Development vs. Training: The Future of Business


Information has had a number of profound impacts on business, as has been well documented in business literature. The one impact that has received little attention, is the heightened emphasis on the personal development of employees, and the subordination of training to personal growth in the workplace.

Amongst a host of changes driven by information, the commoditization of products, services, innovation; even brilliance, has left companies scrambling for a competitive advantage or a clear market differentiator. As many businesses have discovered, the only meaningful differentiator left is the quality and distinctiveness of the workers.

Surveys amongst CEO’s, business owners, and other leaders, all indicate that the most challenging part of their job is their people. In particular, having a workforce that is easy to deal with (internally and externally), has an optimistic attitude, and is self-motivated.

Very little attention, in business, has been paid to the differences between training and development. The province of training is teaching workers hard skills – technical expertise, work processes, and industry knowledge. The focus of development is teaching workers soft skills – relationship building, decision making, conflict management, and the ability to deliver and receive personal feedback. Relationship builders connect quickly and deeply with colleagues, customers, vendors, and managers and come to leaders with solutions, not unsolvable problems.

Decision-makers get work done efficiently and effectively, and remove the bottlenecks in the workflow funnels. Conflict managers insure honesty in the organization (conflict avoidance is a dishonest behavior) and guarantee that problems get addressed and solved early, instead of being denied until they do significant damage. (At the root of every business problem, is a conflict avoided, initially.) People who are comfortable giving others direct, honest and helpful feedback, are the reliable change agents, who make people aware of their impact on those they work with, and, most importantly, make them aware of how they get in their own way.

It’s been our experience that the vast majority of businesspeople have no clue as to their impact on others. Accordingly, they keep doing things that fail to get them the results that they’re after, and have no idea of why. Without feedback, they become blamers who view their work as the main source of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with their lives. We have a saying in our work that our clients find helpful in dealing with their most challenging employees: “You get hired for what you know; you get fired for who you are.

Understanding the difference between hard skills and soft skills, is especially important in the recruiting and onboarding processes. When we teach our clients how to do a “deep dive” candidate interview, we stress the point that the primary purpose of the interview is to assess how quickly the candidate moves toward establishing a relationship with the interviewer.

Even more important, we are not particularly interested in what the candidate has done. What we want to know, is why he or she made the choices they made. The trajectory of one’s life experience, is the prime determinate of how they will act and assimilate into your business.

When we deal with the onboarding process of new employees, our primary goal is to show them the value of flipping training and development. Most companies begin the onboarding process with hard skill training, and, if ever, then do a modicum of soft skill orientation.

Doing it this way is the main reason why many new employees go right out, after their training, and do things the wrong way, and ask questions that were just answered in their training. When our clients begin onboarding with intensive soft skills development, they have the undivided attention of the new people to the material taught to them in hard skill training, and they make few mistakes and ask hardly any questions that have just been answered.

There is no doubt, from our experience, that the future will go to the self-informed, not to the smarter, harder working, or technically brilliant. Companies that focus on the soft skills will have a competitive advantage, as long as we live and work in a culture dominated by the forces of information.

Morrie Shechtman

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