What is Learning and Development?

One of the most successful concepts in human resource management is learning and development. It is also called training and development, and it deals with the way companies keep managers and staff at their highest level of functioning. Once thought of as a component of applied psychology, the concept has become an integral part of the human resource departments of most businesses. Corporations invest in training and development in orientation for new employees as well as for building leadership potential within the organization.

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Learning and development is a way of accruing value in employees that involves evaluating staff for potential and then developing it, “on-boarding” new staff and honing the skills of current employees. This is accomplished using appropriate curriculum and techniques such as coaching, individual and team trainings, and staff assessments. The term “learning” often applies to immediate teaching, and “development” has a longer-term connotation.


Although this may be done through the HR department of a company, outside consultants are often employed for this component of training and development. Employees within the organization that demonstrate the talent for leadership potential are identified and then consultants help the individuals develop those talents. The coaching can be done through phone conversations, face-to-face meetings, and even teleconferencing.


This process involves working with new employees to help them adjust to workplace culture and to identify weak areas in current employees. Consultants use surveys, interviews, performance evaluations, and their own observations to find areas that need addressing and then create programs to deal with the weaknesses. This teaching can take place in in-house trainings, eLearning, or by sending employees to traditional college classes.

Instructional Design and Organizational Learning

This concept is similar to training, but it deals with weaknesses within the organizational framework. HR staff in instructional design identify gaps in corporate performance and create curriculum or programs to address those areas. These professionals also look at the culture of an organization to evaluate the way the company adapts and learns so that programs will be effective. People working in instructional design may not work with “students” at all but with educators and curriculum developers.

Innovation in Training and Development

An article in Forbes spoke to the need to make training and development more relevant to employees through innovation. Successful consultants created “lunch and learn” opportunities when staff members who had attended workshops or seminars could present programs to other employees over a lunch hour. The relaxed environment seemed to improve the learning outcomes. HR departments also implemented “ shadowing” programs that allowed employees to learn the responsibilities of another employee within the company. Another program mentioned in the article was bringing a mental health professional to a staff meeting to discuss workplace mental health issues. One manager created “book clubs” within the organization that met to discuss current trends and developments in business that they found out about through articles and public media. All of these innovations not only addressed weak areas of performance but gave staff a greater sense of their worth to the company.

Business is drawing from many different disciplines to build greater organizational potential and resilience. For instance, the concept of Servant Leadership comes from a religious principle. It is through the Industrial and Organizational arm of Applied Psychology that human resource departments found the successful tools they needed to address the need for staff learning and development.

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