Training vs Learning and Why It’s Important to Know the Difference
In your organisation, do you have a focus on training or on learning?
This can be a difficult question to answer as the difference between the two is subtle. Maybe your answer is both, i.e. we focus on training so our employees can learn.
There is a deeper concept to consider here, however. That concept can help improve your organisation in terms of the skills and abilities your employees have now and, crucially, into the future.
Let’s start by defining both training and learning.
What is Training?
Training is a process that involves the development of a specific new skill or improving abilities in a new skill.
It’s also about teaching individuals about a specific process or procedure, and it can also be ensuring they have the knowledge and competence required to operate a piece of equipment whether that is a machine, a device, a software application, or anything else.
In other words, training is about achieving a specific, very focused, and definable objective.
It is also normally job specific. For example, an employee that needs to know how to use a software application to complete their day-to-day duties will receive training on that app.
Another characteristic of training is that it takes place at a set time. For example, classroom-based training takes place while in the classroom and e-learning takes place at the times the learner is completing the module.
In other words, training typically involves an employee taking time out to complete it.
What is Learning?
Learning, on the other hand, is a constant process that is part of the everyday experience. It doesn’t happen at a fixed point in time, but instead happens continuously.
The focus of learning is on the learner, not your organisation, and it takes into account change rather than being rigid and highly focused on a specific skill, procedure, or topic. As a result, it helps individuals deal with a wider range of situations while also helping them develop more holistically.
Also, learning can be both formal and informal, plus it involves active employee involvement rather than passively receiving information in a training situation.
Okay, that’s all very high-level and theoretical. Let’s look at an example to bring it back to something more tangible.
Managers in an organisation could go through training that teaches them about the company’s performance management procedures and how to go through employee disciplinary processes in a way that meets the needs of the business while remaining in compliance with UAE and international HR laws.
Once a manager understands the procedures and the steps they must take, they can implement that knowledge, i.e. their training is complete.
A learning programme, however, could, for example, teach managers about emotional intelligence so they are better equipped to deal with people. This is a much more fluid topic, so there is no point at which a manager’s learning will be complete.
Instead, they will continuously learn as they apply their new knowledge of emotional intelligence. They will improve as they go, and they will acquire new knowledge along the way.
In relation to the performance management part of their job, training ensures they follow the required company procedures. Learning about emotional intelligence, however, improves how they deal with people in the performance management process to, for example, fully understand the real causes of poor performance and to give constructive feedback.
Not only that, but the emotional intelligence skills that managers learned in this example can be applied to other aspects of their job, from interacting with colleagues to building relationships with customers to dealing with superiors.
The Differing Roles of Training and Learning
In the above example, training is required as managers do need to know the company’s performance management procedures.
Training is also part of developing the managers’ emotional intelligence skills.
However, learning about emotional intelligence is an ongoing process that the manager will be actively involved in with the support of the company.
Shifting the Focus
Many large companies and corporations have already shifted their focus away from training on its own to instead having a focus on learning. The goal with this approach is often to develop individuals in a much more rounded way and to give them skills to deal with a much wider range of situations, including situations that are not predictable.
How do you do the same? How do you switch the focus in your organisation from training to learning?
There three main areas you need to look at:
- Learning culture
- Training delivery
- Quality of content
The first step is to make sure there is a learning culture in your organisation. This can take time to develop and needs very active involvement, support, and direction from those at the top.
A learning culture is one where information and knowledge are shared rather than hoarded, and where individuals and teams are recognised for their efforts in broadening the knowledge of the entire team.
You will also need structures in place to support employee learning, including learning instigated by the employee.
It’s also important you review the methods you use to deliver training. There is no one size fits all solution, but you will probably need a library of e-learning modules that employees can access when they need to.
This empowers employees and facilitates a just-in-time approach to learning that can be very effective.
Crucially, that library of modules should include soft skills training, i.e. training that is not focused on a particular job or business function.
Quality of Content
You should also review the content of your training courses, e-learning modules, and development programmes. Is the content engaging and relevant to learners? Does the content reflect the day-to-day experience of learners?
Improving Overall Performance
By moving the focus of your organisation from training to learning, you will get better results and will improve overall performance. It will take time but the improvements and performance gains will be real and tangible.
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