Training When You Should Be Teaching Instead
Team members can only be effective when they have the required knowledge to perform the tasks they are responsible for. There’s no question that a good onboarding is crucial when welcoming a new team member. Both in terms of employee retention and the individual’s short-term effectiveness within the organization.
How you transfer this knowledge as an organization is discussed less often and can–in my practical experience–be subdivided in two distinct categories:
Training: Practical procedures and skills that can be applied immediately and makes team members familiar with how things are typically done around the business.
Teaching: More abstract concepts which might be applicable some time in the future. Helps develop critical thinking skills that potentially creates new (institutional) knowledge.
Very small SMBs (sub 20 employees) seldom do any teaching. They lack the infrastructure to formalize Learning & Development programs as they often do without a dedicate HR function. The do just enough training to let team members get by.
Whether they need to be teaching is highly dependent on a number of aspects:
How standardized is your product or service? Instances of the same task might look similar, but can still require a fair amount of tactical knowledge.
How quickly does your product or service change? Are you expecting team members to learn on the job, or is this a formal, separate activity?
Are team members even interested in being taught and do they have the required amplitude? Does the typical tenure make teaching worthwhile?
Larger organizations spend a lot of time on developing their teams, both to catch up, keep up or keep ahead of the changing environment. Training and teaching can both satisfy this need, but only teaching will have perpetuating effects on output quality and organizational health.
Should you be doing more teaching instead of training?