As any member of today’s workforce knows, an important part of every job requires varying levels of training. In this week’s blog from the esteemed entrepreneur and quintessential American success story, Nido Qubein, ‘Workplace Education or Workplace Training’, readers will discover the important differences between training your employees (“how to do” something) versus educating them (“how to think” about something). These two alternatives represent a 21st century choice facing today’s organizations on the topic of in-house professional development. When business leaders make the deliberate choice for investments in workplace education – rather than workplace training – they are doing a superior job of molding individuals (and teams) for greater innovation and results.
Workplace Education or Workplace Training
by Nido Qubien
L et me make a suggestion that at first may sound strange, coming from a management consultant. If your company has a training department, do away with it. Replace it with a Department of Education and Development.
The reason: The new business environment needs fewer people who are trained to do things a specific way and more people who are educated to find new ways of doing things.
As Stanley Marcus once said, “You don’t train people; you train dogs and elephants; you educate people.”
What’s the difference?
Let me put it this way: Would you want your teenager to have sex education or sex training ? The choice is clear.
The word education comes from the Latin educo, which means to change from within. Training provides an external skill. Education changes the inner person. Training deals only with the doing level. Education teaches people how to think.
Let me give you an example: I once ordered an apple pie and a milk shake at a fast-food restaurant. The server smiled and asked, “Would you like a dessert with that?”
This young woman had been trained to act. She had been conditioned to smile and try to upgrade the sale by reciting her memorized lines. And she rehearsed them to perfection.
But she had not been educated in customer interaction. She hadn’t been taught to listen to the customer, to think about what the customer ordered and to acquire a feeling for what might appeal to the customer under the circumstances.
Education deals with the feeling level. The ways you and I act are based on our responses to stimuli. First we think about it, then we begin to feel it, then we act based on that feeling.
Ronald Reagan won a landslide election in 1980 by asking people to think, feel and act. He did it with a penetrating question:
“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
The voters thought about it. They felt uncomfortable about the economy. This feeling of discomfort moved them to behave in the way Reagan wanted them to behave. They voted against the incumbent administration.
Workplace Education or Workplace Training: “Training attempts to add on the qualities needed for success. Education builds them in.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you should never train people. Training is essential when a specific skill must be learned, or a specific procedure must be followed consistently in a manufacturing process. But training should be part of a broader workplace education process.
One of my favorite proverbs conveys the wisdom that when you give people fish, they’ll be hungry tomorrow; if you teach them to fish, they’ll never go hungry. Training gives your employees a fish — a specific skill applicable to a specific task. Education teaches them to fish.
Corporations have no choice but to invest substantial resources in developing people. So it’s best to invest in ways that let people grow; that teach them to think for themselves; that create a pool of solid candidates for promotion to higher positions.
My message to clients is clear, when it comes to Workplace Education versus Workplace Training:
- Workplace Training focuses on teaching people yesterday’s skills.
- Workplace Education focuses on teaching them to develop tomorrow’s skills.
- Workplace Education without the vision for a better future is only training.
As Charles Kettering said: “You can’t have a better tomorrow if you’re thinking about yesterday.”
We’ve spent entirely too much time in the past teaching people what to do instead of concentrating on how they think and how they feel and how they behave; far too much time getting a job done instead of producing excellent results; far too much time conforming instead of creating.
Yesterday’s thinking looks at the tasks people perform today and asks, “How can we train our future employees to do these things?”
Today’s thinking looks at the kind of people needed to fulfill corporate strategy and finds ways to develop them.
A reporter once asked Wayne Gretzky, the great hockey player, why he always seems to be where the puck is. Gretzky replied, “I don’t do that at all. I always go to where the puck is going to be.”
Executives, too, must go where the action is going to be. We need to look down the road 5 or 10 years and ask “What kind of company do we want to be by then, and what kind of employees will it take to get us there?” Then we can plan educational and development programs to develop such employees.
To carry out such programs, you need behavioral change agents, not trainers. Trainers are easy to find. They are plentiful and inexpensive. Behavioral facilitators are less plentiful, and they’re in strong demand. But they nurture lasting qualities that won’t become obsolete when the next technological breakthrough occurs.
In our company, Creative Services, Inc., we’ve dedicated the last two decades to helping clients transform their corporations from mechanistic organizations into thinking organizations. Mechanistic organizations are like machines, doing the same things over and over. Thinking organizations are constantly alert for new concepts and new methods.
Think about your company. Is it a thinking or a mechanistic organization? Some hints that will help you:
|In a mechanistic organization:|
|– New ideas and methods are discouraged because they vary from the mechanical norm: “We’ve never done it that way before.”|
|– Managers and supervisors rely solely on their own judgments, backed by the policy manuals, instead of empowering their people to make on-the-spot judgments that might improve quality and service.|
|– Rigid procedures discourage employees from playing with an idea or a solution during its development.|
|– Communication flows “through channels” rather than spreading throughout the business organization.|
|Some identifying marks of a thinking organization:|
|– People at all levels can talk directly to people in other departments and divisions, and to customers and suppliers.|
|– Teams are formed across departmental lines, including employees at all levels, to execute new projects or to solve common problems.|
|– Line employees are routinely asked for their opinions and rewarded for ideas that work.|
|– Failures at innovative projects are regarded as learning experiences and not as black marks against the person who failed.|
|– Corporate structures are flexible and therefore able to adapt to the stress of innovation.|
Educated, thinking organizations aren’t made up of people trained only to turn screws and wield levers, although those procedures are certainly essential to some jobs.
They’re made up of people educated in such skills as goal-setting, problem-solving and decision-making, communication, conflict management, negotiation, total quality management, time management and teamwork.
Dr. Nido Qubein came to the United States as a teenager with little knowledge of English and only $50 in his pocket. His journey has been an amazing success story. The Biography Channel and CNBC aired his life story titled “A Life of Success and Significance.”
As an educator, he is president of High Point University, an undergraduate and graduate institution with 4,300 students from 40 countries. He has authored two dozen books and audio programs distributed worldwide.
As a business leader, he is chairman of the Great Harvest Bread Company with 220 stores in 43 states. He serves on the boards of several national organizations including BB&T (a Fortune 500 company with $185 billion in assets), the La-Z-Boy Corporation (one of the largest and most recognized furniture brands worldwide), and Dots Stores (a chain of fashion boutiques with more than 400 locations across the country).
As a professional speaker, Dr. Qubein has received many distinctions including the Golden Gavel Medal, induction into the International Speaker Hall of Fame, and as the founder of the NSA Foundation in Arizona.
He has been the recipient of many honors including The Ellis Island Medal of Honor (along with four U.S. presidents), The Horatio Alger Award for Distinguished Americans (along with Oprah Winfrey and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas), the DAR Americanism Medal, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, Sales and Marketing International’s Ambassador of Free Enterprise, Leadership North Carolina Governor’s Award, and Citizen of the Year and Philanthropist of the Year in his home city of High Point, North Carolina.