Training vs Facilitation

To Train or To Facilitate?

Both facilitation and training are two common learner-centered approaches in human and organizational development. However, there is a misconception that they share the same meaning and can be used interchangeably. In this article, we would like to distinguish the difference between facilitation and training, and leverage their characteristics into integrated learning solutions design.

Difference between Training and Facilitation

According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), “training supports learner’s needs to ensure effective learning and improved workplace performance” while “facilitation supports processes and teams by developing and coaching performers, selecting and integrating the best tools, and coordinating the improvements”.


In other words, training is a structured process to close the pre-defined performance gap with a focus on contents. Achieving learning effectiveness is the main purpose of training. Facilitation is an emerging process to move the group of participants towards a pre-defined outcome with a focus on the process. Reaching consensus of the outcome is the main purpose of facilitation.


To achieve the defined learning outcomes, training requires a content expert to disseminate know-how, integrate practical experience and shape the behaviors of the learners. As such, a trainer ideally is a scholar-practitioner, who has both in-depth knowledge and rich practical experience in a specific subject area. Through strong program design and appropriate methodologies, a trainer is able to turn complicated knowledge into easy-to-learn contents. Rather than just conveying content information, a trainer should be able to create a total learning experience for participants, who in turn are then motivated to apply what they have learned.


Comparatively, facilitation requires a process expert to design the agenda, drive the process, and manage the group dynamics to achieve the expected outcomes. It is crucial that facilitators must stay neutral throughout the process to ensure that the participants own the contents and outcomes, not the facilitators. During the facilitation process, the facilitator raises the right questions and encourages the group through various activities to exchange ideas and consolidate insights into meaningful outcomes. In short, facilitation is a process of discovery, self-organizing and consolidation of diversified insights through dialogues.


According to the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), “trainers bring content expertise, have particular and specific content they must cover and may test the participants on their understanding of the content” but “facilitators assist the group in managing the information they already possess, or can access, to achieve results in a collaborative manner”.

Training, Facilitation and Integrated Learning Solutions

To cope with different kinds of organizational situations using integrated learning solutions, we may consider training and/or facilitation approaches. When participants have a learning need of specific knowledge and skills to resolve problems, training is more effective for use in the learning solution design. Through creating a positive learning environment, trainers guide learners to acquire and transfer explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge. Upon completion of training programs, learners will have an increased level of competence to perform better.


In comparison to training, facilitation is much more explorative and flexible along the process flow. Facilitation is more effective for use in the learning solution design, when the participants (or group members) have knowledge and experience to self-organize their thoughts into insights. Facilitators build rapport and engage the group in a collaborative process leading to a fruitful outcome. At the end of facilitation, participants experience a shift of their own thinking and reach consensus of actionable items.


Today’s market environment has become ever-more complex and uncertain, and is full of challenges and opportunities. The ever-lasting winning capital should be intelligence – something without limits and boundaries that can differentiate winners from losers. Training and facilitation are the two powerful collaborative approaches to develop such intellectual capital, which provides benefits to both individual growth and organizational development into the future.