Training and Learning Are Not the Same

In my last post, The State of Learning and Development, I wrote about how the business of learning and development must transform in order to effectively support today's rapidly changing business world. Today, I'll get back to basics about the difference between training and learning.

It seems like it was a long time ago that we went from training and development experts to learning and development experts. What is the difference between training and learning? Is there a difference? The answer likely depends on who you ask.

Some say the difference is the mode of delivery: formal "training" and informal "learning." Perhaps instructor-led vs. learner-led. Others say the difference is cause and effect: training results in learning, learning comes from training. And then there are those who say there is no difference; the two terms may be interchanged at will.

I assert that there is a difference. And the difference is intent.

Regardless of the delivery mode in which one acquires new information, what matters is why the learner is spending time to acquire the information. Did the learner face a challenge he did not know how to handle? Is the learner expected to produce a deliverable and doesn't know where to start? Was the learner told to acquire the new information? Is the new information necessary for the learner to perform her job? Is there a legal or licensure requirement? The reasons for learning are as varied as the learners seeking the information.

Even the 70/20/10 model does not get to the root of the learner’s intent. The model speaks to how learning is acquired, but not why it is acquired.

If I stop for a moment and think of myself not as an L&D professional, but simply an employee, I must admit that I am a terrible student. I don't do my training unless I have to. I rarely visit my LMS to find training. If I'm being honest with myself, I have to further admit that when I am actively seeking out training, I am often frustrated that I can't find what I'm looking for in my LMS. If I'm being really honest with myself, when I am launching my LMS, I already know that ultimately I'm just going to pop out to the interwebs to find what I need anyway.

Now as an L&D professional, I am appalled by that. I hear myself saying, "but we have so much content on that (fill in the blank) subject!" or "We worked hard to create that content!" or "We spent a lot of money to acquire that training material!" Clearly there is a gap here. There is a gap in how we as L&D professionals think about how our employees should be learning on the job and how employees want to learn on the job.

Intent, friends. Intent makes all the difference. As an employee, I want the information I need when I need it. So how are we, the learning professionals in our organizations, helping our employees get the information they need when they need it? Does this mean we start building a course on how to use Internet search engines? No. Does it mean we start tracking our employees' browsing history to seek out every time they search for something of business relevance? No. So what do we do?

We can by start building a strategic solution to drive business success through learning. Download our ebook, 10 Days to LMS Success, to learn more.

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