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Employee Training and Development: A Concise Guide to Success

Employee training and employee development may be similar, but they’re not the same. Find out what the differences are and how having great programs in place can help your employees and company be successful.


Employee training and development are essential to advance an organization’s goals and employees’ careers. Both programs can improve employee productivity, efficiency and performance. However, there are some key differences between the two.

What Is Employee Training?

Employee training is a set of defined and planned activities that transfer knowledge to new employees and teach them about company values, expectations and goals. This training is vital as it provides workers with specific skills and education related to their role. This period of learning and instruction can last up to three months, depending on the position.

As employees gain more experience, training efforts will shift. For example:

  • Competency is the number one priority when training new hires. Depending on the role, some companies will expect workers to have a basic understanding of tasks or will send them pre-training materials and documents before their first day of work.
  • Maintaining employee performance and productivity is the next phase of training. Ensuring that employees receive the support they need while learning to master tasks and grow into the role is key to success.

Depending on the nature of the role, leadership and managerial skills training may be part of the initial onboarding process. In other cases, training might come with future career advancement.

What Is Employee Development?

Skills development doesn’t stop once a person has been onboarded, nor does it happen only in educational institutions. The workplace is full of on-the-job learning opportunities that empower employees to evolve their current skill sets.

Employee development is about long-term growth. It’s the practice of learning new skills while improving existing ones. Training could be focused on discrete technical skills (such as learning how to operate a new piece of equipment or use new software) or on more broadly applicable durable skills (such as improving public speaking or conflict-resolution skills). It depends on the goals of the organization, team and individual.

With the help of your company, managers, and learning and development teams, employees can take advantage of tools and resources available to grow their knowledge. Whether through an online course delivered via a corporate learning management system or through in-person training from other departments and mentors, a strong employee development program can help organizations and employees reach their goals.

What Are the Benefits of Employee Training and Development Programs?

Employees are at the foundation of any successful organization. Although employee training and development can shift the use of company time, it has many benefits in the long run. Let’s take a closer look at three of them.

Increase Employee Satisfaction

Implementing training and development programs can show that you value your employees and are willing to invest in their future. It gives people the chance to enhance their skills and can open up more career opportunities.

Improve Employee Retention

Offering training and development opportunities is important for keeping employees satisfied in their jobs, and for keeping them at your company. In a 2021 survey, McKinsey & Company found that the top reason people left an organization was inadequate career development.

Does providing upskilling come with a cost? Yes—but so does hiring. Research from the Society for Human Resources Management shows that when you add everything up, it costs around $4,700 to hire a new employee to replace someone who has left the organization. On top of that, it can take the new hire up to a year to get fully up to speed in the role.

Promote Creativity and Innovation

Having effective training and development programs in place can be a catalyst for innovative, creative thinking. It can signal to employees that growth is a priority, and they’ll be able to bring back what they’ve learned and apply it on the job.

How Can You Create Effective Employee Training and Development Programs?

Employee training and development programs need to be well thought out and organized. How do you do that? Here are some steps to consider when implementing a training or learning development program.

Assess the Knowledge Gaps

Before you get into developing content for such programs, one of the most important first steps is to look at how things currently stand. Consider questions such as:

  • What are the areas of strength with your current training and development programs? Where are there gaps?
  • What do employees want to learn? How do they want to learn? What barriers could they face in accessing opportunities?
  • What broader goals does the organization have? How could training and development initiatives support them?

You may be able to pull insights from some of the HR and learning tools your organization already uses. Additionally, you could lean into surveys, interviews and general feedback from your key stakeholders.

Download our eBook to learn more about what goes into building a learning strategy and get templates and questions you can put into practice with your teams.

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Consult Professionals and Experts

As part of the planning process, you’re also going to want to identify the expertise already available to you in-house and where you may need to supplement with outside support.

There will likely be a range of third-party service providers you can leverage, but one of the best places to start is often with the technology vendors you already use. In some cases, they’ll have dedicated teams that can support you with everything from strategic planning to content development to day-to-day administration. If that’s not something your vendors currently offer, they should at least be able to recommend a provider whose work they trust.

Start by Designing a Targeted Training Program

When creating or updating your own employee training and development programs, it’s often best to take a targeted approach—particularly for the initial launch. By getting off the ground with a pilot, you’ll be able to pressure-test your programs, resolving any issues and tying off any loose ends before you scale them to their full potential.

Measure the Results

It almost goes without saying that to determine if your programs have been successful, you need to measure the results. Are managers seeing improved behaviors and outcomes? Are employees feeling more competent and confident?

But assessing the impact of employee training and development programs can be easier said than done. It may be hard to draw a line between training and the metrics you want to focus on. It could also be challenging to attach firm figures to more qualitative benchmarks.

At the end of the day, no two ROI formulas are exactly alike. We’ve put together this guide to go through categories to consider when breaking down ROI, factors to incorporate into your calculations, and sample formulas and metrics.

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What’s the Difference Between Employee Training and Employee Development?

Fundamentally, employee training and development have similar goals—to improve employee performance and skill sets. However, there are a few differences between the two.

Employee training comes into play as someone is starting their role. Employee development, by comparison, occurs over the course of a person’s career and builds upon current competencies and knowledge. Here are a few examples to help you distinguish between the two.

Examples of Employee Training

  • company history and mission
  • role-specific onboarding
  • internal company processes
  • introductions to tools and resources

Examples of Employee Development

Key Takeaways

Organizations that make use of both employee training and development will reap the benefits. Employee training is more acute and focuses on short-term goals and learning, while employee development is expansive and drives long-term growth and knowledge. Having robust training and development programs in place will help set up employees—and companies—to be successful.

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Table of Contents

  1. Employee Training
  2. Employee Development
  3. Benefits
  4. How to Create Effective Employee Training and Development Programs
  5. The Difference Between Employee Training and Employee Development