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Training or Learning

Learning, not Training

'Training' suggests putting stuff into people, when actually we should be developing people from the inside out - so they achieve their own individual potential - what they love and enjoy, what they are most capable of, and strong at doing, rather than what we try to make them be.

'Learning' far better expresses this than 'training'.

Training is about the organisation. Learning is about the person.

Training is (mostly) a chore; people do it because they're paid to. Learning is quite different. People respond to appropriate learning because they want to; because it benefits and interests them; because it helps them to grow and to develop their natural abilities; to make a difference; to be special.

Training is something that happens at work. Learning is something that people pursue by choice at their own cost in their own time. Does it not make sense for employers to help and enable that process? Of course it does.

The word 'learning' is significant: it suggests that people are driving their own development for themselves, through relevant experience, beyond work related skills and knowledge and processes. 'Learning' extends the idea of personal development (and thereby organisational development) to beliefs, values, wisdom, compassion, emotional maturity, ethics, integrity - and most important of all, to helping others to identify, aspire to and to achieve and fulfil their own unique individual personal potential.

Learning describes a person growing. Whereas 'training' merely describes, and commonly represents, transfer of knowledge or skill for organisational gain, which has generally got bugger-all to do with the trainee. No wonder people don't typically enjoy or queue up for training.

When you help people to develop as people, you create far greater alignment and congruence between work and people and lives - you provide more meaning for people at work, and you also build and strengthen platform and readiness for any amount of skills, processes, and knowledge development that your organisation will ever need.

Obviously do not ignore basic skills and knowledge training, for example: health and safety; how to use the phones, how to drive the fork-lift, etc - of course these basics must be trained - but they are not what makes the difference. 

Train the essential skills and knowledge of course, but most importantly focus on facilitating learning and development for the person, beyond 'work skills' - help them grow and develop for life - help them to identify, aspire to, and take steps towards fulfilling their own personal unique potential.

Experiential learning contains many of the principles explained here. See the guide to facilitating experiential learning activities.

Read our other wikis dedicated solely to training policy and templates, and training manuals and templates tips.

Emotional Maturity, Integrity, Compassion

When organisations work well it's always due to emotional maturity and integrity, which together enable self-discipline and right thinking and actions. 

Compassion helps you to sustain people, and to foster a culture of cooperation and mutual support. 

 Compassion is the bedrock of tolerance and understanding, which governs the effectiveness of internal and external communications and team-working.

Develop the Person

Skills and knowledge are the easy things. Most people will take care of these for themselves. Helping and enabling and encouraging people to become happier more fulfilled people is what employers and organisations should focus on. Achieve this and the skills and knowledge will largely take care of themselves.


Give people choice in what, and how and when to learn and develop - there is a world of choice out there, and so many ways to access it all. 

People have different learning styles, rates of learning, and areas of interest. Why restrict people's learning and development to their job skills? 

Help them learn and develop in whatever way they want and they will quite naturally become more positive, productive and valuable to your organisation. You may need to find bigger and/or different roles for them, but that's entirely the point - you want people to be doing what they are good at, and what they enjoy - this is what a good organisation is.

Talk about learning, not training, focus on the person, from the inside out, not the outside in, and offer relevant learning in as many ways as you can.

Training Policies and Manuals

A training policy is different to a training manual. A policy is a set of principles. A manual is a far more detailed set of operating procedures and supporting notes for trainers and trainees. This generally dictates that training manuals are required in two different formats - one for trainers and one for trainees.

A policy is more fixed and concise than a manual. A manual is subject to greater and more frequent and detailed changes. A policy provides the principles and system on which the manual(s) can be built. A policy reflects philosophy and values and fundamental aims. A manual deals with how the aims are to be achieved in terms that describe (and if appropriate illustrate too) specific tasks and duties.

Because training manuals contain operating procedures, instructions and supporting notes that are specific to the training concerned, most training manuals are more liable to change than a policy, and this flexibility for changing and updating content is an important aspect in deciding the overall system for producing and administrating training manual documentation, which is best addressed and defined in the training policy.

While a training policy tends to be established and agreed at a higher executive or managerial level than individual training manuals, the above point demonstrates why input from and consultation with training design and delivery staff are important in designing an effective training policy.

Training and Development Policy

Here's a quick simple template or basic structure for a modern effective and socially responsible training and development policy.

You might prefer to call it a learning and development policy, or any other title which will be most meaningful for your situation and people. The structure can also be used to create a training and development manual.

Drafting or re-drafting a policy inevitably requires an examination - and ideally a consultation among those interested - focusing on what you are trying to achieve, in this case for people's learning and development. This process connects with and potentially improves just about every aspect of the organisation, so it's a useful exercise if you've not done it or it needs revisiting.

You will find many and various examples of actual training and development policies in use. Several are now published on the web by the organisations which operate them, because this is a demonstration of organisational quality.

As such, an effective modern training and development (or learning and development) policy is an increasingly important part of any organisation's visibility and image in the eyes of its customers, staff, potential new employees, and the market as a whole.

Training policies vary greatly because (rightly) they tend to be very specific for the organisation.

