Training vs. Learning – What 250 Healthcare Leaders Told Us

Just because you conduct training, doesn’t mean people are learning. And just because people learn something, doesn’t mean they change their behavior. How can you ensure that every training results in behavior change? Start by finding out how they learn best.

Many organizations approach training as a single event with little follow-up and coaching to ensure what is learned is internalized and hardwired into behaviors with measurable results.

How People Prefer to Learn

I recently spoke at the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Leadership Conference in Nashville. Using the power of live polling, I asked the approximately 250 practice leaders in the room how they preferred to learn. Over 75% said they prefer experiential learning while structured training was favored by only 5%. The sad reality is that most organizations put out structured training in the form of an online module, make it mandatory, track completion, and consider the job done. Basically, they check the “done” box. The sad truth is that the leaders are not getting much out of it.

Training vs. Learning

In our poll, experiential learning was followed by mentoring and coaching as the leaders’ preferred learning methods. Despite this, why is most training a one-and-done, computer-based format? Because it’s easy and quick.

To make training stick, adult learners do best by:

  • learning content (which could be an online module)
  • following the module up with hands-on application of the skill
  • getting feedback from a coach or mentor about the performance of the skill
  • discussing what worked well and didn’t work well with peers and coach

This is precisely why we use a blended learning approach to leadership development in our Be the Leader Nobody Wants to Leave course. Students complete an online module, apply the skill, participate in group coaching, and have 1:1 coaching. Consequently, the outcome is that they retain more and feel more confident in the newly acquired skill. By following this blended learning approach, participants are changing their behaviors.

Are You Just Checking a Box?

A few months ago I was helping an HR leader set up customer service training. Their CEO was breathing down her neck because their HCAHPS score was in the 1st percentile. When I asked her what was most important in the training she said, “I just want it done FAST.” After going round and round on what it takes to change behavior among staff, I bluntly asked if she was training vs. learning. Did she wanted to change behaviors that would raise scores or simply check a box? She admitted that she just wanted to check the box that training was done. She was overwhelmed and under scrutiny by administrators.

The US spends $94 billion per year on training. Doesn’t it make sense to ensure that money is well spent?

When we work with organizations, we set them up for success by laying the foundation for training that sticks. See how we can help your organization by contacting us today at (866) 686-7672 or

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