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What do we mean by learning, training and development?

What is training?
A page enhancing image showing a cyclical process consisting of training, teaching, knowledge, skills, coaching, development and learning.
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It is important to clearly define our area of focus for this program by defining our key terms.

It will be no surprise to you that we are specifically focusing on training and development within the workplace rather than learning in general.

From induction training at the start of a new job, to bespoke training for specific skills, training has a very established place in organisations. There are many definitions of training and development and it is a very popular area of business and organisational psychology.

Wexley and Latham (eg 1991, 2002) have written several books in this area and are a good source for background reading and definitions:

Training and Development refers to a planned effort by an organization to facilitate learning of job-related behaviour on the part of its employees. The term behaviour is used in the broad sense to include any knowledge or skill acquired by the employee through practice.
(Wexley and Latham 2002)
The basic aim of training and development programmes is to help the organisation to achieve its mission and goals by improving individual and, ultimately, organisational performance (Noe 2008). But are the terms ‘training’ and ‘development’ distinct or the same?
It is important to note that training focuses on improving the skill level of an employee as related to their current job, while development has a more long-term focus intended to help an employee prepare for future jobs.
Here are a couple of formal definitions of training (as opposed to development):
The official and ongoing educational activities within an organisation designed to enhance the fulfilment and performance of employees.
Training can be described as a planned experience which brings about a change in behaviour.
(Hadfield-Law 2002)
In summary, we can make a clear distinction between training and development:
Training: an organisation’s planned effort to facilitate employees’ learning of job-related competencies.
Development: longer-term personal growth: formal education, job experiences, mentoring, assessments of personality and abilities that help employees prepare for the future.
The rest of this short course will focus mainly on training rather than development.

Your task

Think of a recent example of workplace training that you have completed. What was the purpose of training, for both you as an individual and your employer? Share your views with your peers using the comments section below before moving on to the next step.


Business Dictionary (2019) Training and Development [online]. available from [25 July 2019]

Hadfield-Law, L. (2002) Train Your Team Yourself: How to Design and Deliver Effective In-House Training Courses. London: How To Books

Noe, R. A. (2008) Employee Training and Development. 4th edn. New York: McGraw-Hill

Wexley, K. N., and Latham, G. P. (1991) Developing and Training Human Resources in Organizations. New York: Harper Collins Publishers

Wexley, K. N., and Latham, G. P. (2002) Developing and Training Human Resources in Organizations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 167-209

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Training and Development at Work: An Introduction

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