Some leaders say they want to provide training for their employees. Others may focus on the education their employees have. Very often, they may not recognize the difference between the two. Once they do, though, they realize their employees can often benefit from both.

Training tends to focus on skills. It is about how to do something correctly, mastering a particular way of doing things. It can involve a lot of memorization and repetition. Training tends to be pretty narrowly focused, with specific, measurable goals. Certification programs are one good example: students are working to understand how to do a specific function, such as programming in a particular language, and do so in a way that can be measured so they can pass a standardized test.

Education, on the other hand, is really more about thinking. Students learn about different approaches (consider the differences between psychology and physics), different styles of thinking, solving ill-defined problems, and more. Good learning should create a desire for more learning, so it becomes a never-ending process, as people are able to adapt to the changing world around them and understand how they fit into it. A bachelor of arts programs, for instance, is more about learning how to learn than it is about preparation for a specific job. Someone coming to you with a B.A. may not have all the job skills you desire, but they have shown the ability to learn.

In short, training helps you understand how to do a task, while education helps you understand why and when to do it. Education helps you be a better planner, for example, while training helps you put that plan to work.

In today’s economy, both types of learning are important. Think about graphic designers in an advertising firm. They need training in specific technical skills, such as drawing, using software, photography, and others. But they also need education to broaden their worldview and help them find inspiration, and to view things from the diverse perspectives of different target audiences, and also to help them understand their customer’s needs. Just one or the other will not work - they really need both.

When it comes to getting the right training and education for your employees, you may have to rely on them to tell you what they need. Even if you used to do the same job they do now, it might be very different today than when you were doing it. Have them do some investigation to determine what will make them better able to support your organization’s goals (which means, by the way, that your organization has to have clear goals, and it also needs the employees to know and understand them). In an ideal world you will have someone whose sole job is to be a training and education manager for your company, and they can work with leaders and employees to figure out the best programs and find a way to make it happen, within the resources of the firm.

Lastly, but more importantly: if you feel you can’t spare any of your people for any professional training or education, then you probably have too few people to begin with. For your organization to be successful your employees should be continuously learning, through both formal and informal means. You need to have enough people to cover your workload while still taking time to improve your workforce.

You should encourage learning within your workforce, and if you have employees who have no interest in continuing to improve their skills or broaden their minds, then maybe you should be looking for some new employees. Training and education are not options that you can just do whenever you have some spare time; they are instead the keys to future success for your company.

STORM Learning offers a Training Management System (TMS) and an integrated marketplace with over 2000 training courses to facilitate the L&D needs of companies. If you’re ready to take your company’s learning culture up a notch, book a meeting with us by e-mailing us at hello@stormlearning.com and know how you can empower your workforce by personalizing learning through technology.