training concept

Training vs. Professional Development: What’s the Difference, and Does It Matter?


When you’re ready for the next step on your career ladder, you often face two options: undergoing training or seeking professional development. At a glance, the two may seem the same. They can even be used interchangeably sometimes. But in fact, they have a few key differences.

Training and professional development are both important in retaining talent in an organization. Without them, employees are more likely to leave a company. Sure enough, more than two in five employees in Singapore quit their jobs as they feel like there isn’t enough opportunity for training and development. If there were some opportunities, it didn’t match what the employees wanted. Only 17% of employees in Singapore found their company’s training and development programs satisfactory.

But why do training and professional development matter? What happens if a company doesn’t offer them? If a company or employee chooses only one of the two, let’s see what difference it will make.

Training vs. Professional Development

Training is a learning process wherein employees can develop or improve specific skills. It will also enhance their competency and knowledge as per their job requirement. Training is a job-oriented, short-term program that focuses on the present. It means working on the skills the employee already possesses.

On the other hand, professional development is an educational process that is concerned with the overall growth of an employee. Unlike training, it has long-term goals, and as such, it’s focused on the future. Instead of being job-oriented, professional development is career-oriented. It aims to prepare employees for future challenges, as opposed to the present challenges.

Multiple employees can undergo the same training program. But in professional development, the program is customized per employee or per occupation. For example, a sales team in a B2B business should possess the same set of skills because their job has the same requirements. Hence, they will benefit from a training program focused on sales.

For another example, a finance employee with the potential to become a Chief Finance Officer one day will benefit from professional development. In the program, they can gain the skills needed for that career direction, such as leadership skills and certain technical skills. They can also earn certifications that will enhance their qualification for a higher position. A reputable earn and learn program is one way for them to achieve just that. It has both perks of training and development. They can work and study at the same time, allowing them to move up faster on their career ladder.

Typical Topics in Employee Training

employee training

While no two training programs are the same, they often cover common key topics, such as:

  • Communications
  • Computer skills
  • Quality initiatives
  • Customer service
  • Ethics
  • Diversity
  • Safety
  • Human relations
  • Sexual harassment

As you’ve noticed, some training topics aren’t technical, like ethics. Every employee, regardless of their position title, can benefit from ethics training. It’s a requirement for every job; plus, ethics enhances existing skills and focuses on the present. The same can be said about the rest. Though they are broad in nature, they effectively boost employees’ skills and improve their present experience in the company.

As such, training has largely different outcomes than professional development. If the latter aims to make an employee fit for promotion in the future, training makes employees fit for the company’s culture. They learn to adopt the company’s values and understand its policies. Simply put, training benefits an organization as a whole, whereas professional development shapes each employee into the leader they can become.

Combining Training and Development

It’s common for companies to offer a training and development program. A Singaporean tech solutions company called CrimsonLogic has a remarkable example of such. During the pandemic, they invested their resources into e-learning as well as virtual coaching and mentoring sessions. They offered the program to audiences outside their organization while encouraging their own employees to re-train or upgrade themselves.

The program is a success, with the company doubling the number of people they’ve trained. As a result, CrimsonLogic was commended for their commitment to their employees’ skill development. They placed 48th on Singapore’s Best Employers 2021 list. They also placed 7th in the IT, Internet, Software & Services category.

According to CrimsonLogic Chief People Office Sylvia Koh, their learning culture doesn’t separate work and learning. Their employees must also be motivated and eager to learn. She wants training and development to be a life-long journey. Other companies can learn from Ms. Koh and realize that competent employees deserve opportunities that will benefit them for the long term.

Whether a company only chooses to offer a training program, professional development, or both, they should remember to give what their employees are seeking. They must know how exactly the program will benefit the company. It isn’t cheap to develop people, so companies must invest in their programs with care.

Villa Hope Content Team

Villa Hope Content Team

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