WorkRamp Communities is now available.


What is the Difference Between Employee Training and Employee Development?

Are you investing in L&D but missing out on the benefits you expected?

By now we know that employee development offers significant benefits for employee engagement, satisfaction, and employee retention. But here’s the catch training and employee development are often confused, leading to missed opportunities and underwhelming results. 

Did you know that simply training employees isn’t enough to reap the full advantages of employee development? In fact, studies reveal that true employee development can lead to a remarkable 15 percent surge in engagement levels and a staggering 34 percent boost in retention rates.

So, what’s the secret sauce? It’s all about strategically setting up your training program and aligning your initiatives with your employees’ growth aspirations. 

Don’t settle for mediocre training when you can create effective employee development to maximize the true potential of your workforce. 

What is the difference between employee training and employee development

What’s the difference between employee training and employee development? Several elements are dissimilar and help you draw a distinction between the two practices.


One of the most significant differences between training and employee development is the timeframe. 

With employee training, you’re looking at the short-term. You’ll ask questions like, “What does this employee need to know right now? What skills will make a big difference in their job performance immediately? What training resources do we have to deploy to improve those skills right away?” 

On the other hand, employee development focuses on the long-term view. You’ll answer questions such as, “What long-term goals does this employee have? What skill gaps does our organization expect to have in the next 2 to 5 years? How can we create training that addresses these needs?”

Employee development helps employees grow and change over time, while employee training improves their performance today. 

From an L&D perspective, employee training uses the resources and training material you have ready today, and development programs allow you to create training to meet future needs.

Read more: 5 Examples of Employee Development Plans to Up-Level Your Team

Doing vs. becoming

Another way to look at the difference between employee training and employee development is to think about helping employees do better work while employee development helps them become better workers. 

This doesn’t put training below development, but it shows the importance of having both in your organization. 

Employees need to know how to do better work—in fact, the SHRM 2022 Workplace Learning & Development report found that 55 percent of employees say they need additional training to perform more effectively in their current roles. Employee training programs are essential to help your organization meet its current needs in today’s market.

However, those training programs aren’t enough. The same report showed that 76 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training—in other words, they want to do more than their current role. They want to develop and grow.

Immediate skills vs. a holistic view

Another difference between training and employee development is whether you’re working on immediate skills or taking a holistic view of how team members can grow in your organization. Again, one is not better than the other, but they are different.

Employee training ensures that your staff gets the immediate skills they need to do their job. For example, onboarding teaches new employees how to use the software that impacts their role, how to execute their job processes, and expectations for performance and improvement. 

On the other hand, employee development looks at both skills and individual growth. You might consider soft skills that help your team members succeed long-term rather than just the skills they need today. This might include leadership skills, professional development, communication, connecting employees with the organization’s overall mission, and helping them understand the available career paths open to them.

Limited vs. ongoing

A final difference between employee training and employee development is that employee training happens for a limited period of time. 

The goal is to familiarize employees with specific skills and tasks before the training ends. For example, your new hire training might be six weeks long.

However, employee development is ongoing. While individual training courses that help your workers grow might have a specific length, employee development is never “done.” There will always be new goals to work toward, new needs in your organization, and new skill gaps that become apparent.

Read more: What is Continuous Learning and How to Implement it

The similarities between employee training and employee development

Of course, the fact that employee training and employee development are often used interchangeably means that the two have much in common. 

Here are some of the similarities.

Both are administered by the L&D team

At the risk of stating the obvious, one of the key similarities between employee training and employee development is that they are both primarily the responsibility of the L&D team. 

Why is this important? L&D team members are responsible for helping company leaders understand and prioritize learning and development. Your team members are essential when it comes to helping make decisions about when to train and when to develop, what tools to use, and how much time and resources each type of activity needs. 

Both require measuring results

Both training and development need to be effective and make a positive impact on your organization. The only way to know if that’s happening is to measure the results.

