The rapid technological developments of the last two decades, in particular the development of digital technology and the internet, have been the impetus for massive changes in the workplace, and have also prompted changes in the way training is delivered. Exactly how significant are these changes? The methods by which training and knowledge are disseminated may be changing, but the basic nature of the messages,what's being taught, are still more or less unchanged.
What's different about training?
Training is still essentially about teaching the same basic concepts: learning to use new software or machinery, teaching new employees about company culture, customer interactions and satisfaction, and sensitivity, discrimination, or harassment awareness. These are just a few topics that are perennial training subjects at many organisations. However, while most organisations are training employees in fairly similar types of subjects, they're now using a much wider range of tools and media to provide that training.
Classroom-based training was once the main technique used by most organisations to educate their employees on workplace procedures and requirements, and on their jobs. Large companies might carry out training in-house, while smaller ones in particular were typically forced to send employees to training sessions at other locations. Classroom training isn't entirely gone, and it still has plenty of value, but these days there are many more options, allowing organisations of all sizes to access training that's both relevant and affordable. E-learning, webinars, podcasts, and YouTube have all become hugely important for disseminating information to employees, without the requirement for expensive and time-consuming travel, and with much less disruption to an employee's work schedule.
One of the primary criticisms leveled at online training methods is their lack of personal contact, but often this is less of an issue than it might seem at first glance. Online methods still offer plenty of opportunities for collaboration; on shared blogs, interactive webinars, on social media sites, and most particularly with web conferencing. Technology allows people to conduct meetings in real time, providing almost all of the interactive value that a classroom setting might.
What's in the future for workplace training?
Technology has already had a significant impact on the way training is delivered, and it's unlikely that technology will suddenly stop shaping the way organisations carry out this aspect of their operations. So what might we expect to see change in the future?
Greater focus on local and online training
Most organisations are already realising that it doesn't make a huge amount of business sense to send employees to other parts of the country to attend training courses. While this has traditionally been more important for smaller organisations that weren't able to provide in-house training, the wide availability of e-Learning courses and the increasing sophistication of e-Learning means that even the smallest organisations will be able to take advantage of their benefits.
Greater emphasis on informal real-time training
Formal, highly-structured training sessions have been the norm for a long time, but they too are likely to decrease in popularity in favour of informal on-the-job training that takes place as and when it's needed. Learning may become a more fluid process that can be achieved with less disruption to an employee's workday.
Greater integration with social media and digital technology
Allowing employees to collaborate more easily, and creating a more equitable two-way relationship with staff and management.
One of the criticisms often leveled at online training is the likelihood of low completion rates. This has been back up by statistical evidence but, when you examine ongoing statistics, it's interesting to note that completion rates are improving. Early online training was being used by people who were not used to receiving training this way and did not have access to the right devices to best take advantage of it.
Now that has changed and the evidence suggests that the incoming Generation Z have an increasing preference for online training. This is partly due to their acceptance of Youtube, which is now a major force in training delivery, but in a large part down to the arrival of smartphones and tablets, which make online training delivery a much more intuitive and comfortable experience. Companies who provide this form of education are also becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of how their material is delivered.
Online training and apprenticeship style on the job training are likely to continue to grow, the former because of increasing sophistication and the latter because of trends and government prioritisation.