Content and Caring

If content is king, then caring needs to be queen in training. And caring, connection, and context cannot always be conveyed through an online or distance medium.

I recently spoke at an industry conference where some interesting comments were made during some of the sessions I led. One 19-yearold at the conference said, “I don’t like books. I get what I need from the Internet.” Meanwhile, another woman in her early 20s talked about turning down a face-to-face orientation with her company’s CEO by asking, “Don’t you just have it on a flash drive?”

Both of these comments could be indicative of statements that we hear are characteristic of “Millennials”—those who came of age after the year 2000. There are some who would say this shows us the direction we need to go in training them. I respectfully disagree. If content is king, then caring needs to be queen. We cannot assume that all one needs in a training process is content. If this were true, then perhaps e-learning is all that is needed.

I think we also need caring, connection, and context—and these cannot always (and perhaps seldom) be conveyed through an online or distance medium. Let me say it again: If content is king, then caring needs to be queen. Take, for example, the ad that says, “You can become a group discussion leader in the privacy of your own home!” Do you really believe that? Can someone truly become a competent group discussion leader without ever being with other people? I don’t think so. The facts may be available in the privacy of your own home, but developing competency requires people.


So much of the research shows that people are hired for technical and functional skills but fired for lack of people skills. These people skills (or core skills, as I call them) need to be taught, fundamentally, through actually interacting with other people. This is where the caring comes in.

Over and over again in leadership studies when people describe the traits they admire in leaders, the top things that cause them to follow other people are integrity, listening, truthfulness, and trust. Knowing that someone else has these requires demonstration—and often, time.

And in most cases, this is accomplished more deeply and more quickly through face-to-face connection. In the training context, this is the social component of training that is more quickly accomplished in a classroom setting versus a virtual setting. After the training is over, it is much easier to connect and communicate with people you actually have met face to face and spent time with during the training—this is the context phase.

I do a lot of work internationally (as I’m writing this, I’m a couple of days from two weeks working with clients in Dubai and Bahrain). While I have done more than my share of Webinars, the majority of my training and consulting internationally is done face to face. And the majority of my business comes from people I have met face to face and developed a relationship with because we’ve spent time together, shared a meal, etc.


A good current analogy is the phenomenon called “Texas Hold ’Em.” You can play the game online. You can learn the game online. But the online game only partially equips you to play the exact same game with live people face to face.

The fundamental facts of the game and the odds are the same. But there is another set of facts about playing with people that can’t be taught online: the byplay, the tells (the little physical movements that tell you whether someone you’re playing actually has a really good hand—or is bluffing), and so forth.

So, once, again content is king, but caring and connection—the people side of learning—is queen.

Without both, you lose and lose big. So, as you look at your training, where are the caring and connection sides of your process? Are they there?

Are they alive and healthy? Are they in balance or out of balance? It’s certainly something to think about.

Until next month, add value and make a difference!

Bob Pike, CSP, CPAE, CPLP Fellow, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.