What results do you need to measure? These are a few of the most important metrics:

  • How many people complete the program and their results
  • The average percentage of completion for those that don’t finish
  • The impact of the training on employee and team performance
  • The reviews learners give about the course
  • How users feel the course(s) helped improve their work or reach their goals
  • How employees who take advantage of employee development advance in the organization

Measuring employee training results helps ensure you’re improving people’s skills in the right ways and ensures L&D is growing team members into better future contributors. 

Both benefit your employees and organization

Employee development is often touted as a great place to focus because it creates a win-win— better-skilled and more engaged employees help the organization reach its goals and reduce employee turnover.

Employee training is also highly beneficial. You’re developing employee strengths in their current roles so they are more effective and efficient. Experience and mastery of a role help people feel more content at work, meaning they have a better experience and are less likely to leave the organization. 

Everyone benefits when the L&D team works with leadership to find the right balance between employee training and employee development.

When do you need employee training?

When should you prioritize employee training after the new hire stage? 

The first thing to consider is whether you have skill gaps in your organization. McKinsey found that 43 percent of HR leaders said there were currently skill gaps in their companies. If you’re part of this group, it’s important to upskill your teams to meet your current needs. That requires employee training. 

 Employee training is also vital when processes or technology change and employees must adapt. Not only do you want to provide initial education about the changes and how to manage them, but you’ll want to follow up with reinforcement. People forget what they learn very quickly, but follow-up training at specific intervals can help them retain new information.

Finally, if employees are struggling with their performance, you can give them additional training to help them meet the standards of their roles. Everyone has different capabilities, and some of your team members may need additional instruction before they reach full competency in certain aspects of their job. 

Because employee training is aimed at specific learning objectives, you’ll have clear start and end dates for training initiatives. However, you’ll have training needs regularly, so having room on the calendar and in the budget for training every quarter is important.

When do you need employee development?

This is a bit of a trick question—you always need employee development. 

 Development is how you maximize your investment in each employee and help them meet their professional goals. In the SHRM survey, over 80 percent of HR managers said development is beneficial to attracting and retaining top talent, and 87 percent of these leaders described employee engagement as a key development goal.

 Another critical benefit of employee development is creating a deeper bench for leadership roles. In 2020, only 11 percent of HR leaders said they had a strong bench to fill leadership roles, down 7 percent from 2011. 

 Finally, employee development is essential to preparing your organization for future challenges. Not only do you need talented leaders, but many of the jobs available today hadn’t even been considered when today’s workers were in college. 

 Who knows how significantly the workplace will change as we go forward? Employee development is how your company can develop team members’ vision, talents, and skills so you’re better prepared for change.  

Read more: How to Future-Proof Your Organization to Thrive in an Ever-Changing World

How to Use the Learning Cloud for employee training and development

Because both employee training and employee development are the responsibility of the L&D team, it’s important to have an all-in-one platform that allows you to execute both types of programs. 

 The Learning Cloud from WorkRamp allows your organization to create and deliver employee and customer training programs on a single platform. 

For example, Knowledge Services wanted to reengage employees with meaningful learning on a user-friendly platform. Just one month after launching Knowledge Services University, they had an average of five course enrollments per employee, leveraging both in-house-created and pre-built courses. 

Andrea Burow, Learning & Development Partner at Knowledge Services, said, “We evaluated 15 learning management systems, and WorkRamp has one of the cleanest interfaces, which makes creating content so easy. They’re also willing to partner with us to make sure we achieve the best results. If something isn’t working, they always meet us halfway to figure it out.”

If you’re ready to maximize the benefits of employee training and employee development in your organization, we’re here to help. Contact us for a free, personalized demo. 


Complete the form for a custom demo.

Anna Spooner

WorkRamp Contributor

Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action. 

Decrease Ramp Time and Increase Revenue

Get in touch to learn how WorkRamp can help you achieve your learning and development goals.

Request a Demo