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What is The Difference Between Training and Coaching?

Shared Outcomes but Different Methods

Training and coaching are similar in some ways, but vastly different in others. Both are concerned with the development and improvement of individuals in the workplace. Whilst mentoring and business coaching typically involves a manager and an employee taking part in a fairly informal meeting in order to resolve issues, training normally refers to an employee being taught a new skill or information which they do not currently possess.

Related Page: What is Business Coaching?

A worker performing maintenance on a piece of machinery

This training can refer to a number of different issues such as how to do a completely new task which the employee has no experience of doing, or introducing and expanding upon certain concepts which employees will have a vague understanding of.

For instance, they will have an idea of how to work safely and how to avoid the most obvious dangers but will require a programme of health and safety training in order to give them a comprehensive knowledge of how to stay safe in the workplace both in terms of their own safety, along with that of their colleagues and nearby members of the public.


Coaching is more suited to employees who already have the knowledge and skills, but are encountering issues or barriers which are preventing them from utilising them to full effect and achieving their maximum potential in the workplace for the company. Rather than teaching them new things as would be the case with training, coaching and in particular business coaching sessions are primarily led by the worker themselves who use the knowledge and experience of the business coach to largely come up with the solutions to problems by themselves.


Whilst coaching and training are two distinct things, the two are frequently used in conjunction with each other in order to really develop the ability of an employee or employees at work, so that they can contribute more towards the success of the company. Employees receive training in order to teach them skills, with coaching sessions then getting them to utilise these skills to maximum potential.

Training for Improving Skills

Training is Vital for All Organisations

The primary purpose of a company organising training for their employees is to develop and improve their abilities and knowledge. Whether this is regarding how to do a task or how to comply with applicable legislation, a failure to train can result in errors, misunderstandings, poor productivity, increased costs and even criminal prosecution if there is a serious failure to comply with legislation such as health and safety laws.

Training Needs to Be Ongoing, Not One-Off

A common mistake made by managers is to think that by providing training once to employees they will then be proficient, know everything, will remember it all and require no further training in the future.

The reality is that training is similar to business coaching in that sessions performed over time rather than a single, one-off event are by far more effective and bring about superior results. Not only do a lot of skills require more than one session in order to teach all of the information, but the human brain is not perfect at retaining information, and as time goes by more of what was taught in the training event will be forgotten. For this reason, refresher training is essential to keep the information and ideas taught at the forefront of the worker's mind when they are carrying out their workplace duties.

Refresher Training Sessions are So Important

Whilst training employees in new areas and attempting to teach them new skills is highly beneficial for their personal development and the skills sets they are able to bring to their job role for the benefit of the company, it is vital that managers do not let them forget and lose the skills that have already been taught to them on previous training sessions. In this case retraining may be just as beneficial, if not more so, than training in a completely new subject area. It may be better to do a few things well than to try and do everything averagely.

Business Coaching, Soft Skills and Training

Whilst we have seen in other articles on the site that business coaching can be utilised to identify training needs of workers, these training needs often fall into two distinct groups.

Technical Skills

On the one hand there are the specific technical skills required to actually do the job in the first place. For example an electrician employed in the maintenance department of an organisation will have to have received training and know about things such as wiring, installing sockets, fuse boxes, working safely with electricity etc.

Whilst they are likely to require refresher training such as in the areas of health and safety or to expand and develop their range of knowledge regarding electrical systems, it is highly likely that they will have done their training and become qualified before they were employed by the company, rather than the firm hiring someone with no electrical knowledge and then training them up from scratch.

Soft Skills/Interpersonal Skills

In contrast to these technical skills or mandatory areas of knowledge, there are also soft skills which are frequently overlooked in favour of the technical skills mentioned in the paragraph above but are in fact essential for the successful operation of a business. These soft skills cover a variety of different areas including written and verbal communication (both internal and external), solving problems, change management, presentation skills, management development and the skills required to be a successful and effective manager.

Workers Will Often Need Both Types of Skills

Whilst employees may have the technical skills that are essential to performing their job role, without workers and managers also possessing these soft skills they are likely to work in isolation and with little communication with each other. This more often than not results in time consuming and costly mistakes being made, a failure to adapt to changing market conditions, poor customer service and a lack of teamwork with subsequent conflicts between departments and individuals who put their own interests ahead of the company's as a whole.

Role Play in Training and Coaching Sessions

Practising a Likely Situation

The use of role play is a tool which is used to good effect by many managers and trainers around the world when it comes to developing the skills, and particularly the confidence, of their employees to perform a particular role at work. Aside from letting them loose on a real life situation such as dealing with customer complaints over the telephone for real, role play is the next best thing in that they can practise all of the skills and techniques they need to perform the function but without running the risk of causing an incident as could happen if they were thrown straight into the task without any practice.

