” to “Operations Learning and Development.” Our name was more difficult to fit on a shirt, but did this change impact how we did our jobs or, more importantly, how the organization perceived our value?
“You train a DOG, not a PERSON!” Don’t bring our canine friends into this. 🐶
By definition, training and learning are not the same. They’re related, but they’re not interchangeable.
Training: a structured, guided series of activities intended to help a person develop the knowledge and skill required to complete a task
Learning: a complex, internal, personal process through which knowledge and skill is acquired and retained
L&D helps people learn. But we don’t “build learning” or “deliver learning.” People do the learning (hopefully). We execute the training. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
I wouldn’t have lasted a week in my first movie theatre job without those two days of cashier training. There was just too much to learn between the register, different forms of payments, food prep, upset customers, etc. My trainer, Tommy, taught me everything I needed to know to get started - from how to handle cash to the right sequence in which to fulfill an order. Spending two days with him also bolstered my confidence, which I desperately needed as a shy kid in my first public-facing role. Looking back, it’s still the best training experience of my career. Thanks again, Tommy! 🍿
Did you know I can pilot a raft? I can’t ride a bike, but I can get you across the Rivers of America - no problem. And it’s all thanks to Steven and the three days of training he provided at Tom Sawyer Island in The Magic Kingdom Park (nomenclature!). It was the most fun training in which I’ve ever participated. It was also the only time I was required to wear a flotation device for professional reasons.
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Training isn’t just for newbies. There’s a reason professional athletes go to training camp before the seasons starts - and then continue to practice between games. They’re already great at what they do, but even the best can falter without additional training and targeted feedback. You learn a lot from playing (or doing the job), but you can’t focus on refining your skills when the stakes are at their highest (and a customer is impatiently staring at you).
Training - the word - isn’t the problem. Our legacy with training is the issue. L&D has long been defined by our reliance on structured activities. When stakeholders think learning at work is supposed to look like school, training becomes the default solution for every performance challenge. Erasing the word is our means of rebellion - a way to show people we’re capable of more than delivering courses. And we are … but just swapping “training” for “learning” won’t change people’s minds. Plus, most of the people we support still call everything we do training!
A learning ecosystem includes a plethora of support tactics designed to help people do their jobs better, including shared knowledge, performance support, reinforcement, coaching and … training. Training should be a small but meaningful part of the ecosystem - a layer that’s applied at the right time, for the right reason because it’s expensive, disruptive and time-consuming.
Training isn’t bad. Bad training is bad. Generic, one-size-fits-none training is bad. Training that doesn’t align with a measurable outcome is bad.
Training that’s outcome-focused, well-designed, personalized and delivered effectively as part of a cohesive learning and support strategy is AWESOME!
Welcome back, training! 😜
Read my book with me!
The energy around my book - The Modern Learning Ecosystem - has been AMAZING since its November release. It’s been especially exciting to see so many book clubs and work teams dig into the story. Unfortunately, I can’t join your book reading parties … or can I? 🤔
The MLE READ ALONG guides you through the story with a series of on-demand videos and reflection questions. Plus, it lets me join the conversation (with the option to mute me whenever you want)! 🤫
Get the full details and start your READ ALONG at jdwroteabook.com. 📗👍
Until next time, be well. JD