Training vs. Learning: What's the difference?


hat do you think of when you hear the word ‘training’?

Do you feel excited, or wary? Are you already thinking about how you’ll need to move some meetings around and work late to make up for the time lost to yet-another-workshop? 

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You’re not alone. As research in learning and development has leapt forward in the past decade, ‘training’ is getting left behind - and for a good reason!

Stepping into its place is ‘learning’. But how is learning different to training? Let’s explore.

The difference between training and learning.

Training vs. Learning

Training is about teaching, the transfer of information from one person to another. The star is the trainer, the guru of knowledge imparting their wisdom. The focus is on content, and the process occurs in blocks or chunks. The summary of a piece of training is often “this is how things are, or should be done”.

On the other hand, learning is a constant process of equipping and developing individuals. The star is the learner, the individual drinking in new knowledge, skills and ways of thinking in a continuous pattern of growth. The focus is on learning experiences and outcomes. It can take place as structured learning, but it can also involve informal moments such as everyday observations, mentoring and trial-and-error.

Are you starting to pick up why we might prefer learning over training?

A Training Approach

You’re probably intimately familiar with training and all it entails. How many times have you been forced into a windowless room for a workshop on the new idea-of-the-day by a superior with a consulting company that knows nothing about how you actually work? There might be half-hearted enthusiasm to implement change for a little while but eventually, everything goes back to how it was before.

Prioritising training can ultimately hamstring your organisation. While training can be useful for meeting short-term needs, training sessions and workshops interrupt the flow of work, taking time out of your team’s day and causing frustration. Meanwhile, success ends up being measured by the flashiness of the presentation, or the charisma of the trainer.

Advantages and disadvantages of training and learning.

A Learning Approach

Learning can be harder to spot, but can be recognised by it’s long-lasting impact. Maybe it was the throwaway comment a colleague or mentor made that stayed in your head for years afterwards. Or maybe it was the time you watched a big project fall to pieces and afterwards you stopped to think about why it went wrong and made sure the same mistakes wouldn’t be made again.

Prioritising learning may require long-term commitment, but the investment often pays far better dividends. By focusing on the whole person and their development, learning can be integrated into the flow of work and team satisfaction goes up as each person sees the benefit for their career. With the right tools such as HowToo, every team member can get involved in a culture of learning and knowledge exchange. Success is measured by engagement and actual changes in behaviour. This might be trickier to measure, but the result is genuine improvement for your organisation.

Our Approach

For HowToo, using the word ‘learning’ instead of ‘training’ is really just the tip of the iceberg that indicates what we think is most important: the experience of the learner and how they grow and change as a result. It’s an approach we learned from our sister company, Savv-e.  With over twenty years in the eLearning industry, the team at Savv-e observed that if you want to kick your L&D goals, you need to put the learner first.

Jenny Barltrop, Co-Founder of both Savv-e and HowToo, sums it up: "For us it’s always been about keeping the learner at the centre of the experience. At the end of the day, we want the learner coming away from the learning experience having not only enjoyed it, but with really useful new skills that bring about significant change in their day to day work life."

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Mar 25, 2021
Learning Culture

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