Contact Center Technology and Omnichannel Success
Illustration by Gina Park

Training and coaching are two different approaches, but people often use the words interchangeably—and even worse, they use the tactics interchangeably. Let’s clarify our terms.

To train means to provide the learner with the tools he or she needs to function. To coach is to help the learner use those tools to achieve maximum effectiveness. Only one of these has direct costs. According to the Association for Talent Development’s 2014 “State of the Industry Report,” organizations spend an average of $1,208 per employee on training and development. Both are necessary for every organization, but with the significant costs of training, it’s critical that organizations use the right tactic at the right time.

Which Tactic for Which Person—and When?

If the end goal is to enable our staff to become highly effective, then we need to choose the right tactic at the right time. Done properly, training and coaching can help solve the majority of performance and behavioral issues. If you’re a manager of a small or medium-sized enterprise, the following will help you select the right tactic—at the right time—for developing your team and growing your business.

1. Training and coaching are not mutually exclusive
Training and coaching are both necessary for managing employees successfully. If done right, each one complements and enhances the other. From the other perspective, if performance data indicates gaps in one area, it doesn’t mean that the other failed.

To determine whether your employees are lacking from training or coaching, the first step is to assess where they are in the learning and development process. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the skill currently exist?
  • Does the skill need to be refined?

By asking yourself these questions, you will be better prepared to understand whether the issue can be resolved by training or coaching.

2. Training and coaching are different tools
Although training and coaching are not mutually exclusive, they do have inherent attributes. Depending on the situation, one may be better suited to resolve a behavioral issue over the other. Training and coaching practices tend to separate into the following attributes.

Attributes of Training:

  • Conducted in a group setting
  • Formalized
  • Provides new knowledge and skills
  • Learning and practice focused

Attributes of Coaching:

  • Conducted in a one-on-one setting
  • Usually informal
  • Used to improve existing knowledge and skills
  • Development focused

Do you need to provide a new skill or improve an existing skill? The specific attributes of training versus coaching can help you decide which best fits the behavioral or performance challenges facing your staff.

3. Does the problem exist across the organization?
This is a critical question to ask yourself any time you are determining whether or not your staff requires training or coaching. Are the performance and/or behavior challenges you’re experiencing widespread?

  • Yes. If you find that the majority of your teams are experiencing the same behavioral issue, then it is likely that they need to learn or comprehend a new skill in order to increase their performance. Training is indicated.
  • No. If the behavioral problem is isolated to a few people or a team—and everyone received the same training—then it may be that a subset of your staff does not understand an aspect of a skill. Coaching is indicated.

4. Diagnose behavior and/or performance problems carefully
As managers, we must use due diligence to identify the root cause of behavioral or performance issues. Before you make assumptions, take an objective look at the situation, and ask some or all of these questions:

  • Is a specific skill lacking?
  • Is an enhancement needed to an existing skill set?
  • Is the same mistake happening in the same way—or differently each time?
  • Do employees pass skills tests on paper, but fail in practice?
  • Is this a user error solely, or do tools/systems share the blame?
  • Are training materials or resources failing the agents in any way?

Training and Coaching Pay Off with Great Performances

Many leaders follow the 20-70-10 model of management. This is a method popularized by GE CEO and author Jack Welch. It’s based on the idea that people tend to fall into three categories: top performers (“A” players, top 20%), average workforce (“B” players, mid-70%), and low performers (“C” players, bottom 10%). Welch teaches that leaders can meet and exceed their team goals with consistent and proper training, coaching and rewarding the performing 90% of your workforce. He promises managers that some of tomorrow’s most valuable staff may be somewhere in the average pile today.

Training and coaching may not help everyone on your team, especially chronic low performers (the bottom 10%), but it can make average performers better and good performers great! Make sure that you don’t miss opportunities to get great performances from those capable of providing them. Start today by identifying and applying training and coaching for the best possible results!

Key Takeaways

  1. Training and coaching are not mutually exclusive. They both play major roles in learning and development.
  2. Training and coaching are different tools. Although not mutually exclusive, they serve different purposes. One may be more suited to tackle an employee issue than the other based on the situation.
  3. Identify whether or not the behavioral problem exists across the organization. How widespread a problem is can be a clue to whether training or coaching is called for.
  4. Take time to diagnose a problem carefully. The best way to choose whether to train or coach is to identify the root cause of the performance or behavior challenges, determine which tactic will best correct it, and implement a cure.