Are We Seeing The End of Corporate Training?
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reading the viewpoints of from both writers and those who comment on their posts about their frustrations with training providers. Having been in the learning and development space for over 10 years and armed with certifications in facilitation skills and behavioural assessments, these comments were a good opportunity for me to observe and reflect on and reassess my personal and professional objectives. I do have some observations and thoughts that I wish candidly share.
1. There is a strong resistance to change among many training providers. Why is this so? Generous training subsidies are given to organizations to send their staff for vocational training based on a predetermined set of competencies. From housekeeping to knowing how to operate machinery right through to the adoption the right leadership behaviors, many training providers see this as an opportunity to charge companies at a decent price knowing that more than half of the training budget is borne by government subsidies. These organizations still exist today. There is also a long queue of displaced professionals wanting to be certified as corporate trainers. The harsh reality is, many of these training programs are providing skills training that are irrelevant to the VUCA economy. Iconic companies in the past have disappeared because they are no longer providing a service to a instant-gratification customer-centric environment. Lehmann Brothers, Yaohan Departmental Store, Rover Cars, etc. are all names I grew up with that are no longer in existence today. The advancement of internet based course providers like Udemy or Coursera provide as much value as classroom learning for a fraction of the costs. My conclusion is that the training profession is due for a massive overhaul or it may disappear into oblivion. Training certainly cannot go on much longer in this way.
2. "Training" has been replaced by "Learning". "Learning" can come in various forms and it implies some element of discovery, absorption and application of the subject matter."Training" on the other hand implies mimicking or repeating desired behaviors until one is proficient with the subject matter."Learning" therefore is more all encompassing and provides different avenues for gain new ideas and perspectives. In a disruptive world, an important trait one must have is Learning agility. This is the ability to find constantly find opportunities to attain new ideas and apply them in your context and setting. Learning agility not only apply to individuals but to teams and organizations too. In fact, companies have to learn quickly from market forces in order to adapt and thrive in the ecosystem. The ability to learn itself has been adopted by technology. Machine Learning has been creeping steadily into prominence. From claims processing to hiring the right candidate, major decision making points are left to the machines to handle.
3. "You can actually develop the masses quickly and at the fraction of the cost". Yes, this is very possible (if you wish to find out more, feel free to reach out to me). The smartphone has all but replaced the 2G phones in most countries. Even in rural areas or in the farming communities, people have adopted the use of smartphones as part of their daily lives. Some innovative companies have started to build learning programs around the use smartphones that allows users to learn in byte sizes on the go. Coupled with gamification techniques to attract users to their smartphones, rolling out a new compliance training program for the 10,000 employees of a bank could be done within a month. Imagine the amount of investment and resources needed to get this done through classroom training. This roll-out could possibly take a year or so before every one of the 10,000 employees of the bank is suitably trained and assessed to have understood the new banking regulations.
The world is changing and no one could accurately predict how it is going to pan out a decade from now. What we know is, what we could not do 20 years ago is very much a reality for today. I was fortunate enough to listen to the presentations of start-up entrepreneurs trying to pitch their ideas to potential investors and partners recently. The many ideas they come-up with to address the inefficiencies of the marketplace could not have come about as a result of classroom training. These young entrepreneurs saw a need for change and had the tenacity to ask deeper questions before they reached the moment where they could actually play a part in driving that change in the marketplace. There is hope for humanity because of the tenacity of the human spirit in their quest to survive and thrive on this planet.