Role Play and Business Coaching for Learning Skills

Role play is often used in conjunction with providing business coaching as the two can both highlight the requirement for additional training that may be required for the employee, either before they commence with a new task or job role, or to make them even more proficient in the role which they are currently employed in.

Having Fun is an Effective Way to Learn

For many employees, role play is a fun way to learn and is much more effective for them than simply being lectured to about what they should and should not do. It also gives them an opportunity to make any mistakes in a practice situation which will not cause any damage, and will allow the trainer to correct their technique in readiness for the employee working on a live situation.

All Levels of Experience in the Job Role Will Benefit

It is not just new and inexperienced employees who will benefit from role play. Those who have been performing the task for real are unlikely to know everything or do everything perfectly. Group role play where situations are played out whilst other team members watch may also provide them with valuable hints and tips for things that their colleagues do which they had not thought of.

Learning Through Role Play May Not Be Suitable For All Job Types
An embarrassed worker amongst a group of colleagues

Whilst role play is highly effective for job roles and activities such as sales and customer relations which require people to be outgoing and extroverted to a certain level, for other employees with different workplace duties the idea of role play may be abhorrent and cause embarrassment, and will not actually be necessary for the type of work that they do.

Good managers will realise that whilst some employees may need pushing in order to be taken out of their comfort zone, there will be times and certain employees who will resist a particular training method and will require a different approach. Being able to recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach to training or indeed other forms of dealing with employees is a particularly important managerial skill for managers to learn.

Coaching and Training by Demonstration

Live Demonstrations are One of the Most Effective Methods of Teaching

One of the most common and effective methods of training and imparting knowledge to others is through demonstrating the actual task or tasks which you require them to learn and then supervising them carrying out the task in the same way.

Depending upon the nature of the task, this may be performed "live" with the instructor there ready to step in if the person is about to make a mistake which would lead to problems, or if it is possible it can take place on a practice or dummy piece of equipment, machinery or apparatus so that if a mistake or wrong step is made it will not cause any damage to existing operations.

Learning by Active Involvement Rather Than Reading Textbooks

People learn much more quickly and take in more of the information being imparted to them if they are involved in practical activities which reinforces the learning rather than simply sitting there being talked at by at trainer or instructor, or through sitting reading through a large textbook as their concentration soon begins to waver. It is for this reason that distance learning or online learning schemes can be a difficult method of achieving an accredited qualification either in coaching or in any other area of training.

Learning by Doing and Practicing Before the Real Thing

By actually doing the task rather than simply learning the theoretical side of how to do it, they are much more likely to absorb the knowledge required in order to perform it when the instructor is not there with them. If they are able to work on a practice piece of equipment the instructor can actually let them make a mistake whilst performing the task, which they should then remember not do to again when it comes to working on the real thing.

Coaching and Training Should Not be an Onerous Task

Ensuring That Business Coaching is Seen as a Positive

A classic mistake that many managers who are setting about providing business coaching or training sessions to their employees make is giving off the impression that doing so is a chore and is a stealer of time rather than a productive experience. By doing so, the delegate(s) attending the sessions will begin to think that the manager does not view it as important, and as a result they do not take it too seriously either.

Not only does it give off negative vibes regarding the importance of the training, but employees may also begin to wonder if the work they are doing is viewed as that important by management, which can often result in demotivation and a decline in performance and standards.

Managers Also Need to Embrace Business Coaching Positively

Coaching and training sessions are far more effective when they are carefully planned with predetermined objectives and have been allocated a sufficient amount of dedicated, uninterrupted time. If a manager views them as an onerous task they are likely to try and fit them in when they can rather than put aside a specific time slot for training. In this situation topics are likely to be rushed and not covered in necessary detail, which weakens the effectiveness and potential of the sessions.

Prioritising Training and Development

Obviously managers are busy people and situations do crop up from time to time which require their immediate attention and may cause a coaching session to be delayed or postponed. But a manager who views the training and development of their staff members as a priority and devotes an appropriate amount of time and attention to the training sessions will more often than not be rewarded later on down the line with a workforce which is more motivated and capable at performing their workplace requirements in an efficient manner and to the best of their abilities.

About Us

The BCF Group have evolved from the Business Coaching Foundation, which was established in 2001. We have leadership development and business coaching at our core. Having representation from global learning leads, executive coaches and talent development specialists, we deliver accredited people development programs.

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