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Training and development: Why forward-thinking companies need to add learning to the mix

We’re not trying to break up that famous training and development duo, but it’s about time we added learning to the mix permanently. There are plenty of forward-thinking companies who’re already shifting their focus to learning and development to use training differently!

That’s why we’ve put together this guide, to help you understand what training and development is, how it’s evolved alongside the need for greater focus on learning and what you can do to incorporate that holy trinity into your business’ day to day.

What is training and development? 

If we lump the two together, they’re essentially any initiatives and activities that we take to educate employees, improve their skills and better their knowledge – all within the space of helping them perform their role and specific related tasks more effectively.

The reason that you often see training and development lumped together is, they’re two complementary peas in your workplace pod. Training is typically something reactive, a course we introduce to combat a current issue or need within the company – often coming from the top-down. Development is much more proactive, it’s a collaborative consideration of the employee’s future needs and where they want to be.

Training vs. learning and development

Really, there’s a third pea that belongs in that ever more crammed pod, and that’s learning. Because while training is about the needs of the organisation, the individual is the focus of our learning efforts. Let’s be honest, most people only head off on training courses every few months when they’re told to do so, but learning is something the average employee is keen to do on a daily basis. 

The purpose and process really help us separate the two. Training is focused on giving people information through instruction, but there’s very little there to help people transfer that knowledge and apply it on the job. Learning is all about how we apply what we learn, what we search for in the moments we need to overcome a challenge and perform particular tasks.

The training and learning rivalry is one of those made-up ones, the type of storyline you get in the world of wrestling. Shifting our focus more towards learning allows us to use training when it’s necessary or most helpful. Rather than trying to remedy everything by sending people on a course, we set up an environment where they learn each day, and training enters the picture when it makes sense.

For modern HR and people teams, it’s that distinction that learning doesn’t only happen through training – that people can learn on their own terms, from their colleagues and when it matters. 

Ongoing training, learning and development

When we start to talk about ideas like ongoing training, we realise why it’s so important that we make learning part of our mindset. Training in the traditional sense can’t happen continuously because it takes you out of the workflow. Being sent off for a formal training course, either in-person or online, takes you away from the situations in which you need to apply what it’s teaching you.

That’s why you’re more likely to hear the term continuous learning, which generally means picking up new knowledge and skills as we work to become better at our jobs. This always works better when people are eager to learn, with the motivation and tools to do it independently.

Learning In The Flow Of Work Guide

If we dig a little deeper, what we’re really talking about is building a learning culture. An environment that encourages people to quench their thirst for knowledge and harness their curiosity to build skills on an ongoing basis. Knowledge is often just a search or message away, but how willing we are to type out what we need to know affects how frequently we’re learning. And that ultimately influences our development!

We keep our skillset relevant, we build learning as a skill, we learn how to share wisdom with others. The skills we need change over time, it’s not enough to wait once a year to learn them. And really, this all stems back to the idea of building a learning culture. 

Importance and benefits of training, learning and development at work

  • Keeping your skillset relevant and up to date.
  • Roughly 86% of employees say that job training is important to them (source).
  • Meaning it’s an important tool for employee satisfaction, engagement and retention.
  • It’ll also help you attract top talent, demonstrating commitment to employee growth.
  • It drives productivity and can help improve the company’s bottom line.
  • Empowers employees to provide better customer experiences.
  • It helps shape and reinforce the business values and culture.
  • Closes your skill gaps internally, reducing the need for and costs associated with hiring.
  • Can be a useful tool in developing future leaders within the company.
  • It’ll help you build a better rapport among your people, especially if you’re encouraging social learning.

The purpose of training and development in organisations

When we talk about the benefits of training and development, we don’t tend to look at the purpose from either an employee or employer perspective – and they’re very much different. For an employee, it’s a case of career and skill development. They want to build talents that not only make them better at what they do now but help them progress towards their long-term goals. 