That said, broadly a good training and development policy will cover the following aspects. There is no set or definitive order. Other people and organisations will have different ideas.

Policy Structure

  1. Introduction/definitions/scope (purpose and reach of policy)
  2. Cultural/philosophical (values, vision, ethos, guiding principles, etc)
  3. Legal (health and safety, discrimination, etc)
  4. People (where people stand in organisational priorities, input, care, compassion, etc)
  5. Methods (of T&D, career development, succession, recruitment and selection)
  6. Systems/tools (for T&D - training manuals, media, knowledge and information management, responsibilities, etc)
  7. Process/operations (how T&D relates to operations)
  8. Financial (planning, budgets, prioritisation, etc)
  9. Responsibility/authority (how T&D is managed, enabling voluntary and extra T&D)
  10. Social responsibility (CSR, ethics, environment, sustainability, diversity, etc)
  11. Review and measurement (of T&D, accreditation, qualifications, independent audit, etc)
  12. Scale, geographical and timing factors (can be appended and flexible - relevant to the policy and situation)

Your own policy (and structure/template you start with) needs to be suitable for your own situation.

You might find other useful ideas in the induction training checklist and other training templates on this website, because they all provide different aspects and potential headings/content for an overall training policy.

The challenge in developing an effective training policy is including all the key issues but keeping it concise and compact, so people will actually read and refer to it.

Importantly also, a training policy must provide the basic system and management guide for the people who design and develop training manuals within the organisation - for example whether manuals must contain, or instead refer to, the training policy; whether manuals are course-specific or job-specific or departmental-specific; who is responsible for designing and updating manuals; and whether the media formats of manuals (printed, online, etc).

Whatever is included in the training policy, keep it simple - the use of short bullet points under each heading will enable greater clarity. Policies are no use if they are so dry and wordy that people are not inclined to read and use them.

Seek input from all interested people - especially those who are responsible for fulfilling training responsibilities - again a policy is no use if it is developed in isolation of those who need it.

Circulate draft versions of your new policy to people at all levels and in all functions, so that you can be sure the wording is understood and meaningful - and also to arrive at a policy which is agreed and acceptable.

More detailed or changeable points can always be appended to the main document, which enables easier changes, and avoids cluttering the main principles.

Detailed aspects of training content and trainee notes are not for inclusion in a training policy - specific training (and trainers') notes are for training manuals, not the overriding training policy document.

Training Manuals

As stated, a training manual is different to a training policy. 

A training policy deals with relatively fixed overriding principles and strategy and systems. Training manuals deal with specific training notes and training content such as instructions, procedures, standards, diagrams and illustrations, technical data and trainer's notes. 

Before writing lots of training manuals, it is useful to decide and describe how the manuals should be structured and organised - which logically is best addressed in the training policy, typically within 'systems/tools' considerations or similar.

A training manual can take various forms, and typically covers a defined training area or subject or course.

Therefore, organisations of a very modest scale (over 20 employees for example) will typically produce and maintain several or many different training manuals.

Irrespective of the size of the organisation, it is perfectly reasonable to assemble all training manuals within one compendium, which is helpful for all staff and also for the overall management/overseeing of training manual materials.

A training manual can cover departmental or job-specific training, or a particular training course (for example sales, finance, operation of equipment, etc). A training manual can also cover training that is relevant to all jobs and departments (for example, induction, health and safety, IT, employment law, management, etc).

The two main different versions of training manuals are:

  • Manuals used by trainers - to enable appropriate training planning, design, delivery, assessment and development
  • Manuals used by trainees - to provide all necessary information for trainees in support of the respective training received.

Each version contains essentially the same material, but extended and adapted for the different purposes of trainer or trainee.

A training policy can be included in a training manual, or kept separate as a reference document, but one way or another it must be made available to people and referred visibly in all training manuals.

Whether to include the full training policy within training manuals largely depends on the size of the training policy document and the amount of training manuals updates. A concise inspiring training policy of between one and three pages would fit very well within any number of training manuals, and is probably an ideal approach. 

However, in larger organisations requiring wordier policies, an unavoidably heavy policy of ten pages is instead probably best merely summarised in training manuals, and a reference given for obtaining the whole policy document. Keeping a large policy separate is also sensible where lots of updates are made to manuals.

Increasingly training policies and manuals can be made available online, via an intranet or similar, which enables easier and faster updating and communication of changes. Again, this is a principle which should initially be agreed at the training policy stage.

