Training and development are often two words that get lumped together, particularly in the world of eLearning. Large corporations and small businesses alike often see these two concepts as something that go hand-in-hand, and while both may require (e)Learning, that’s essentially where the similarities end.

Training and Development - How Do They Compare?Where’s the Time Spent?

For most businesses and organizations, whether large or small, the focus tends to be on training. That’s where people spend the time and money – the initial training of new employees.

Unfortunately, that can also be a significant downfall for these organizations. Yes, initial training is important, but a similar focus on development doesn’t just prepare your company for the here and now, but also puts you on a path for future success.

As we’ve recently discussed, companies are beginning to realize they’re struggling to not only attract the best talent, but also retain that talent, and one of the best ways to do that is through comprehensive development programs.


In the simplest terms, we’ll lay it out this way – training is basically giving your employees knowledge and information, or teaching them a skillset that will be used immediately in their job. Typically, training, including eLearning-based training, is done through written content, along with demonstrations, which in eLearning often means videos or simulations.

When you’re in the midst of learning from training materials, you’re absorbing the material being presented to you, so you can then utilize it in your job.

With training, the ultimate goal is that the employee will take away from their training a new skillset and specific tools to be used on the job.

Training has very little to do with the personal characteristics of the learner, and is instead really about presenting uniform concepts and skills, without much consideration for the individual.


On the other hand of the spectrum is development. This is a place many corporations are lacking, and that’s one of the primary reasons they’re unable to retain top talent. Company leaders and CEOs are just beginning to get wise and realize without development, they’re not going to be equipped for a long-term trajectory or success.

Development isn’t about teaching a rigid set of skills – instead, development often focus on individual personality characteristics. It’s very much dependent on the uniqueness of the learner, and rather than laying out the skills, rules or regulations that need to be used on a day-to-day level, development strives to encourage critical thinking and give employees an arsenal of internalized tools and resources they can pull from to solve future challenges.

Often, professionals in the world of both training and development see training as a way to improve efficiency, while development is about effectiveness, and while training lays out problems, development often focuses on helping employees learn to develop solutions.

Development tends to be more challenging for employers because it’s not cut and dry or black and white like training often is.

When designing corporate development eLearning, consider the following tips:

  • Development is very much about the individual, and people that tend to excel with development are often the employees that enjoy having a sense of control over what they’re doing. Keep this in mind when creating development-based eLearning and give employees lots of opportunities for controlling how they’ll see information, and how they’ll navigate the material.
  • Design eLearning with critical thinking in mind. Development is all about building critical thinking skills and encouraging employees to look a problem and then, using their knowledge-base, come up with a solution or a range of solutions. You can encourage critical thinking through the use of case studies, open-ended assessments, and collaborative tasks including within eLearning modules.
  • Strive to elicit an emotional response. Cut-and-dry training may not necessarily rely on evoking emotions, but development often does, since you’re striving to tap into the individual’s uniqueness and personality traits. This doesn’t mean you need to try to shock your employees during eLearning, but instead, just include things like videos or real-life events that will stir a sense of emotion.

Both training and development are extremely important to the success of an organization, and while you certainly need to initially set up employees for success with the teaching of certain skills, you also need to focus on the future, which is exactly what development-centric eLearning is going to achieve.

Photo credit: Flickr/U.S. Army IMCOM