The Future of Training

Upon being asked for ideas on innovative learning strategies, I thought I would post them here as well. Of course, often what is innovative in one environment is old hat in another. And innovative doesn’t necessarily mean effective — effective should always be top priority. Still, it can be helpful to think about where things might go from here.

The future is what we decide to make it, so the right future strategies might not be simply an extension of the state-of-the-technology.  For example, Dr. Ruth Clark has been recently publishing on evidence-based training and it would be terrific if that mindset were to become a key driver, or at least a governor on decision-making around training design and delivery.

In terms of technology, it is safe to say that digital technologies and social media will continue to play an increasing role — though they are just new ways of delivering information and managing instructional processes, people are using (and talking about) them heavily.

Some other possible future growth areas:

  • At least for technical jobs, it seems likely that learning will continue to migrate more to the workplace. For example, on-line procedures, web and mobile reference content, and small “how-to” modules available on-demand.
  • For jobs where people are working “in the field” and not in close contact with co-workers, some social media, such as Twitter, may help tap other experts’ or peers’ know-how when needed. (There are tools that are similar to Twitter but are more secure, for example, you can limit the access to only employees.) This is less a learning strategy than a performance-support strategy but it will probably take the place of or supplement some formal learning.
  • Simulations in virtual environments. For some applications, it may be worth the expense to build the environment (using something like Second Life) but for many, it won’t be.
  • I’ve been seeing alot of articles lately on the importance of mentoring, though that really isn’t my area. It does seem to be growing (maybe as a reaction against all the recent technology emphasis). Again, social media could support this, especially if the mentor and worker are not co-located.
  • More companies are using “workflow” programs to move work and decisions through the company. Managers will need to be able to use these tools effectively (e.g., derive metrics, monitor work quality, etc.)…I suppose this is more a training content issue than strategy issue though.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if standard “CBT or WBT” programs level off or even decline in use. At least, several of my contacts whose companies have used it heavily in the past are not entirely happy with the results. (Of course, I think they over-used it.)
  • I would personally like to see more use of a bigger picture integrated development strategy, where career paths, capabilities, and learning plans are coordinated and driven to meet business and individual goals. This would focus more on the capabilities needed in the organization than specific learning events. It would require business leaders, HR, and training people to work cross-functionally and maybe on shared systems.

As a starting point for figuring out what makes sense for your situation, you might start with two areas of inquiry:

  1. For the audiences you serve, what is likely to change in the way they perform? Are they going to do more with computers? Change roles frequently? Work in teams? Require knowledge about a wider range of domains (e.g., regulations, quality, technical, interpersonal)? Are your recruiting strategies likely to change? Any significant change in their work has a potential for causing performance gaps and may need to be supported by training and other performance support.
  2. What learning strategies does your organization use currently? Where do these strategies fall short? Where are business leaders asking for things you can’t deliver? What do you not get asked to deliver but think you should? Gaps in your current methods may be practical starting points for improvement. Plus, when you are introducing innovation, you have to consider how much change the organization can absorb. And, technology always requires infrastructure so, again, you want to be strategic in deciding what to invest in.


One Response to “The Future of Training”

  1. Author writes:

    Just saw this related article.

Leave a Reply