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Is Learning & Development any different from training employees?

It is important to understand the difference between learning and training. Of course, they are interlinked & used as synonyms, but they are different & unique in themselves. Training is One Way communication in which the learner is taking inputs from a trainer. This will be affecting them in their day-to-day life/working conditions. While Learning & Development is two-way communication in which the learner having a discussion with Trainer and working on self-development. It is about enhancing the personality & perception of the person, looking at the long-term impact. Learning is the process of absorbing that information in order to increase skills and abilities.

There are three dimensions to Knowledge gaining, namely production-centered, person-centered, and problem-solving / centered. Now Training is aligned with only the Product-Centric approach, while L&D is looking for all three aspects and putting a higher emphasis on the Person-centered approach. 

Taking an example here, where the organization is sending you for training on enhancing any specific skills (Communication, Excel, Grooming, Negotiations, etc.). Such knowledge gaining session is training, in which you are learning something, which will influence your day-to-day working. A Series of Training will help you become a better individual, personally & professionally. 

Learning & Development as a process helps an individual to identify specific gaps in his skills/knowledge to become a person. With such learning, the person is ready to take up the next level / different profile in a due course of time. This is also take up as part of Succession planning for senior-level profiles or any other role. 

Let me give you some more difference with Examples:

  1. Training work on Short Team plan (Present) while Development working on Long Term Plan (Future).  

Example – In my previous organization (ECOs), we have to deal with Drivers who were Imparted Training / Development activities at 3 levels. 

Level 1

They have imparted training on Better Driving Skills, Road Signs, Traffic Rule, Greeting & Seating a Guest, Filling Duty Slips, etc. which is very basic in nature & part of their day to day Operations 

Level 2

Drivers were trained for having a conversation with the Customer / Client they are driving. 

Level 3

We are supporting the Driers to get a basic education. Like Graduation etc. This is what is Development for them, in this way they can completely change their working profile. 

We have one more example where all drivers who have attained an age of 55+ and henceforth not much preferred by clients, we worked with them to become Senior Drivers / Coach. They have sound knowledge of Routs, Systems, Client management, and people around. We made them Training & Buddy for Younger / new drivers. This is giving the motivation & urge to do new things in life. This is a development activity as this is changing the course of once working.

  1. Training is very Specific to a job while L&D is specific to Professional Career

Training is designed to enhance efficiency in one specific skill, but Development is Holistic development or working to changes one’s professional approach. 

Example – A person in accounts is expected to know Tally software. If that is a Job related specific skill, which is mandatory for him to perform well. He has imparted the training in the effective utilization of Tally Software. 

On the other hand, the person has imparted education on Purchase / Finance, then that is change & upgrading him. That is where Learning will come into the picture. 

  1. Specific Objective of Learning Vs. Open Objective

Training is specific to attain one Skill / Competency, while Development is open and does not stick to one specific Objective / Skill. In addition, L&D is working on the holistic development of an individual. This way we are helping a person to take up higher roles/responsibilities. 

Example – Few people from the accounts team need to communicate with Clients & representatives, but due to challenges in English, we had challenges. We sent them for a course on spoken & Written English (Paid by Organization) to ensure clients are communicated right. That is considered in Training, which is job-specific.

We had people whom we moved from Finance to Operation and hence we need to develop them to work on that platform and change delivery parameters. 

  1. Training is Focused at Group while L&D is Individual Specific

We are sending a lot of people in generic training. Its group training, like communication, Excel, etc. which will help them to deliver their current work profile more efficiently. While Development is specific to Individual Development & highly customizable. 

Example –  We had imparted group interventions like team building, Customer centricity, etc. Then with individuals, we have specific tasks. Knowing the potential of some business leaders, we got external coaches for holistic & internal development. The person was henceforth able to take the head of a larger business unit. 

Training is been given to you & Learning Is what is cherish & want to be. You look forward to developing that skill, but then you thrive to upgrade yourself as an individual, where the inner fire of Learning is far more important. You Seek something for yourself.

A Combined effort of a series of Training and seeking development will ensure the overall development of the individual. Become a better person and work on developing your skill.


Author / Educator – Nikhil Mathur

A Human Resource and Knowledge & Advancement Professional with two decades of experience in IT, ITES, Telecom, Service, and Hospitality Sector. He is associated with the Dalmia Group as Head L&D and Organization Development. In his previous assignments have been handling HR & Training for Organizations like Alcatel Lucent, Genpact, Convergys, IHG, ECOS, and Oberoi Hotels.  


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