Training versus Learning and Development

Training versus Learning and Development

22 October 2013

What is the difference between training and learning and development (L&D) and why does it matter to your business? 

Stacey Hinton, Boyce Learning and Development Coordinator, explores this question in her first article for our client newsletter below. 

Training is about the organisation. Learning and development is about the person.

Over the past few years there has been a significant shift as organisations have begun to realise that knowledge and capability needs cannot be met just through sending employees to training courses.

Often the terms ‘training’ and ‘L&D’ are used interchangeably. They are however, quite distinct. In his book, Helping people learn: strategies for moving from training to learning, J. Reynolds  states “learning is the process by which a person constructs new knowledge, skills and capabilities, whereas training is one of several responses an organisation can undertake to promote learning”.  

When I commenced with Boyce in January of this year, one of the first changes made was to my job title. Rather than being the firm’s Training Coordinator, I was our Learning & Development Coordinator and subsequently our training program became our Learning & development program. I believe that L&D reflects a stronger emphasis on learning (responsibility of the learner) rather than training (provided by the trainer). As a firm we wanted to place a stronger emphasis on improving the effectiveness of staff training, with a greater understanding of the learning and development that is occurring as opposed to a focus solely on the provision of training. 

By talking about training we tend to be focusing on what is being supplied. Send an employee to training and tick the box. Training merely describes, and commonly represents, transfer of knowledge or skill for organisational gain, which generally has very little to do with the employee. No wonder employees don’t typically enjoy or queue up for training. By talking about L&D, we put the emphasis on what employees are doing and, most significantly, what they are learning and how much they are developing. 

Many employees believe training is like going back to school - they are the student and the teacher stands up in front of them dictating what they should know. There is also a misconception by both employers and employees that once someone has attended a training course, they have the skills and knowledge to do the job. In some situations this format may work however generally there is a learning gap. 

Obviously, many organisations cannot ignore basic skills and knowledge training. For example, workplace health and safety, telephone procedures, machinery use etc. Of course these basics must be trained but they are not what make the difference. Yes, your employees may have attended a training course but have they actually learnt something? We should be focusing on facilitating learning and development for the individual. 

The word ‘learning’ in the term ‘learning and development' is significant. It suggests that people are driving their own development through relevant experience, beyond work related skills and knowledge and processes. Learning extends the idea of personal development (and thereby organisational development) to beliefs, values, wisdom, compassion, emotional maturity, ethics, integrity and most important of all, their unique individual potential. 

L&D is a continuous process which leads to the development of the knowledge and skills to ensure that an employee’s ability and potential grows through the provision of learning experiences or through self-directed (self-managed) learning to prepare them for greater or higher-level responsibilities in the future. 

To sum up: 

  • Training suggests putting 'stuff' into people, when actually we should be developing people from the inside out so they can achieve their potential.
  • Training is (mostly) a chore; people do it because they’re paid to. Learning is quite different. People respond to appropriate learning because they want to; and because it benefits and interests them and helps them to grow and develop their natural abilities.
  • L&D puts the onus back onto the individual rather than on the organisation purely providing training. 

It is important to remember that whilst employers have the responsibility of providing opportunities for employees to learn in ways that maximise their potential development, you can’t make people learn. 

As the saying goes - you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Ultimately each and every one of us is responsible for our own learning and development.

Stacey Hinton - Boyce Learning and Development Coordinator

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