For those of us in professional HR/ learning & development, this is a well- worn discussion, but I wanted to take a moment to share with a broader audience the difference between 'training' and 'facilitation' and why it matters, especially if you have a hand in designing, procuring or commissioning L&D solutions.
For years now in my practice as a learning and development professional, working with companies large and small and at all levels of seniority, I have tried to put as much distance between myself and 'training' as possible. The accusation that I am a ‘trainer’ has always felt almost demeaning.
However, there really is a place for 'training' and 'trainers', and as I look back I have often, rightly, been in that place. The problem with 'training' is that it suggests a very old-school approach to helping people grow. It suggests that power sits primarily with the trainer as the source of knowledge and answers. The trainer typically has every minute of the session planned and controlled so that it feels 'on rails' and there is very little, if any, room for emergent discussion. It will often look and feel as though the trainer is putting on a show and he/she is clearly the dominant presence in the room. He/ she will often be thinking about things like ‘keeping up the energy in the room', managing the physical space and keeping delegates engaged. Training is the right style where the learning is at the level of facts, knowledge or skills development and/ or the working group size is larger than about 10 people. For many of our graduate development programmes, this is absolutely the more effective and appropriate style.
Facilitation, on the other hand, is the appropriate style where the session needs to be focussed on emergent exploration of a problem or situation. The session will be far less structured - typically the facilitator will have prepared a few models, approaches or questions to help the group explore the question in hand - and the role of the facilitator is to provide direction, focus and 'ways of thinking' for the group dialogue. Unlike the trainer, the spotlight should never be on the facilitator. Facilitation is the right style where the answer(s) to one or a few relatively complex problems lie within the group themselves. Our recent work with the OSCE was more towards the facilitative style.