How can we help people get up to speed faster?
How can we help people keep up with the changes in the workplace/our industry?
How can we get people to work together better?
How do we deliver training when people aren’t in the same place, ever?
How do we get people on the same page when there is no time for training?
These are questions you are likely asking as you start to read this article. They are good questions, worthy of thought and begging for innovation.
As a consultant and learning professional I ask these questions about the marketplace – I watch the trends to see what we can develop and use to help our clients. As a business owner and learner myself, I ask these questions to support/maximize the learning results for our team and myself. While the perspectives you are reading this from might be different than mine, I hope that you will look at this through two lenses as well – both organizationally and personally. Thinking about this only through the corporate lens of “what can we deploy in our organization?” will reduce the value of the insights we are going to talk about.
New Training Strategies
Before I go too far though, I have a confession. I was asked to write about “new training strategies for today’s workforce,” I agreed to do so and hence the title of this article. The confession is that it is the wrong title. If we focus only on training we will, as history has found, chase after bright and shiny “new” ideas (typically new technologies) and often be left disappointed. When, however we focus on ways to apply the principles of learning and support real learning (and in our case, that means skill and behavior change in the workplace).
When you keep that distinction: learning vs. training in mind, you will be able to make far better decisions about the validity and value of the latest trends and supposed “breakthroughs” in training approaches.
Why New and Why Now?
Given our initial caveat, there are drivers that lead us to be searching for new approaches, both for us as individuals and when thinking about training a workforce. Some of those drivers include:
- What we have isn’t working. Some of the old approaches aren’t giving us the results we had hoped for. In some cases, they’ve always been lacking, so we keep searching for something better. And in other cases they are working, but not as well as we would like, or hoped for.
- Technology seems promising. While this may seem like a new phenomenon (and perhaps it is truer now than ever), but let’s put this in historical perspective. Ten years ago, Wiki’s were going to solve our learning problems, I could point you to articles in my files from the 1980’s touting CBT (computer based training) and I’m sure we could find articles further back touting the promise of films, and other things we now take for granted, or don’t think about in terms of learning at all. Given that perspective, there are technologies today that look promising, and we will talk about some of them in the next section.
- The technology is changing. Promising or not, there are so many new technologies that seem to be converging, leading us all to think that there must be some ways we can harness them to get better training results.
- The workplace is changing. This is another phrase that is perhaps overused, yet not since the start of the industrial revolution have we had people from four generations working together. Add to that the complexity (and promise) of people working remotely, part-time, post-retirement, and collaborating globally and we clearly have a new workplace, if there is even really a “place” at all.
The Technology and the Trends
This leaves us with a mashup of the trends and technologies to go with them. Some of the following aren’t new, but even in those cases the technologies and combinations continue to change rapidly, which is why I have put them on this list.
Mobile. Apple started selling the first version of the iPhone 10 years ago, and so while mobile isn’t new, the power of the phones we use, the and the versatility they bring to our lives continues to change. In fact, making calls isn’t even the number one use of the device. The fact that all of your team is carrying these powerful computers in their pockets and purses provides us with opportunities to manage learning, if we do it well.
Appification. I don’t even know if this is a word, but I know I don’t need to explain it to you. Apps aren’t just things we load on our phones; what we used to call software, is now often called an app. They are easier to create and for very granular purposes than ever before. There are apps to help track learning, progress on goals, managing time and a hundred other uses related to both individual and organizational learning and development.
On Demand. In part because of the two technologies above, the ability to provide learning, in the moment and on demand has never been easier. People can have access to world experts, instantly. It is a good thing this is true, because in the fast changing, dynamic workplace, the need for these learning opportunities have never been higher.
Virtual. Training used to mean “going to” and face-to-face session. While we believe face-to-face facilitated learning sessions will never vanish; as online platforms get better, as learning facilitators get more skilled, and as people get more used to using these platforms, more learning that used to require travel and time away from the workplace will take place. Our challenge is to make sure this virtually delivered learning is effective, and is intelligently used for the right skills.
Gamification. People love to play games, and the competition innate in games often drives our focus and attention; as these ideas are merged with the goals of learning we get this idea called gamification. Technology is allowing for these game-like ideas and attributes to be applied across larger numbers of people in engaging ways.
More video. Video is exploding in its application and ease of creation. An organization can recreate most of the capabilities of a television studio (including the ability to stream live) for a few thousand dollars, and create something stunningly close for far less. And of course, everyone’s phone can instantly record a lesson, a problem, a solution to a vexing problem – which could big opportunity to share best practices and leverage experience across an organization.
Microlearning. One of the newest words on this list; the idea is to provide people very small bits of information as needed. Technology can support this, and it seems seductive in principle, yet if the selection and delivery isn’t well constructed, you have same bits of information out of the context of the big picture and you get microinformation, but maybe not microlearning.
Crowdsourced. Several of the items so far point to this important point – that learning materials and “content” doesn’t have to come from the experts in HR, Training or the IT Departments (as three examples), rather content and learning can come from anyone in the organization, if the right tools, context, platforms, culture and expectations can be created.
Curation. This eight-letter word is a big deal. Given all the other technologies and trends, the need to collect, codify, make available, and easy to find and assess becomes critical. If this isn’t a skill and need on your organizational radar, it needs to be now.
What You Can Do with This
Where does this leave you? As an individual, hopefully this helps you see what has been happening around you and perhaps gives you a clearer picture of how you can be more intentional as a learner in the world we live in today. As a team leader, I hope this challenges you to think about how you can engage your team members in conversations about how to learn in new ways and with new tools. And if you are thinking organizationally, I hope this helps you open a conversation in your organization about how to create more intentional and strategic learning without falling into too many traps.
Note: This is part of a larger article I have been asked to write for a published journal. If you would like a copy of the full article when it is available, give us your name and address below, and we will provide it when it is ready.
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