For a knowledgeable workforce that delivers high-performance consistently, the answer would be both, as these two disciplines carry different objectives. However, many people use these terms interchangeably and don’t differentiate between the two. Even though the two are often used in conjunction, there is a difference, and recognizing the differences can impact your talent’s development. So, the real answer is that it depends on the situation because knowing which to deploy in specific cases will provide the most benefit to your workforce.
So, what are the differences between training and coaching, and when should you use each?
- Inform new employees of workplace standards and practices
- Teach a specific new skill
- Instruct many employees at once
- Often a group lesson or course
- Led by a trainer/instructor
- One time session or a series of sessions
- Employees receive information, either passively or through interaction (roleplay, hands on activities, etc.)
- Standardized lessons delivered the same way to all employees
- Top-down, classroom style teaching can utilize worksheets, handouts, activities, presentations, etc.
- Sometimes culminates with a quiz and/or certification
Training is best suited to new material or new hires. The main purpose is to introduce a new skill or concept and get the employee proficient on that topic.
- Encourage employee’s development and improve performance
- Focus on ‘how well’ as opposed to ‘how to’
- Address specific problems with specific employees
- One-on-one session between coach and employee
- Coaches pose open ended questions and listen
- Less structured than training
- Employee reflects and answers questions honestly
- Customized to employee’s needs and goals, based on their answers to questions
- Can include uncomfortable conversations about bad habits, limiting beliefs, anything that is holding the employee back
- Encourages employee to examine and reflect on their own development
- Deliberate focus on specific areas or improvements with benchmarks and goals for measurement
Coaching is best suited to developing potential. It can be utilized throughout the employee’s career as a form of performance maintenance but needs to be implemented when progress stagnates, output falls below expectations, or potential goes unrecognized.
Training establishes a knowledgeable, functioning workforce; coaching works to maintain it. Training meets people where we want them to be; coaching meets people where they are and helps them move forward.
Of course, there is overlap between the two disciplines. There’s coaching involved in training and training involved in coaching but knowing the differences between the two will allow you to be more intentional with your development choices. Each plays a unique role in talent development and should be thought of and used as two distinct, yet related, tools of the trade.