No Image Available

Seb Anthony

Read more from Seb Anthony

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Learning for Performance – V- Training for Skills


I'm writing an article on the changing culture towards 'learning for performance' and away from training for skills'. I'd really like your thoughts about this so that I can present a well rounded view. If anyone is willing to share any particular experience or quote that I can use, that would be much appreciated.

To prompt your thinking, some of the key themes will be around

Identiy, purpose, belief, values, motivation, engagement.

Debbie Rawlinson

Debbie Rawlinson

7 Responses

  1. Learning v’s Training
    Great question. I believe the two are completely clear areas. Training is imparting knowledge and theory, ideally structured and planned. Learning is application of theory and knowledge, again planned and supported to develop new skills and experience. Moving away from ‘training for skills’ is interesting as you may need training (as one option)to underpin application of new learning to develop the skills. Still, this debate undoubtably will continue for centuries. The key thing is what does the learner understand by ‘training and learning’ and what do we do with that understanding to help them develop?

  2. Training, learning and all that jazz
    You might want to take a look at an earlier thread at
    As to the particular terms you have used, this seems to be a sub-set of the wider debate on learning and training, and the trends within the industry,
    For my part I have always thought that training without learning is sterile – surely the very purpose of training is to support learning, or why else would you do it?
    Similarly, people learn skills (in the workplace) that should enable improved performance – there may be a few examples of organisations developing people’s skills for altruistic reasons but mostly the intent is better performance.
    So, technically, these changing terms have little of substance behind them. However, I am a keen supporter of the underlying principles behind these name changes and the philosophy of which this rebranding is symbolic. In particular, the positive trend is definitely putting greater emphasis on the learning process rather than the mechanics of the training process and linking this more clearly to that key driving force, organisational results.
    My one concern with those who get hooked on the latest terminology is the implicit criticism of those who still use labels like ‘training’. I feel that this does no one any favours. I look at it like this:
    Training supports learning. Learning generates improved skills (and knowledge etc.). Improved skills enables improved individual performance. Improved individual performance contributes towards improved organisational performance.
    There are other factors that impact on all these stages but one thing is for sure: they are all connected, all important and all need to be managed well.

  3. The Performance Triangle
    At Saudi Aramco, we emphasize to our Trainers, Mentors and Evaluators that On-Job Performance is dependent on the triangulation of three separately important but inseparable elements: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude.

    We stress that Knowledge without Skills is sterile, Skills without Knowledge is dangerous, and either/both without proper Attitude is valueless – and is also dangerous.

    As Graham also expresses below in other ways, “they are all connected”.

  4. Skills vs performance.
    Whilst the terminology has changed, I think the overrall objective of any development work has always been to promote increased productivity. Skills are a necessary part of this but, increasingly, attitude and ‘softer’ skills have begun to take priority. Poor productivity may be an indicator of poor skill, but equally so it could be an indicator of poor motivation, or communication skills.
    The important thing is that development work is not undertaken as a ‘tick the box’ excercise, but as a real, meaningful and productive process. Ideally it should be measurable to show the results have been beneficial.
    Measuring can be very difficult, but I have been known to turn people down if we can’t identify significant benefits before we start.

  5. Learning v Training v Performance
    I think it is useful to keep things simple. Training imparts knowledge or skill. It is done by others to a learner. Learning is the mechanism by which the individual internalises/remembers what has been taught. Performance may be influenced by what the learner has learned and also by his/her willingness to apply it.

    Imparting skills (training) which are never learned will not affect performance. Learning which is never applied is also a poor return on investment. Performance requires the application of learning.

    Performance improvement is the end result and this may come about when someone learns and applies a new skill.

    The best companies can do is highlight the performance standard needed and outline the knowledge/capability gap and then create an environment where people can learn to plug the gap.

    I use a gardening analogy. I can provide a young plant with the right environment for it to grow e.g. water, food, light, soil acidity etc. It is up to the plant to take all this in and use it to grow. The gardener cannot make the plant grow.

    Therefore the provision of training for skills is like the provision of food , water etc. The learning is up to the learner, as is any performance improvement

    [email protected]

  6. The Times are a’Changin’
    I’m reminded, here, of Gregory Bateson’s model of “logical levels of learning”.

    At Level 0 – Rule based Actions – the “learning” consists of obeying instructions correctly without any understanding of the rhyme and reason behind them. At this level, according to Bateson, NO learning was actually taking place because there is no trial-and-error experience, and the “trainee” has no insight into the rules.

    At level 1 – Learning – the learner finds out how to select what action to take from a list of options, and they will continue or modify their actions according to feedback they receive.

    At Level 2 – Learning How to Learn – the learner gains insight into the material they are being taught and knows how to generate new options if necessary. Thus it is only at this level that they really begin to “understand” whatever it is they are learning.

    Can map these levels onto changes in the workplace to get a possible distinction between the words “training” and “learning”.

    (I accept that any definitions must be arrived at by agreement, NOT because the words have “absolute” meanings.)

    When manufacturing was a large part of British business, “training” was often still at Level 0. For example, in the company where I was training and personnel manager most employees they only needed to know where to locate the pieces of metal they processed, and which pedal or switch to operate.
    They weren’t expected to bring much to their job except commonsense and physical ability.

    Since then there has been a major shift away from Level 0-type jobs, and many more employees operate at least at level 1 – knowing which option to select.
    Thus basic “do what you’re told”-type “training” (obey the rules) has been widely replaced by “question the customer and select the appropriate option”-type training, which is more like “education” (gaining knowledge).

    For the last 10-15 years, moreover, there has been a growing emphasis on being proactive, making your own decisions, etc.
    Where this is genuinely implemented (not just the latest management fad), it clearly requires Level 2 learning – knowledge AND understanding.
    Now employees, at all levels, must bring their brains to work as well as their commonsense and basic physical abilities.
    Which is possibly why people question the appropriateness of the word “training” in the business context?

    Hope this is of use

    Be well

    Andy Bradbury

  7. Obvious…???!!!
    For me, “Learning for Performance” implies that the learning, any learning, is valued if it is applied with the intent of improving performance, be it for immediate effect, or to improve future performance (link to strategy here?).

    “Training for skills” suggests to me a ‘tick box’ exercise and an attitude and approach that may be a major reason for training as a profession being seen as ‘pink & fluffy’ and not connected to the needs of the organisation.

    There are so many channles through which people can learn, training just being one of them. The sooner the mainstream of managers recognises this, and the importance of focused and applied learning to competitive advantage, the better!

    Right, off my soap box…




Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!