If you’re an employer, it’s a way of showing employees you’re committed to their progress, but it’s also an important tool for driving productivity, increasing return on investment and improving the company’s bottom line. It also helps create a workforce that’s more responsive and adaptable to change, with the mindset to develop skills required to overcome the tasks at hand.

Creating online training for employees

Online training probably isn’t the best term, there’s a sense that we’re just taking what we’d do in-person and uploading it! So we can replace creating training with building a learning and development strategy – which ultimately needs to be accessible to your people whenever they need it – meaning on-demand can take online’s place. What we’re left with is building L&D initiatives that people can access on-demand.

Working out your learning and development needs

The easy formula is to work out where your company is now, where you want to be and understand what’s holding you back. It’s something that can be applied whether we’re talking about the product, the skills, the culture or anything else that might be solved by training or learning.

Of course, it’s not really as simple as that – there’s just too many moving parts. You need to understand attitudes if you’re looking to improve culture, knowledge might be the barrier to supercharging your product but typically it’s a case of the skills people have now and those needed to progress.

As you can see below, this last and most likely scenario can be approached in just five steps! In fact, we’ve got an entire guide to a learning needs analysis that should help you work out and close your skills gaps.A step-by-step learning needs analysis guide

Designing your training, learning and development programs

This is a great opportunity to help spread some more distance between training and learning, and we’ll use personalisation to do so! Training is helpful when everyone in the team needs to know something, like a product update or brand refresh – when the information you need to share is uniform. 

But when it comes to closing skill gaps, you need to create personalised learning pathways for every individual. You’re very rarely going to find multiple people coming from the same skill starting point AND aiming for the same destination, so they each need their own route. Here are some tips that should help you create those tailored learning plans:

  • Determine the skills gaps for each employee in relation to the company goals.
  • Discuss these with the individual and get a handle for how they learn best, what motivates them to learn etc.
  • Set out the framework for the learning pathway but ensure there’s an element of freedom in how that individual is finding knowledge.
  • Include the content types and formats that resonate with the individual.
  • Tap into subject matter experts in the company who can help the employee develop particular traits – connect them in the learning pathway and promote social learning.
  • Incorporate self-assessments into the course so that employees can get a handle on their progress.
  • Scheduled check-ins and meetings at intervals that make sense and have impact.
  • Analyse data around the employee progress and understand whether the required skills have been developed.
  • Collect feedback from the employee and incorporate that into future pathways.

Finding the right training, learning and development platform

This might be the biggest caveat to everything we’ve discussed so far, but without the right platform in place, you might find limits on what you’re able to achieve. 

If you opt for a traditional LMS, for example, you’ll find that you’re still disconnected from people’s workflow in the same way that external training courses are. If you don’t find a platform that helps you measure skills, it’ll be an uphill battle to close those talent gaps needed to progress. Essentially, you’re still stuck behind in the land of tick boxes and just knowing whether or not training has happened.

There’s a whole list of questions you should ask yourself when it comes to choosing your learning platform. Here’s a quick summary, but it’s worth checking out our full guide on what you should be asking!

If you're looking for an LMS, LXP or ILP, ask these questions

What are you looking for in a learning platform? 7 questions to ask.

In an ideal world, you’d find a solution that integrates with the tools you use every day, empowers people to both share knowledge and learn independently, provides you with detailed metrics to understand your learners and has a slick look to it!

We can be that platform! All we need is 30 minutes of your time to show you how. Complete this short demo form and we’ll be in touch to give you the guided tour of HowNow.

Tracking employee training progress

It’s fitting that analysing data is both the starting point for your needs analysis and the final point in our guide to building better learning and development pathways for your people! Metrics matter, it’s just a case of working out which ones help you understand how people are progressing.

The biggest pitfall you see in many companies is that they’re only interested in whether someone’s ticked a training box. What they don’t understand is whether that’s made somebody better at their job and to what extent – that’s what your metrics should be doing.

As well as building a skills profile for every employee, you need to measure development against their performance. For example, if you’ve built a custom learning pathway for a customer success rep that’s designed to improve their communication with clients, you can measure whether their response time or customer feedback scores have improved.