Is your Company making you a better person?

You can’t move these days without hearing about how companies are investing in their staff.  For many companies I come across that’s completely true, especially in high growth industries like the digital marketing world that I’m part of, where the right people can make or break a business. Never before have words like Learning, Development, Training, Nurturing, Career Guidance, Mentoring and Coaching been more widely used than in today’s workplace. These words are used interchangeably, often teetering towards the zeitgeist. But they represent very different methods and approaches.  Fundamentally the Company is saying is that they want to invest in their people, but how? And why?

What is the difference between Training and Development?

The word training often carries a negative connotation and is thought of as ‘something you have to do’ (often accompanied with a rolling of the eyes and general air of disdain). In my opinion Training gets a pretty bad name when it serves a very important purpose. Training is generally considered to be any form of learning activity where the outcome is to acquire or enhance specific knowledge or skills. It’s immediate.  An approach that enables you to perform your job. Some training might be focussed around doing your job sufficiently, while some might focus around doing your job better. But both aims are short-term and consider the skills or knowledge required for the present.

Development, on the other hand is about the long term. It’s an approach considered to be more holistic as it focusses on new skills, exploration of new concepts, expanding your opinions and questioning what you’ve been told in the past. Development expands to include what you’re interested in, or what you might be good at in the future, not just what you need to be good at for the now.

With past negativity that Training has received it’s fair that Companies often call the Training they give ‘Development’, possibly to enthuse the participants. I’d call a spade a spade. I’ve personally never been opposed to training if it makes my day-to-day easier or more enjoyable. Nor would I want the Training I need to muddy the Development I desire. The format and delivery is what makes the difference…

Active or Passive?

Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."

Not that it is empirically true, but I used to think of Training as passive learning and Development as active learning.  One of the reasons that Training may have gotten such a bad reputation in the past is because it historically involved a passive format, for example, sitting in an auditorium or room and being spoken at. Now, like almost everything technology has opened new ways to deliver content whilst the most important factor to achieve training success still remains - knowing and engaging with the audience to increase the learning retention rate.

Why should companies invest in Development?

In a report released by Gallup they found that 87% of millennials rate "professional or career growth and development opportunities" as important to them in a job. Development of the person cannot be underestimated, and investment into Development should be a key focus, outside of Training, for all businesses.

The line between Professional Development and Personal Development is also blurring, with activities neither falling one side or the other of the traditional work / home life. In fact, many seemingly ‘home’ activities are now being brought into the practices of large companies who rightly understand the positive impact this can have on their staff. A friend of mine was recently offered the opportunity by his advertising agency employer to participate in a three-day stand up comedy training course. Immensely fun and fulfilling for him, and in turn he’s now an undoubtedly better presenter for the agency.

The same is true the other way, Development in the workplace when delivered through the right medium can help with life outside of the workplace; building resilience, conflict resolution, leadership style, negotiation strategy and influencing others. You might not label these attributes in the same way outside of the office, but they are all powerful ways to broaden how you interact in situations with family and friends.

For every company the reason they invest in Development will be different. For some it’s practical; a cost-efficient way to entice junior staff where the recruitment costs will be lower, a PR exercise with a halo effect across the whole business or for retention to increase a person’s ability so that they stay longer. It could be emotive; creating a sense of belonging to the company, which builds loyalty. It could be altruistic; a genuine desire to increase a person’s ability and outlook of life. And finally it could be profitable; unlocking the potential in every staff member so that they come up with new ideas that help the company flourish. The reason will not be mutually exclusive, and will almost certainly differ depending on who you may ask at the company.

Do you want to learn?

Much of what is talked about when it comes to Development is from the actions of the Company, the investment in terms of resource, time and money they attribute to it. But it forgets one major factor; the individual. Whether people want to learn and develop is a personal value, and inconsistent. Some have an unquenchable thirst or curiosity, others, well, less so! How motivated you are to learn or broaden your horizons will change at different stages of your life and career. Companies that unlock this desire to develop and offer the individual the right Development opportunities are the ones that will create a happier, more profitable workplace.  Sometimes the less obvious the Development activity the more rewarding it may be.