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The Crucial Difference Between Training and Teaching

Kristen Buchanan

When we focus on Learning and Development for employees, it can be easy to view the process as "training" rather than "teaching", because you're grooming your employee for a defined role within the company.

But the reality is that we don't really train employees, because we need employees to develop their knowledge and skills over time.

When we train - for example training a dog - we're looking for one simple behavior. I train my dog Harper to respond to a certain cue (“sit”) with the desired action (Harper sits...ideally), and to remember that action so that she can repeat it in the future the exact same way.

But employees aren't just doing simple behaviors. They're working on complex projects, adapting to ever-changing situations, and learning from their experiences.

Does anyone really want their employees to keep doing the same thing over and over again, never wavering or growing?


Instead, those companies recognize that for learning and development programs to be successful, they need to understand how to support their employees' learning. That starts by shifting the focus away from “training”, and towards equipping employees with new knowledge that they can absorb, use to adjust their behaviors, and incorporate into a new course of action in the future.

Does your company train employees, or foster their learning?

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