Human Resources

What's the Difference Between HR and L&D?

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HR and L&D are two halves of the whole that make up the people profession, though they’re often lumped together and used interchangeably in the working world. 

This is because L&D typically falls under the HR umbrella, however, while it’s similar to HR, the two are still different from one another in fundamental ways.

To give you a better idea of what sets them apart and how they bring organisations together, we go into detail about the differences between HR and L&D and why one is as essential as the other.


 

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Human Resources Explained

The HR department serves as a link between an organisation’s management and its employees, helping to plan, coordinate, and implement the administrative and strategic functions of an organisation.

This includes overseeing talent management and recruitment, organisational development and design, and employee engagement and wellness (to name just a few).

HR professionals also focus on utilising modern business solutions, such as people and data analytics, to help manage employee needs and expectations and ensure that the organisation is running successfully.


How does HR impact the organisation?

The HR function plays an integral part in the business. Through the use of strategic planning with senior executives, HR is able to identify current and future business needs and pinpoint solutions, aligning each department along the way.

Without HR and an effective HR strategy, every level of the company would be impacted. Organisations and their employees could, for example, experience inadequate workplace training, increased levels of employee conflict, and a severe lack of recognition - all of which would, in turn, detrimentally affect employee morale, retention, and the bottom line.

This would result in the loss of top talent and significant profit to the competition - both of which are outcomes organisations aim to avoid.

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Learning & Development Explained

The role of L&D is designed to keep individual skills and performance aligned with an organisation's goals and requirements, creating a culture of continuous learning and growth for employees at every stage in their career.

To this end, L&D professionals are responsible for designing and implementing key learning strategies, training and development programmes, and workshops that explore in-demand industry knowledge and skills, enabling staff to evolve within the contemporary workplace landscape.


How does L&D impact the organisation?

L&D professionals excel at identifying the current and future skill requirements of an organisation, making sure companies have the right people in the right jobs, and developing the appropriate skillsets.

Their responsibility is to advance talent through flexible learning initiatives (i.e. in-person and online training), to close any glaring skills gaps, and build on employees’ existing capabilities. In doing so, they help deliver business objectives and strategy in line with employee career goals.

As a result, when L&D strategy is implemented effectively, employees are left feeling motivated, engaged, and productive - ensuring a sustainable and successful organisation. 

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The Similarities Between HR and L&D

While the responsibilities of HR and L&D, at their core, are very different, there are some instances where they cross over, which is likely where the confusion that they are one and the same tends to stem from.

These areas include: 

Onboarding
While HR will typically run over contracts and administrative tasks with new hires, L&D will assess and monitor their current capabilities.

Training and Development
HR will run over policy, procedure, and health and safety training with new hires while L&D is more heavily involved with the practical, hands-on skills training required of employees in new and existing roles.

Coaching and Mentoring
While HR will implement various performance reviews and keep tabs on how well an employee is doing over time, it’s L&D’s job to improve their performance and provide the necessary resources for them to be successful in their role.



The Difference Between HR and L&D

Both HR and L&D play a critical part in the onboarding and training of staff, but - in the simplest terms - it’s HR that is responsible for recruiting, managing, and retaining talent in an organisation. 

L&D, in contrast, is responsible for developing knowledge and performance, arming people with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively and reach their full potential. 

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Should I Choose a Career in HR or L&D?

If you’re looking to get into the people profession but you’re not sure whether you’d prefer the path to HR or L&D, consider where your passion lies.

For example, if you enjoy motivating and developing individuals and teams and helping them achieve their career goals, then L&D might be the right way to go. Plus, you’ll constantly be meeting new people and building on various skillsets, so you’d never work the same day twice.

On the other hand, if you’d prefer more opportunity for variety, HR offers a wide range of job roles - both administrative and strategic - with the option to move about in different roles until you find the area that best suits you. You’ll also encounter lots of new faces here, however, there will be more emphasis on business outputs with this route.

Regardless of which path you choose, the great thing about HR and L&D is that if you want to leave one discipline for the other, the transition is actually quite seamless - especially with our new online CIPD qualifications.

So assess your own skills, capabilities, and career goals and see where you end up!



While they’re similar functions acting as two sides of the same coin, without learning and development, HR would be missing a fundamental element to enabling a business and its employees run efficiently and vice versa.

When you put them together, however, they enhance the function of people professionals - proving just how valuable these departments can be.


Discover how you can accelerate your HR or L&D career today with an online CIPD qualification with us. Get your free online CIPD course guide today to get started.

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