Author Archives: Fiona Gardiner

Should it be called training or learning and does it even matter?

I have found that these words are used interchangeably, in a similar way that leadership and management are (I will come back to that one another time). I have found some peers and colleagues have very strong opinions and I have been questioned over the years about my preference and when and why I use each.

Ask yourself this, I say that I am a training professional, how would your perception change if I say I am a learning professional? Training Department or Learning Department?

As a trainer my responsibility is to create an environment, build an enthusiasm and present the content of a workshop or programme in a way which is relevant, useful and applicable to the learners so that learning takes place for them and the outcomes are achieved. I do the training part right then the learning takes place for them. Training = me, Learning = them.

When I started out a long time ago, as a Training Co-ordinator, in the days of the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) and Employment Training (ET), our industry simply used the terms Training and Development, there was even an Institute of Training and Development which then merged with the Institute of Personnel Management to become the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, perhaps this was when people started thinking ‘training’ was a lesser term?

When designing workshops/courses/programmes things have changed too – we have seen the term Training/Learning Objectives become Training/Learning Outcomes, I think the objectives are for the trainer and the outcomes for the learner. However, regardless, the trainer needs to focus on the outcomes…the why are we doing this or what will success look like? One of my favourite questions as a Manager in a Training Department when I was approached by specialist business areas who were unfamiliar with training design, but felt that training was the answer was,

“Once we have designed and delivered this ‘two days of training programme’ you think is needed what will the learners be able to do that they couldn’t before?”

Often, to be honest, their aim was actually to deliver the training just so they knew it had been delivered, that, I fear, is the down side when we focus on training and not learning. I jokingly used to call this ‘sheep dip training’, when they came to speak to me (do you actually want them to learn something or just dip them in the training juice?). Also, I have to say that their ‘need’ for it to be a ‘two day training programme’ was seldom accurate once we had drilled down to what the ‘outcomes’ would be.

In my humble opinion I deliver training, as I am the trainer, my focus is that my learners will receive learning as an outcome. This is the case when I am designing and delivering leadership training or facilitating workshops using collaborative thinking approaches. Facilitation is a ‘training’ technique and often a very effective way for participants to learn without feeling ‘taught’.

Why not get in contact and we can discuss how I can work with you to deliver your outcomes? I actually don’t mind at all whether you think it is training or learning, I can probably help.

What is it you are actually doing Fiona?

Moving from having a ‘real’ job with an actual job description and clear responsibilities to being a full time student for a year, again with clear deadlines and structure to then becoming a freelance trainer has been…a challenge.


To help me focus I was asked some key questions by someone who has supported others through this transition from ‘doing’ an actual job to becoming a freelance trainer developing other people utilising their skills. The following is how that conversation went.


What is your profession? I am a professional trainer. For over 30 years I have developed my skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications in a training and development career. That is what I do, I do training.

What is your niche, because no-one wants a generalist? I thought training was my niche!!!??? I am not a security expert or a teacher or an e-learning designer or a negotiator  or anything else like that so I can’t say I have a specialism except training. I have worked with the police and leadership development for a long time but I don’t feel that is a niche, it’s just my frame of reference in many things. Maybe my niche is as a leadership training developer and deliverer?

Well, what are you best known for? ‘The Hats and the motivation stuff’ according to many of the people I asked and also getting groups to define the actual problem and then working out the best solution – from the team to the strategic level and everything in between. Oh yes, and developing other trainers how to train and leaders about leadership.

Pick one Fiona, what do you specialise in? Consulting with businesses to help them identify the best training solutions to meet their needs, collaboratively and creatively. Also, using a similar approach, I work with leaders and teams to develop innovative approaches to solve problems and challenges (these are not always training problems or challenges, although there will always be learning by all who participate). 

How much will you charge? Well, that depends on what they are looking for and what we agree, there are too many variables to set a specific cost. What I do is meet with them, have a conversation and get a really good understanding about what they are looking for, thereafter I present them with a number of detailed options (there are always options) the options will of course have different costs, they can then decide which of the options they think fits best with their requirements.

Who is your ideal customer? An interesting thought. Probably someone who already knows me and understands what I can do. Over the years I have worked with and trained a vast number of people, many of them are now in senior roles, perhaps they are reading this and thinking “I know what she means, its hard to explain what she brings to a training room but her creative thinking approach is exactly what I am looking for right now.”

How are your customers going to find you? Hopefully they have – if so I hope they get in contact, even just for an initial coffee and a conversation about possibilities.

To blog or not to blog that is the question.

I’m excited about going live ‘officially’ with the website, I want to keep it alive and interesting, not just a static “Who are Pink Tree Training and what is it that they do?” type of thing, which I think would be more of a brochure than a website and that isn’t what I want this to be? My trusted (and exceedingly clever) adviser tells me it can be informal and help people understand a bit better who you are, that sounds like a good thing, I think. She also tells me I need to learn how to use WordPress…this is the first challenge so if you are reading this then I have succeeded.

Next up I am going to try to outline what it is we can do for you. If you are curious, start by having a look at the case studies, whilst these were in my previous role and sum up what I could do, I have new skills too and will outline how these have built on my past approaches.