What Is Training and Development?

By Elaine Biech

Training is about change. It is about transformation. It is all about learning. Training is a process designed to assist an individual to learn new skills, knowledge, or attitudes. As a result, individuals make a change or transformation that improves or enhances their performance. These improvements ensure that people and organizations are able to do things better, faster, easier, and with higher quality.

Since the day you were born you have been learning and changing into the knowledgeable, skilled adult you currently are. Everyone has received training and has also developed others. If you ever demonstrated the phone system to a new employee, advised your boss regarding changes in your department, or explained a shortcut for completing a task to a colleague, you were conducting training.

Learning is acquired in many forms. You may have experienced some of these. You may have a one-on-one session with your supervisor to learn the benefits of a new product your company produces. You may attend a class to upgrade your negotiating skills. You may take an asynchronous online course to learn how to use a new computer program.

You may take a golf lesson to learn how to improve your use of long irons. You may be coached by someone in your company to learn to be more politically savvy. You may register for a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to learn leadership skills. The key word in each of these examples is “learn.” The reason training is provided is so that someone (or many people) learns something in order to make a change.

Is there really a difference between the words training and development? It seems all professionals in the business have their own definitions. Both concepts are paths to learning and performance. In general people view training as those learning options that include someone who facilitates the learning in a formal setting: classroom, workshop, seminar, virtual instructor-led, or synchronous online.

Development, on the other hand, is viewed as more self-directed and informal: coaching, mentoring, reading, self-study, social learning, on-the-job learning, and asynchronous online learning. And there is no denying that learning also occurs during water cooler discussions, in cubical conversations, and at conferences. Trainers are involved in all of these training and development alternatives.

Read that last sentence again and remember it. It doesn’t matter what your official title is or how you deliver learning and performance. Trainers may be involved in all activities where people are learning knowledge and developing skills. Yes, you may design or deliver training in a traditional or virtual classroom. But you may also coach supervisors about the best way to develop their employees or advise leaders of corporate changes required to support desired performance — or even recommend budgets for social media to augment training.

Trainers are necessary in every industry, from aardvark ranches to zipper manufacturers. Trainers have jobs in private industry, education, not-for-profit organizations, and government.

Trainers work with people in all positions and at all levels in an organization: executives, managers, supervisors, secretaries, production workers, scientists, artists, doctors, lawyers, security guards, salespeople, teachers, firefighters, authors, custodial workers, waitstaff, and you.