‘Training’ is making a comeback.
I don’t mean that classroom training is undergoing a revival. It never went away (classroom delivery accounts for about 60-70% of the effort of most L&D departments). I’m talking about the name we give ourselves.
At some point in the mid-2000s we shifted collectively from describing what we do as ‘training’ to calling it ‘learning and development’. That made perfect sense at the time. ‘Training’ was inadequate to describe our role, which had grown to encompass the new world of learning systems, electronic learning content and much more. And anyway, ‘learning and development’ sounded more modern, cooler, than stuffy old ‘training’.
But I have heard ‘training’ increasingly used recently by L&D professionals to describe their activities, and I think it’s for two good reasons. Not only does ‘training’ actually mean something to most people (unlike ‘L&D’), the alternative of ‘learning and development’ still doesn’t really adequately describe what we do. At best it describes the results of what we do. After all, it’s other people who do the learning and the developing. Sales people don’t call themselves ‘product purchasers’. Hairdressers don’t call themselves ‘nice haircut wearers’.
And this is no semantic quibble. The lack of clarity may have generated some wider confusion. Too often we refer to ‘providing’, ‘generating’ or ‘distributing’ something called ‘learning’, when what we are really talking about is pushing around bits of ‘content’, not ‘learning’. People do the learning, it’s not a commodity or object.
So we need a term that is both easily understood and describes what we actually do – which increasingly is about supporting performance and creating opportunities to learn. It’s tempting to throw in everything we do and create a very long term like the splendid ‘rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz’ (the ‘law delegating beef label monitoring’, which sadly this month passed out of use in German).
Recognising this is not an option, some L&D professionals have turned back to ‘training’. It isn’t perfect, but it does describe a lot of what we do and it is easily understood. If it brings with it some misconceptions, then perhaps we should deal with those directly rather than first having to describe what we mean by ‘Learning and Development’ and then uncoupling that term from its own associated misconceptions.
Of course I started my working life as a classroom trainer, so I may be biased. What do you think? Does ‘training’ describe your profession? What short, easily-understood alternative would you suggest? Let me know at and I’ll post the best answers on the LSG website.