What is the difference between training and development?

While the terms are often used interchangeably, there’s an important distinction between training and development.

Training is designed to equip the beneficiary to perform a specific role or to operate equipment. This means that the goal of any training exercise is pre-determined and clearly defined as competency to perform one or a number of tasks.

Development is concerned with improving the way in which participants show up as human beings. The focus is typically on their ability to connect authentically with others and contribute meaningfully to the contexts in which they spend their time.

Training programmes are focused on a particular field of knowledge and competence, and typically disregard participants’ abilities or experience in other fields.

Development programmes, on the other hand, have no pre-determined development outcomes for participants. Instead, participants must identify their own development goals in order to derive benefit from a programme.

In order for a training programme to be valuable, it must be delivered by a subject matter expert, whether in person or virtually via an e-learning platform. For example, effective first aid training is typically provided by paramedics, empowering participants to provide medical assistance as a first responder, and assessment focuses on the ability to perform specific tasks such as triage and CPR. Both the coursework and assessment are unaffected by the trainee’s qualification, experience or even profession. As a result, it is quite reasonable to deliver first aid training for a combination of matric pupils, sports professionals, corporate executives and mineworkers, as long as all are fluent in the language medium of the programme.

For a development programme to be effective, it must be delivered by a skilled facilitator who is able to spark the participant’s desire to grow through an enriching experience that both challenges their perspective and encourages openness.

In contrast to training programmes, development programmes rely heavily on participants’ willingness to make themselves vulnerable and contribute authentically by sharing their experience and perspectives. Effective assessment of personal development focuses on a participant’s ability to demonstrate the required level of awareness, maturity and insight in a particular field. For example, an effective leader as coach programme facilitates a shift in a participant’s way of being rather than in their ability to perform specific functions or even apply a particular technique or coaching model in dealing with team members.

Training, then, is concerned with what needs to be done, while development focuses on how one shows up. Both are critically important in any organisation because the achievement of organisational goals requires a purposeful blend of strategy and culture to ensure that everyone understands what to focus on and appreciates how they need to work together to get there.

Malcolm Ferguson is Academy Head at TowerStone.

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