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Education (as opposed to training), for productivity?


Education (as opposed to training), for productivity?


Used with permission of the author:
Author: Andrew Hofmeyr
Business Education Design (Pty.) Ltd.
30 April 2007

Workinfo.com Human Resources Magazine Volume 1 Issue 7, 2007 

The difference between training and education has been one long debated by academics and training specialists in organisations. The consensus, put simply, is that training is directed to specific, observable behaviour change and its outcomes are measurable. The results of education, on the other hand, are typically less observable and measurable, yet enable the transfer of learning from one situation to another, the analysis and application of knowledge and the evaluation of phenomena.

With the increased focus on the need for improved productivity in businesses and on hard outcomes in training, education – particularly for lower level staff – has largely been given the boot. So we promote productivity through improved technology, increased skills training and a lot of pain. And still our productivity is woefully inadequate.

Paradoxically, the reason for this is something we have known for decades. Productivity is not a function of technology and skills alone, but of staff who are committed to applying those skills, unstintingly, to improving productivity. And herein lies the second paradox. We have known, too, for decades that sustainable commitment is a function not of reward or fear, but of understanding the underlying rationale of why something should be done. We behave productively because the need for and logic of that productivity is understood. And real understanding is an outcome of education, not training.

Research undertaken by Dr Gillian Godsell, Wits Business School and the NPI on the impact on 7500 lower level staff who have undergone business education programmes suggests that once staff understand the underlying rationale of business (something we assume they know, but most definitely do not), fundamental changes occur – in attitude to work, to teams, to other departments, to the organisation as a whole and to the role they can play in improving productivity and in the overall success of the enterprise. Anecdotal evidence from the participating companies strongly reinforces the research findings. Staff understand why managers make the decisions they do, and so can relate to them. Staff understand the logic of working effectively in teams, and so are eager to do so. Staff understand the rationale behind the need to manage costs and so find ways to do so. And so on.

Curious, then, that organisation-wide business education is so seldom on the training agenda. Makes you worry, doesn’t it? 

Editor's note:
See a summary of the research results by Dr Gillian Godsell, Wits Business School and the NPI.

Andrew Hofmeyr (BA, HDE (PG), BEd. Med, MBA) lectured in educational theory at the Johannesburg College of Education and the University of the Witwatersrand from 1977 to 1992. During that time he studied research methodology and educational technology on an international fellowship at the University of Surrey, UK. He is a founder member of Business Education Design, whose training programmes are used by leading corporations and business schools in  South Africa and theUSA. He can be contacted at and at the Business Education Design website www.bused.co.za.                              

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Gary Watkins

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