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We’ve all heard it. We might have even said it. It usually sounds something like, “This training was no good—people are still doing things the wrong way.” Sometimes it sounds more like, “The training was interesting, but I’m not sure it will really work in my situation.

Is the problem really that the training was no good, or was it not an appropriate solution for the problem? 

Whether you are a manager looking to improve the performance of others in your organization or someone looking to improve your own skills and knowledge, it’s important to consider your desired outcomes before investing in coaching and training.

Why? Because coaching and training are two different things—but they’re often conflated.

Do you need someone to pinpoint individual weaknesses and work on strengthening them? If that’s the case, then coaching is the better solution.

Are you looking to jump-start a behavioral change by providing a much-needed injection of information? If so, training is probably sufficient. 

When weighing coaching and training against one another, it can be tough to suss out which you actually need. The answer lies in the nature of the problem—and in recognizing the fundamental differences between training and coaching.

Coaching vs training

Training differs from coaching in several fundamental ways. Let’s take a look:

Coaching Training
Duration Happens over the long haul Occurs within a limited timeframe (a single training session)
Orientation An individual activity A group activity
Goals Change an individual’s behavior or performance based on the goals the individual sets Transfer knowledge and new skills at scale to achieve the pre-established goals for the group
Structure Personalized and flexible to meet the individual’s needs Pre-determined: the topics, order, and timing are set before the class begins

Though the two terms are often used interchangeably, training and coaching are two different processes. Training is about equipping people with new skills or knowledge, while coaching is about building individuals’ awareness, which leads to actions that, in turn, lead to growth. Neither is better or worse than the other; they simply have different objectives!

Regardless of whether the subject is managerial or communication skills or new policy implementation, training focuses on developing and improving specific skill sets with the goal of knowledge transfer and behavioral change at scale. At the end of training, everyone should know the same thing as the person next to them and be able to perform the work at a similar quality level. Interpersonal communications training

By comparison, coaching’s goal is to pinpoint weaknesses and work towards resolving them so that the protegee can achieve some self-selected goal. Some common coaching types within business include:

  • Executive coaching
  • Managerial coaching
  • Leadership coaching

Coaching or training: How to decide which you need

Ask yourself (or your managers) the following questions to help determine whether coaching or training is the appropriate solution for you.

How much time is available for learning? 

If time is not of the essence, coaching may be the right approach, as it lends itself to mentorship instead of a set timeline. If time is critical and you need employee development solutions now, training might be the right fit. 

While both coaching and training do take time, coaching is designed to be a one-on-one experience that isn’t always the most time-efficient, while training is a shorter, group experience.

Are you trying to solve an individual or a group problem?

At their core, both coaching and training exist to resolve issues and improve performance. The difference lies within the types of problems each solves. If everyone in your organization is dealing with a similar type of struggle, training is likely the answer. If only a handful of people within an organization are having issues, coaching might be better.

Is the performance issue due to a knowledge or behavior gap? 

Training is probably the better approach if people are not performing as expected because they do not have the necessary knowledge or skill set. Training focuses on laying the foundation for new concepts or procedures that require practice.

Because coaching is a tailored solution, it’s better suited to diagnose and treat the individualized behaviors that are preventing success.

How much training have they already had on the subject? 

If people are not performing as expected and have already attended training, it might be that other issues are getting in the way. Individual coaching can uncover those issues and help implement practical solutions.

How critical is it that everybody gets to the same performance standards simultaneously and in the same way? 

If people must follow specific standards or guidelines, training is the best option. Coaching is a better solution for issues when more judgment calls and nuance are required. 

How to identify a good trainer or coach 

How do you know if you’ve engaged a good trainer? Look for these traits:

A good trainer should be able to:

  • Quickly establish trust and credibility in a group setting
  • Simplify complex ideas
  • Speak comfortably in public
  • Engage and motivate a group
  • Manage group dynamics effectively
  • Manage time and stick to the schedule
  • Guide discussions to specific, logical and desired conclusions

A good coach should be able to:

  • Develop deep and trusting relationships with their mentee
  • Ask powerful questions to prompt self-awareness and uncover the mentee’s desires, motivations, and barriers, and to guide the mentee to an effective solution
  • Be flexible enough to adjust the plans to the mentee’s needs
  • Analyze and diagnose core problems that could be hindering the improvement of their personal and professional potential
  • Be patient enough to let the mentee discover the answers for themselves rather than just explaining the “right solution”

Training and coaching solutions for you and your team

Whether you’re struggling to identify a solution that will empower your employees with the knowledge they need to excel and execute, or you’re a professional interested in leveling up your own skills, coaching and training combined can be a great solution. Training sets the stage for performance while coaching helps participants apply what they learned when they leave the classroom.


CLS can help provide comprehensive training solutions for your team—whether that’s training managers to be better leaders, introducing the team to entirely new processes, or developing communication skills organization-wide. CLS has the experience, expertise, and tools to develop effective, practical training solutions for your team. Get in touch today to find out more.

Coaching vs Training: FAQs

1.   Can training and coaching be used together?

Ideally, training would come as a precursor to coaching. Comprehensive training is often the answer to core skill gaps within your organization. Comprehensive Learning Solutions provides  training that helps people learn in the most intuitive and approachable ways. 

2.   Is coaching a type of training?

If training is the first step, coaching is the second. Coaching differs from training in that coaching is a tailored, individualized approach. Coaching focuses more on building awareness and exploring possibilities that lead to change. Training provides foundational knowledge and skills building at scale for a  larger number of people. Coaching is related to training in that it can reinforce the training once participants leave the classroom and try to use in the real world what they learned in the class.  

3.   What is the objective of training and coaching?

Good coaching and training are built on the foundational belief that learning does not happen in one session and that people truly invested in learning and growing need support that goes beyond a single session. While the way coaching and training execute this belief differs, the mission is the same.

Karen Feeley
Karen Feeley

Instructional designer

Karen Feeley is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of experience in workplace learning and development. She is a published author, trainer, instructional designer, editor, and project manager with a proven track record of success in the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

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