Training or Learning? What Is Your Priority?

It’s no longer enough for an organization to be focused on training, say most experts. Instead, the priority should be on making the organization a learning organization.

What’s the difference?

According to dictionary definitions, training teaches a specific skill or specific behavior related to a skill. Learning, on the other hand, is the act of acquiring knowledge or skill. Training is a timely, skills-based process, while learning is longer term and broader based — actually more holistic in the human development process.

On the corporate level, “you’re definitely seeing a shift in people going from staff development and training offices to learning and development offices,” says Maureen McCormick, director of learning and development at the University of Iowa.

Ray Carvey, executive vice president of corporate learning at Harvard Business Publishing, tends to agree. He told Forbes magazine: “It surprises me how many training programs exist in a vacuum. They might focus on training on specific skills like time-management, budgeting and coaching, for example, but they incorporate very little business context into the design of their programs, and they measure metrics such as ‘usage,’ rather than real business impact.”

Carvey and Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte agree that top-level training organizations move beyond training and abstract learning to understand how to align what they’re doing with key business objectives.

“At Level 3 [of Bersin’s High-Impact Learning Model], the organization realizes that learning is more complex than training,” Bersin comments. “Here the company brings together all its various learning programs (leadership development, technical training, compliance, and more) and tries to make sense of it all, applied against the company’s talent strategy.”

Is your organization a training organization or a learning organization?

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