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Learning vs training: The main differences between the two

The role of learning and training in the workplace and in general is at a crucial juncture. Companies are investing more and more, with the expectation that their staff will be more equipped and skilled as many changes are brought to the workplace. Digital transformation is one of the factors that is currently gradually changing the structure of the workplace. Learning and training are two aspects that are especially important to any kind educational process. These two words learning, and training are often used interchangeably because they are inextricably linked. However, it is important to understand that each one of them have unique characteristics that differentiate them. Training is the act of imparting knowledge or information through means of speech, written word, or other means of demonstration in a such a way that educates the trainee. Learning on the other hand is the process whereby the information is absorbed to expand skills and abilities and utilize it in various contexts. Learning and training both play a fundamental role in the workplace as most of the business success flows from both learning and training. It is also important to note how these two have changed over time as technology came along and new ways of learning and training were introduced. 

The characteristics of learning  

Learning is a continuous process that is part of everyday experience, it is not a once off and it does not happen at one fixed point in time. As previously mentioned, learning is characterized by the process of absorbing information and retaining it with the goal of increasing skills and abilities to achieve goals – but it is more than that. The focal point of learning is the learner and not the organization because it takes into consideration change rather than rigidity and the focus on a specific skill, procedure, or topic. This enables learners as individuals to handle a wider range of situations while allowing them to develop holistically. Learning can be formal and informal, but in an organizational context it is formal most of the time. Learning also involves what we go through when we want to be equipped for non-specific and unexpected situations and the two are not mutually exclusive. While you do learn to do something specific, you are also unintentionally equipped with the knowledge and/or skills to face future challenges. In essence, learning is all about equipping a person to tackle not just today’s issues but preparing him/her to creatively develop ways on how to tackle future issues. 

The characteristics of training  

The focal point of training is the development of new skills or enhancing existing skills that are to be used in performing duties. Training is the process each new employee undergoes upon joining a company to learn how to carry out the day-to-day operations, know how their department works and how to manage job-specific tools to carry out their daily tasks. There are three types of training that usually takes place in organizations namely: induction, on-the-job and off-the-job. Training is not used as a means of reshaping the behaviour of the individual but rather to teach the employee or learner how things are done so that they can then carry out a process on their own. Training is also a process that encompasses the development of a specific new skill or advancing existing skills. In this regard, and specifically in organizations training is about teaching individuals and groups of people about a specific process or procedure. This could include ensuring that employees have the required knowledge and skills to operate certain equipment be it a machine, a device, a software application, or anything else. Training therefore focuses on achieving a, clearly defined objective which is also job-specific and time specific.  

Trends that shape learning and training in our modern-day world 

  • New expectations for learning and training to be more advanced. There is a growing knowledge gap between the demands of the changes brought to the workplace and the capabilities of the existing workforce. This gap has been brought about by digital transformation and technological advances for some organizations. Learning and training is being relied on to close the gap. 
  • Acceleration of remote work and learning. As companies increasingly move towards total or partial remote work, online learning programs are becoming more essential. If you haven’t invested in an online training program yet, it’s time to catch up. Online training is cheaper and easier to organize than in-person training sessions. Employees can take courses when it’s convenient for them, learning anywhere, at any time 
  • Moving away from top-down corporate training. The traditional top-down management and learning model can no longer meet the needs of employees who crave engagement and collaboration above all else. A more democratic learning system is the key to creating an effective learning culture. 

In conclusion, there is quite a high demand for new and evolving skills, and this can only be achieved through continuously identifying and addressing learning and training needs. The new competitive advantage is a skilled workforce and companies are relying on learning and training to attract such employees. The opportunity to grow and develop within a position has become a huge selling point for candidates and a reliable retention driver. Employees want jobs where they can learn new skills to further their careers.  


For more information on effective training and learning for the advancement of your employees skills feel free to contact Cham-training.  010 040 8335