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The difference between training and learning

Training and learning are two words that are often used interchangeably. There are similarities, but there are also some significant differences between the two, including how they are used within companies. Let’s start with the differences.

1. Training = a bum in a seat and is short-term and Learning = a journey and is long-term

Companies are constantly providing training to their employees and this is typically done for an immediate need like compliance. For example, if you work in the financial sector you will regularly be asked to complete a course on money laundering. This course will include instructional materials, as well as, some sort of activity to test your knowledge. Employees are required to review the course materials and must also pass a test for the company to be compliant.

Learning on the other hand is a bigger endeavour. It’s long-term and is often focused on achieving larger goals related to personal or professional development. What’s more is, learning includes training that will contribute to a specific goal which is not necessarily technical. An example here is career progression. Those looking to advance into a leadership position may enrol to learn more about managing people. This type of learning would be ongoing and can potentially encompass several management methodologies.

2. Training is usually mandated and promoted by a company. Learning is often more personal and led by the individual.

Training activities are regularly pushed onto employees by the company. This is common especially during change such as technology or business process implementations. In these cases, employees may require training to teach them a new skillset, or to learn how to use a new software program that is being implemented.

Whereas learning is commonly pushed by the individual who may have a personal interest or a direct benefit and is willing to invest the time to learn. Learning doesn’t necessarily have to be related to their role, but can also include completing courses or receiving degrees beyond your current responsibilities. Personally, I have an interest in artificial intelligence and I’m fascinated about the technology and the impact it will have to our world. I feed this interest by taking courses like the one recently at MIT Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Business Strategy, and by attending conferences and reading articles and books on this topic.

3. Training is often created to meet an immediate need and learning is not.

The compliance example above is a great example of how training is created to meet an immediate need. The immediate need here is of course compliance, and most financial organizations must have their employees complete money laundering training on a regular basis. The companies must show that they are compliant to meet regulations and to operate.

Learning is created or encouraged to support business goals related to culture. In the change management space, we are seeing more companies invest in developing their people to be change resilient and effective change leaders to lead their people through a business transformation. They are doing this through training and upskilling their people, but also by changing mindsets.

4. Training is typically focused on a specific role or activity that will provide an individual with tools and resources for them to do their jobs. Learning will provide an individual with the knowledge and ability perform in their role.

A big part of what we do at Harbinger, is training for enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system and other technology implementations. In this instance there will be individuals within finance who may be trained on one specific finance activity like accounts receivables or a large group of employees who are trained on time or expense entry.

As a consultant, I’m constantly learning about multiple ERP systems including enhancements and differences between the systems. It’s critical for me to have this knowledge so that I can provide sound advice and counsel to my clients, and also to my team at Harbinger. As expressed, training will continue to be valuable for businesses, but companies need to also think about incorporating more learning for long-term success and growth. Why? For one the pace of change is happening faster than ever and there are very few roles that are focused on one specific task. Roles are becoming much more fluid and flexible, and the way we approach development needs to change to match this.

In my opinion, people are the key to business growth. By embedding a winning mindset or creating an innovative culture, companies have a greater chance to succeed. You can’t beat having multiple people who are motivated to think about the bigger picture but are also skilled to execute on how a company will get there.

To reach this goal, it will be important for businesses to tap into learning that is meaningful to their people and up-to-date on trends. Again, at Harbinger both Greg and I are strong advocates of learning and we encourage our people to come to us with their own suggestions on learning and training. Most recently one of our employees completed a project management training program which was initiated by him. Training and learning are a passion of mine and I hope you not only enjoyed this blog, but have a greater understanding of what these are.



Krista Schaber-Chan Managing Partner Toronto



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