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Training Officer Tip Archive

March 17, 2004 - Training Versus Facilitation: Deciding What's Best for Your Clients

Our clients present us with many requests that are not what they initially appear to be. They tell us that their internal clients want training on such and such topic, but when you read between the lines and dig a little deeper, we discover that training isn't what they need at all.

Indeed, they actually need facilitation. At Benchmark Training we do training and facilitation. Both are valid and viable, but each method is not appropriate for every situation. Some topics are better suited to training, and others are better suited to facilitation. The trick is figuring out when to go with which method. Hopefully we can help make these determinations by giving you a few hints.

1) If it's a group process that needs improvement, facilitation usually is more effective. When a workgroup or team is struggling to meet deadlines, stay organized or produce consistent work, a skills training can help, but a facilitation would work better. Facilitation by its very nature draws upon the experience of the participants and creates a learning environment by which everyone learns from each other. The facilitator guides them through this learning process without being didactic or all-knowing. Your employees know their jobs better than we do. Helping them learn from what they already know and then mixing in some new ideas and information is more effective than telling them what to do.

2) If it's a new skill or a skill that needs to be learned to build on an existing skill, training is usually the answer. Most needs fall into this category. Programs like Stress Management, Business Writing, COTR Training, etc. are best taught as straight trainings. But remember, it always serves everyone's interests to have your vendor learn as much as possible about the audience in advance of the training so the instructor can formulate exercises, case studies and role-plays that are practical and applicable to their jobs.

3) If your internal client has a unique challenge that needs solving in a workshop environment (usually offsite), facilitation is often the better choice. When you have a specific goal in mind for getting together, a facilitative approach works best. An example: A division of your organization is looking for a new way to recruit and hire the best talent to assist your future succession plans. The division wants to get some smart people together to figure out the best approach to making this happen in a measurable period of time. In this case, you have a challenge with a definite goal in mind. A facilitator can help you work through the steps to arrive at a solution. Hopefully, some of the skills that will help the group achieve its goals (decision making, goal setting, strategic planning, etc.) have already been learned by the participants in a previous training session. The facilitation will use these skills to get from A to B more quickly.

There are other distinctions between training and facilitation that will help you make the right choice. Whenever you have a learning opportunity dropped on your desk, ask yourself which makes more sense. And don't be afraid to get the opinions of your vendors. The ones that know and appreciate the differences will serve your needs much better and have a greater impact on the development of your human capital and the forward progress of your organizational goals.

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