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Witt's End: Training Versus Education

July 1, 2008
There is a difference between training and education.

There is a difference between training and education. I know: I’m just a word guy. I’m going to get slammed for making an issue of this. I don’t care. It’s not semantics. There is a philosophical difference. There is also a physical difference in how training and education are approached and received. I’ve raised this issue before and will no doubt do so again: We train dogs and seals. We educate people.

Here’s my rant: Training teaches employees to expect specific things to happen, for which they’ll receive specific rewards—or punishments. Training puts people into a box, which we then have to teach them how to think their way out of.

Education teaches people to use brain tools. Training is about responding to some external stimulus. Education is growth. It teaches how to consider options and make informed decisions. And, educators are people we often recall with fondness, whereas trainers are commonly regarded with less-than-pleasant memories.

This is especially true now and will be even more relevant in the future. That point was brought home to me after speaking with numerous sources for just one aspect of the article on the new workforce, found elsewhere in this issue. I’m convinced, if the material handling business hopes to retain the best and brightest, to attract and hold talent, we have to change our ways.

Clyde E. Witt Editor-in-Chief [email protected]

One of the myths of management is that people are people; what worked in the past will always work. (Don’t get me started on the subject of loyalty.) People might still be people; however, the needs and wants of people have made a shift. It happened slowly, yet, it’s called instant gratification. If you’ve missed this latest sea change, you’re also likely to miss the boat called Employee Retention. As Sandra Rousseau of Infor told me, “Young people are not uncaring or lazy. There are just so many examples of instant gratification in their lives—it’s what they grew up with. Many are not disciplined because they haven’t had to be disciplined.”

If you, as a company manager, don’t provide the younger generation with what they seek in terms of educational challenges, for example, they are going to look elsewhere. (Here’s a hint: They like to learn from each other.) Sure, you have to pay them a living wage, too. There’s a whole lot more, like the workplace environment and work/life balance issues. Keep in mind, young people have issues; old people have problems. With young people (and here’s the secret) it’s not about having a job.

Management theories come and go. If we’re lucky, we survive most of them well enough to complete our daily tasks. This new workforce challenge is here to stay. It’s the next frontier of cost management. Smart companies are beginning to recognize that fact. And, the smart manager is the person who will quickly get some education about dealing with instant gratification.

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