Here is a sensible structure for a training manual. In this example it is assumed that the training policy is a separate document:

Learning/Training Manual Template

  1. Title or heading of subject/course/department/job training
  2. Index, timetable, programme (especially itemising training content and elements)
  3. Training policy or policy summary (and reference to full current policy document - emphasise issues about equality and employment/discrimination law)
  4. Introduction/definitions (manual structure and glossary, terminology, training design rationale, etc)
  5. Aims, expectations, measures (setting the scene - explaining what will happen - mutual expectations and standards - the Kirkpatrick model is useful for this)
  6. Use of manual (how the manual works and how it relates to the training and the job)
  7. Training methods, support, media, materials (the training formats and options, tutors and support)
  8. Training content/elements (itemised and presented in logical sequence and in suitably sized elements for delegates' learning ability, and reflecting the order of training activities and delivery - see example formats below - again see Kirkpatrick's model which can be used as a structure for each element - and also see the VAK learning styles and Kolb learning cycle/styles model, both of which are helpful in ensuring delivery formats meet needs of all preferred learning and communications styles
  9. Ongoing learning and follow-up (especially help with practical implementation - optionally this section can be included after each training element, which is preferable where content is extensive or complex - include any relevant information to help and encourage learners to apply new capabilities and to continue learning)
  10. Bibliography and references (further information sources - again optionally this section can be included after each training element if more effective for delegates)
  11. Copyright and authorship information (as appropriate - obviously more significant for externally provided training)

This template is an example. Sequence and items can be changed to suit situations. Where training is delivered by a trainer (as distinct from online or distance learning) then a trainer's version of the manual should include additional sections covering these aspects, as appropriate to the situation:

Training Manual: Additional Sections/Items

  • Trainer's checklist/inventory (all materials and equipment required for course/training - including clarification of anything open to interpretation or confusion)
  • Trainers content notes (for the presentation of each section including options and alternatives for different learning styles, levels of ability, and anything relevant, useful or potentially arising in delivery - not restricted to contingencies but also extending to tips and ideas for improving delivery, enjoyment and learning transfer - ideally a growing resource of trainer's help in running the course or programme, assuming a trainer is involved)
  • Master copies of trainee notes and handouts (in case of loss or omission or spoiling, and where no copying facilities exist then ample spare copies should be part of the checklist/inventory - web addresses or links can suffice instead of hard copies where materials are organised and available reliably online)
  • Trainer's course/training management notes (regarding venue, domestic arrangements, travel and accommodation info, etc)
  • Trainer's contact points (for trainer's clarification or assistance with any aspects of course/training delivery - typically an expert or department directly involved in designing the course and/or responsible for the function in which technical content resides in the organisation or training provider)

You should develop a structure for your own situation that meets the needs of people using it and what you are aiming to achieve.

Content Notes

There are so many ways to do this. Essentially delegates need notes and supporting information that are appropriate and relevant to the training content being imparted, and also to the preferred styles of the trainees.

For example if the trainees tend to prefer lots of detail, then ensure notes contain lots of detail. If trainees prefer quicker visual representations and diagrams and pictures, then ensure such images feature strongly in the supporting notes.

If trainees are very active and practical and seek lots of participative hands-on experience then ensure these aspects are built into the supporting materials.

Whatever, make sure that each element of the training content is structured to explain its characteristics, standards/parameters, inputs and outcomes.

Charts and grid layouts containing numbered points, comparisons, graphs are much more effective than free-running text and narrative.

You can also use/adapt the main structure of a training planner (or your own local equivalent) to define and present each part or element of the training content in clear consistent sections, for example:

This is a just a broad suggestion of format and possible sections - sections sizes depend on the content you'd need to insert in each.

Training manual - notes page structure example  
Skill/ability/area to be trained - definition  
Purpose/relevance of capability   
Element or part of area to be trained - definition  
Purpose/result/aim of training element  
Required standard or parameter   
Current knowledge or ability  
Activity or exercise  
Tools, equipment, materials  
Timings, venue, person responsible  
Notes, diagrams  
References/further info  
Follow-up and measurement  

Other frameworks can be used instead or in association with relevant sections above. 

Select a framework or structure for the format of the notes which fits the situation and the needs of the delegates. 

The following models and methods provide possible structures to use or adapt or blend in developing a helpful format for the actual training content notes pages of a training manual. 

Once you have a format, you can then more easily fill in the boxes, or even delegate the task of doing so to someone who understands the technicalities of the training element without necessarily being able to design training from scratch. The format is the key.

  • Kirkpatrick
  • Kolb
  • Bloom
  • VAK/Skills Attitude Knowledge/Multiple Intelligence
  • Conscious Competence
  • Process steps - the 'flatpack furniture' approach - numbered instructional points with diagrams - so called after the instructions typically included with flatpack self-assembly furniture, in which clear diagrams reduce the need for lots of text, and so are quickly and easily understood, even to an extent by foreign language speakers or unskilled readers
  • presentation slide copies with notes (powerpoint or similar) - care is required or this becomes overly dependent on the quality of the slides - supporting notes have to fulfil a different and more instructional and detailed purpose
  • cartoons and illustrations (can help transform dry text-laden content into far more enjoyable and stimulating learning materials)

These templates are a guide - a starting point or a default.

Provided you follow an appropriate structure of some sort then your options are limitless - particularly when one begins to consider the growing possibilities of digital and online media.

Whatever, strive for a training policy and a training manual methodology that meets the needs of your people and what you are aiming to achieve in the widest and most adventurous way possible.

Training must be structured and logical, because it must be appropriate and measurable - moreover it should also be innovative, enjoyable, ethical, and responsive to the increasing expectations of your people and your customers.