The Future of Training

Jack Prot

Criticality of Training in Today’s Organizations

Like every successful organization, your strategy needs to include recruiting and retaining the best quality employee possible. In an expanding economy with a tightening job market, higher performing companies recognize the challenge of retaining staff. With multiple generations present in today’s workplaces, providing customized and targeted training is key.

A convergence of multiple environmental, socioeconomic, and technological influences present you with the challenge of retaining staff. You need to ramp up your training and development efforts. Training plays a critical role in your employee’s ability to actively contribute to operational, strategic and financial goals for the company.

Through training, an employee learns the company’s vision and strategies. He also learns how he can add skills, knowledge and abilities to his resume in order to assume different and growing roles within your organization. The employee understands that he’s an integral part of the whole. He sees just how critical his participation is in achieving business objectives and goals.

An employee needs consistent and repetitive messages over time about your company’s core values and expectations for individual and team-based performance. Then, synergies of compounded performance develop to enhance your organization’s overall productivity and achievement. The employee buys into the vision. He begins to actively participate in his own self-development. His loyalty to the company increases. In this model of a high performing organization, your challenge becomes building a training organization within the human resource function that will stimulate, inform and help to retain your employees.

How Training Is Changing

The evolution of technology and daily use of computers in the workplace has already impacted how employees receive training. Many e-learning providers are responding to workplace needs or legal mandates to provide specific training to employees. In 2006, in the state of California, AB 1825 went into effect, mandating that sexual harassment prevention training must be conducted for supervisors at least once every two years. Many law firms and e-training providers have jumped on the bandwagon to develop “interactive” e-learning programs that can satisfy a portion of the mandated new training requirement. Employees can use self-paced, technology-based training to learn course content, ask “on-line editors” questions, and take a test at the end of the section to show what they learned. Programs like this can also track participants and generate hard copy reports to demonstrate a company’s compliance with the mandated training.

The Department of Homeland Security is uses new simulation and modeling software to conduct homeland security training in a cost-effective manner. Trainees use reality based simulations to learn critical information. New recruits learn their success and failures before they experience them firsthand in live combat. Wired magazine’s article, “The War Room” describes how f/x artists, research scientists, Pentagon experts, and videogame developers came together to create the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), a research and development group at the University of Southern California. ICT’s virtual training uses an old forum to teach soldiers how to best navigate difficult combat situations involving tiers of decisions for reacting: storytelling.

The New Training Paradigm

Professors from Indiana and Warwick universities (Kim et al.) titled, “Surveying the Future of the Workplace: E-Learning: The Rise of Blending, Interactivity, and Authentic Learning.” Companies answered 49 questions related to e-learning. Their responses were overwhelmingly optimistic, indicating they support and embrace e-learning or blended learning. Blended learning is a marriage of traditional, face-to-face lectures and and online training. Today’s conventional wisdom on workplace training says that blended learning presents alternative venues for companies to train employees. It reinforces key messages and reaches people with different learning styles through a variety of learning opportunities.

Companies were asked what technology-based applications and instructional methods would be used in the future. They indicated ” …authentic cases and scenario learning, simulations or gaming, virtual team collaboration and problem solving, and problem-based learning would be more widely used in the coming decade.” (Kim et al.) Distributed learning environments can be represented by virtual communities, blogging, instant messaging, and computer-supported group collaboration and problem solving (Bonk & Graham). Predictions of “environments that simultaneously facilitate both distributed environments and face-to-face interactions are on the horizon requiring that e-training facilitators assume broader and varied roles.”

E-learning facilitators “wear four pairs of shoes,” according to e-learning experts Ed Hootstein and Zane Berge. They assume the roles of instructor, social director, program manager and technical assistant. E-learning facilitators can create examples for situational and authentic learning in addition to traditional instruction through a variety of e-technology applications. These include e-mail, groupware, audio and video conferencing. “The vast array of electronic tolls available for analysis, design, planning, problem solving, and giving presentations enable learners to perform sophisticated and complex tasks and solve problems in creative ways.” (Hootstein)

The ultimate goal in developing technology based training according to Berge is “to make the technology transparent.” Because of advancements over time in the availability and economy of technology in today’s workplace, the e-learning facilitator can focus on the content and delivery of the materials to teach key learnings.

Authentic, or experiential learning has also come into vogue. We draw upon our knowledge and life experiences to learn and understand, and personal behavior can be changed as a result. This learning is based upon “consciousness, experience, and reflection.” (Grimmett) It’s about making a connection, bringing home the example at hand to resonate with the participant in a meaningful way to change a person’s perception and belief system.

Next Steps and Summary

Major corporations such as Sun Microsystems, Cisco, Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft already use blended, authentic learning in their training systems (Bonk & Graham). This emergence of blended learning provides the next generation of training application and delivery systems. It teaches employees key lessons in a variety of ways. It provides a greater opportunity for learning through technology, face-to face situations and authentic learning experiences.

E-learning will need to be evaluated to determine ” …online learners’ achievement and satisfaction, followed by clearer reward systems and incentives for e-learning completion, and training that helps learners self-regulate their learning.” (Kim et al.). These thoughts reflect the next steps for companies to develop to encourage employee’s participation in blended learning programs. Even so, blended learning using authentic situations now represents an opportunity for companies to build their own training and development function and take advantage of the myriad of resources that are available through this new and evolving training paradigm.

© 2007- Regan HR, Inc.

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