What is Learning Development? (With Benefits and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Learning and development refer to activities or training programmes an organisation conducts to encourage professional development among team members. It's a systematic process to enhance your skills or competency, resulting in better work performance. If you're trying to improve your skills at work, it's important to understand how continuous learning and development impacts you. In this article, we answer the question, 'What is learning development?' and discuss how it can improve your career.

What is learning development?

As you advance in your career, you may wonder, 'What is learning development?' Learning and development programmes refer to both informal and formal education that can help you improve your skills set to adapt to a changing environment. This may include things like continuous education at a university or college, on-the-job training and professional development courses. Many of the skills you acquire through learning and development programmes are transferrable, such as collaboration, communication and leadership.

You can take these skills with you to your next role and throughout the rest of your career. Acquiring new skills can also help you advance to a higher position.

Formal versus informal learning and development

There are two forms of learning and development, which are formal and informal. Informal learning is perhaps the most common form, as it doesn't require any kind of structure or curriculum. It's ideal for a more experienced professional who wants to learn by doing, enhance their skills or learn from their coworkers by working alongside them. Companies rarely evaluate and institutionalise informal training, as it usually happens so naturally that you might not even know it. For instance, you could have a conversation with your co-workers over lunch about your favourite way to use a particular software.

Formal learning refers to any structured training. It takes place within a planned setting, such as a classroom or online. It often has explicitly declared learning goals to meet by the end of the training. Formal learning uses a range of learning strategies to transfer knowledge and applies an assessment at the end to determine how much you have learned and whether you met the training's goals.

Related: What Is a Personal Development Plan? With Template

The benefits of learning and development to your career

Ongoing learning and development programmes can contribute to advancing your career in multiple ways. These include the following:

It can improve your work performance

Ongoing learning and development can improve your performance at your job. It can also provide you with a better understanding of the duties and responsibilities of your job and mastery over the tasks you must perform, which can help boost your confidence. More confidence and competence can make you a better performer.

Related: How to Improve Work Performance: 16 Tips to Help You

It can prepare you for higher responsibilities

Learning and development programmes can help you prepare to move into a higher role and take on more responsibilities. These programmes can help you learn the necessary skills to function effectively in your new position. For instance, your employer may train you in leadership skills or in particular software you may use in your new role.

It can improve your morale

Taking part in an ongoing learning and development programme can provide you with greater job satisfaction. By learning the technical skills necessary for your job, you can feel better about your work performance. Taking part in learning and development programmes can also make you feel challenged. In general, learning and development can boost your morale and make you feel better in the workplace.

It can improve your skills

You may have multiple workplace skills that require improvement, regardless of how good you are at your job. Learning and development programmes can help you handle those weaknesses and improve your skills. This can also improve the overall productivity of your teammates if both of you are relying on each other to finish basic work tasks. Improving your weaknesses can make it easier for you to work alone, without constant corrections and supervision.

Related: Why Writing Skills Are Important and How to Improve Them

It can make you feel valued

Taking part in training programmes in the workplace can help make you feel valued. By continuing to take part in training, you can become a better member of a team. It can also help you feel like a more productive member of the company. This can improve your morale and your workplace capabilities.

It can improve your engagement at work

Participating in ongoing learning and development programmes can reduce your boredom at work, which can create a feeling of satisfaction and positive working habits. A regular learning and development initiative can prevent workplace idleness, which can help your employer establish regular reassessment of your skills and their processes. It can also influence company culture by instilling an emphasis on planning, as it requires your employer to review team members and assess growth and development opportunities internally, instead of via recruitment.

Tips for supporting learning and development at work

Here are a few tips for supporting learning and development at work:

Participate in apprenticeships or internships

Back in the day, apprenticeship was the most common way for craftspeople to learn a craft. By working with an experienced individual, you can learn the professional norms and skills of your craft. Nowadays, working as an intern or apprentice usually means that you're working without receiving a salary, but in exchange for that, you can gain professional skills from experienced professionals in your field. Because internships and apprenticeships allow you to learn by doing, these training programmes can be a great way to acquire new skills.

Related: Apprenticeship vs. Internship: What Are the Differences?

Take part in career counselling

Consider working with a counsellor at your university or hiring an outside career counsellor to help you create a career plan. A career counsellor can help you determine the areas where you need improvement. They can also connect you to professionals or resources that can help you learn those skills.

Related: What Is Career Counselling? (With Benefits and Steps)

Become a member of a professional organisation

Becoming a member of a professional organisation or guild can be a great way to expand not only your professional network but also your professional development opportunities. Many professional organisations offer discounts or exclusive access to professional development opportunities for their members. Social events sponsored by professional organisations can also provide you with opportunities to meet professional contacts and like-minded friends in your field.

Consider e-learning

E-learning relies on online courses, tests and videos to deliver training. You can do your training right in the palm of your hand with a laptop or smartphone. This is perhaps one of the easiest types of learning and development training to deliver to team members, especially if you work remotely. With interactive activities, videos, tests and games, e-learning can go a long way towards keeping you engaged with the training.

Participate in a simulation training

Simulation training, also called simulation-based training, involves the use of computer software or basic equipment to model a real-world scenario. Companies often deliver this type of training through an augmented or virtual reality device. Simulation training is usually necessary for professionals working in high-stakes or riskier fields. Doctors and pilots often undergo this type of training, but it can be useful for other professionals as well.

Take part in group activities and discussions

Participating in group activities and discussions can be a great training option. It allows you to learn in an environment that better suits your current group or department. These activities and discussions can be instructor-led or facilitated by an online prompt that's later evaluated by a manager or supervisor. This type of training is ideal for problems that require a collaborative approach.

Attend role-playing activities

Similar to a group discussion, a role-playing activity specifically asks you to work through one aspect of your job in a controlled scenario. It requires you to evaluate different perspectives and make decisions quickly as you work through the role-playing activity. As with other group activities, role-playing can be very effective but may not be necessary for straightforward topics.

Consider management-specific activities

A management-specific activity focuses on the needs of managers. If your employer promotes you to a managerial or senior-level position, management-specific training can prepare you for additional higher responsibilities. This training may include role-playing, team-building activities, brainstorming activities, simulations or focused e-learning on management's best practices. Although management training can include several types of training, your employer or manager may consider additional needs separately from the rest of the team members. This can ensure you have the foundation you need to support the rest of the team members.

Conduct case studies

A case study can provide a quick way for you to learn about real workplace problems. You can read through these at your own pace, or while working in a team-building activity with your colleagues. A case study is a great option for focused subject matters, but more complex topics may require more advanced types of training.

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