Defining “Training”

I often go back to basics when it comes to approaching any training session that I conduct.

I start by considering the audience and how I would enable them to participate and engage in the learning process. This typically comes in a form of establishing a common definition to the words that I will use frequently in delivering the content. I believe that if the words used has a common understanding, then we get to minimise the risk of misinterpretations.

What is Training?

I usually start my Train-The-Trainer session by asking the question, “What is training?”

And the responses I get are often quite interesting.

Rarely I ask this question for the sake of just getting an answer. I ask this question more as a pulse check to see how my fellow trainers define training.

“Training is a systematic process that enables learning and practice to take place with a clear objective to invoke change in the competency of another strategically through appropriate and acceptable methods.”

This is my current definition of training, and here is why;

Systematic process

Training does not happen by chance. It is also neither an accidental process nor a spontaneous incident. There is a large amount of planning involved in selecting the right input, with conscious decisions made on the strategy to produce the desired output.

Enable learning and practice

Training is implemented to enable learning to take place. However, learning alone is not enough. There must be conscious effort to allow the participants of the training session to apply and/or practice what they have learned. This is especially critical for skill-based topic where the application of the lesson is crucial to the effectiveness of the learning process.

Clear objective

If you are not sure of where you are heading, you will end up going around in circles. A clear training objective provides the trainer with a clear end-goal to aim for. This will help the trainer to make the right decisions on how to strategize the learning process. As for the learners, a clear objective will allow them to know what output is expected from the session.

Invoke change

A good trainer does not force the learning to happen. Instead, they invite and appeal to the participants’ own desire to want to gain new knowledge, improve their skills and consider new behaviour that would bring themselves benefits.


The whole point of training is to focus on the competency elements – what enables the person to be able to carry out the task better, namely the knowledge, the skills and/or the behaviour. We try not to get involve with the emotions, beliefs, character, and other psychological aspects of the learner.


Each activity in the learning process must be appropriate, useful, and purposeful to achieve the targeted lesson. The trainer must make a conscious decision on the “what”, “why” and “how-to” of the training session.

Appropriate and acceptable methods

A trainer is the “bearer of knowledge” and this is a noble role. A noble man would not belittle, embarrass, or force the learner to do meaningless unorthodox actions with the excuse that it is his or her unique way of imparting knowledge or skills.

My hypothesis is, if all trainers could agree to this definition, then we have a strong chance of improving the training industry and uplift the standard to the next level. If not, we will always bicker on the wrong things and keep going around in circles.

Importance of Identifying the Right Competencies for the Industry

Everyone wants to be the recipient of excellent performance. Be it in a form of service or product, excellent performance will never be refused by anyone on the receiving end. However, on the giving end, things can be very subjective and blurry at times.

The question is, how does one know that the level of performance given meets the desired quality expected? How does one even stand to have a fair shot at performing if they themselves are not aware of the knowledge, skills, and other contributing factors that they need to have to begin with? It wound not be a fair playing flied if everything boils down to being lucky and gifted with natural talent.

It is with this perspective in mind, my team and I embarked in a quest to dissect ‘performance’.

It turns out that performance can be defined by measurable indicators. These may include strategic indicators that contributes to the success of the organisation; operational indicators that relates to profitability, productivity, and output; and behavioural indicators that generally reflects upholding positive values and well-mannered conduct.

Further narrowing the scope to the context of job-related performance, these indicators are often referred to as ‘set of competencies’ which consist of knowledge, skills and behaviours that ideally the employees must have to perform the task assigned.

This applies to any industry and it is no different to the training industry too. Even though one may make the assumption that trainers are better informed and familiar with performance indicators and measurements, one thing for sure is there is a need to have a taxonomy for the industry – a common description and classification of what constitutes and contributes to the delivery of the performance that will be considered as a reference.

By defining a set of competencies, even though it may be non-exhaustive at this point, it would serve as a benchmark for those involved in training and development related work to know what is to be expected of them and how they can grow in their profession.

As we identify the key knowledge, skills, and behaviours necessary, it would be easier to reach a targeted performance for the roles involved in the training industry, and then developing and optimising those competencies to best align with the bigger picture of improving the quality and livelihood of the nation’s workforce.

When we have listed these core competencies, we should be able to easily distinguish excellence in performance from non-performance and in the future, by combining several of these core competencies, may open the possibilities of developing a proper competency framework for training industry professionals.