Telling Employees What the Policy Says Isn’t Training

By definition, training is the act of teaching a person a particular skill or behavior. Typically for employees to use in their current role or job. It’s different from development, which is teaching someone a skill or behavior usually for a future job.

training, HR, Human Resources, policy, policies, communication, skill, behavior, ITM GroupBut it’s also different than communicating a policy or procedure. I think it’s easy to create a disconnect here so it’s important that we examine it. You’ll see why a little later.

If the company develops a policy then holds a meeting to communicate the policy, that’s not training. Don’t get me wrong, new policies need to be communicated. That’s a good thing. But again, it’s not training.

Now, if the company adds discussion and activities giving employees the opportunity to see a demonstration of the new policy in action and practice the policy in a safe environment…then that’s training. But holding a meeting where one person communicates a new policy or procedure, everyone else listens and we all sign a form saying we will adhere to the new procedure doesn’t mean training occurred.

Training also tends to imply that the subject being conveyed needs to be learned. For example if the company developed a new policy on expense reports, there might be a meeting to explain the changes but not a training session because everyone knows how to complete expense reports. However if the company starts using a brand new software program to process expense reports, they might have a training session because no one knows how to use the software.

I bring this up because I’ve talked to quite a few people lately who tell me “we conducted training” when the reality is “they held a meeting”. At the end of the meeting, the company has no idea what employees learned, if anything. And they get really frustrated when employees don’t follow the new policy or procedure. Follow me on this:

When confronted about performance issues, the employee says “I never got any training!”

The manager becomes defensive and says “Sure we did…don’t you remember that meeting a few months ago?!”

A-ha! The disconnect between meetings and training.

Training doesn’t have to be long or complex. It does need to give participants a chance to actively review the knowledge or skill topic as well as an opportunity to practice. When communicating information, the decision must be made if the content is to be communicated or trained. It not only makes a difference in the way information is shared but how it is received. More importantly, how it is retained and accounted for.


  1. says

    Thanks for the great article. Our department is in process of rolling out various benefits policies to employees. We better make sure employees learn the new process :)

  2. says

    I agree with your synopsis of meetings versus training. You might call it coaching, but it is not a good technique for training. Many times companies use technology to acknowledge having read a policy as training, when in fact, it is a check box. Can be said for meetings as well, unless you have more interaction around the subject.

  3. says

    I agree with you 100%. The easy way is to just discuss the policy change and have employees sign forms and leave it at that. This is not employee training. I see this with social media policies when companies should also be discussing what can be done and providing them with suggestions, ideas and conversations around how to change or adjust their behavior to work within the rules. I feel like with policies we focus so much on the negative when we should be providing insights and training into new behaviors and activities that help the employee grow within the organization that leads to new roles and opportunities.

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