Learning and development in the workplace

The two terms are often used interchangeably, however, there are subtle differences between these concepts. [iStockphoto]

Learning and development is a systematic process that enhances an employee’s skills, knowledge, and competency.

The main aim is to change the behaviour of individuals or groups so as to share knowledge and insights or cultivate attitudes for the purposes of enhancing performance at the workplace.

The two terms are often used interchangeably, however, there are subtle differences between these concepts.


This is the acquisition of knowledge, skills, or attitudes through experience, study, or teaching. Training, development, and education, all encompass learning.


Training is the impartation of immediately applicable knowledge, skills, and attitudes and focuses on the delivery of performance in a current role or in preparation for new or future changes.


Development is long term. It revolves around the broadening or deepening of knowledge, especially within one’s personal development goals and the (future) aspirations of the organization.


Education is a more formal way to broaden one’s knowledge. It is often non-specific and applicable for a long time and is especially relevant when a person has little experience in a certain area.

Objectives of learning and development program

Business performance

Pertaining to business performance, learning and development objectives would include:

  • Increase in the volume of work completed within a set time
  • Rise in customer satisfaction as a result of better employee performance
  • Gaining from emerging opportunities, due to new skills available in the organization
  • Business sustainability through a period of dynamic changes (regulatory shifts, economic upheavals, digital transformation, etc.)

Employee satisfaction

Learning and development objectives pertaining to employee satisfaction include:

  • Increase in employee retention rates
  • Improvement in employee net promoter score (eNPS)
  • Reduction involuntary turnover in the long term
  • Lowering of employee stress

Employer branding

Learning and development objectives pertaining to employer branding include:

  • Shorter time to fill for new job roles
  • Increase in the quality of hire
  • Reduction in recruitment marketing costs
  • An uptick in the number of unsolicited/inbound applicants

 Individual self-actualization

 Development and learning objectives pertaining to individual self-actualization include:

  • The ability to reach personal improvement targets
  • Enhanced work-life balance enabled by robust skill sets
  • Increased employability, driving greater job security
  • Realization of hidden potentials such as leadership skills or a knack for working with data