Training and development- two words that are used so frequently together that they begin to sound synonymous. While training can be a part of a development program and vice versa, conceptually they are different in many ways. As both are needed and are equally important, these two methods of educating and setting employees up for success in the workplace should hold their own separate space.

Ask yourself how you currently train your employees vs employee development. If there are no distinguishing characteristics between the two, now is the time to make some changes to each so that there is clear differentiation between each program.

The following is a crash course in differentiating between training and development and what it should look like if implemented correctly.

Training vs Development: Purpose

While development and training have the shared purpose of educating employees, they differ upon closer inspection. Training ensures that employees have the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the job that they were hired to do. For example, when an employee is hired, they are often led through a training program where they learn company rules, safety procedures and possibly even a new computer system. Development differs in that it focuses on the growth of an employee throughout their career or time with a company. It’s purpose is not just to create successful employees, but rather employees with successful careers.

Training vs Development: Time Frame

Although long term results can be achieved through a successful training program, training alone is typically a short term goal. Once employees are able to demonstrate the knowledge and skills gained through the training provided, they graduate- marking a definitive end to their training. Conversely, development is a process in which individual employees receive the education needed for long term growth. It is ongoing and delves deeper than meeting an immediate need. Development looks toward the future of the employee by providing ongoing support.  

Training vs Development: Method

Unlike development, which should be conducted using an individual approach, training can typically be achieved through a standard training program that has been carefully selected by management and HR in a small group setting. The method that managers choose in developing individual employees is up to the discretion of both the manager and the employee. Through building their professional relationship, they should build a rapport and decide what yields the best results on an individual basis. Typically this includes (but is not limited to): candid advice, introducing growth opportunities, and checking in with feedback periodically.

Training vs Development: Results

Once an employee has gone through training, they should be comfortable and competent with any company rules, procedures and unique skills needed to perform the job that they may not have had prior to the training. If conducted properly, training should result in higher productivity and improved employee performance. As development is ongoing, the results may not be immediate; however, through an employee’s development program, positive relationships with coworkers, the ability to work as a member of a team, utilizing the feedback that they are given, taking on new responsibilities and facing challenges with confidence should all become apparent.

As you can see, training and development are not synonymous and should occupy their own space in your efforts to educate employees.