A variety of forces are impacting the field of training and development.
Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” The challenges that exist in training today are very different from those of the past, and this will continue to result in significant changes. According to the American Society for Training and Development, eLearning now accounts for nearly one third of the learning content made available. This percentage is sure to rise in the future, and as a result, new approaches to solving organizational challenges will be required. Additional factors influencing training in the future include a shift in content-related training needs, the rise of coaching, and the transition from the Generation X to the Generation Y workforce.
New Types of Training
The recent high unemployment rates and influx of funding for projects by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have resulted in a proliferation of new types of training. For example, in January of this year, the Secretary of Labor announced nearly $100 million in green jobs training grants. The shift from blue collar to green collar training is already being seen locally. Ellen George, associate dean of corporate and community education for Illinois Central College, notes that “In an ever-changing world, training and education providers must be on the leading edge of ‘what’s next’ in the workplace. Ever since ‘green jobs’ have been introduced into our vocabulary, ICC and the Professional Development Institute (PDI) have followed national trends and conducted local research to introduce green building environment/construction courses and certifications that will provide many future benefits to our community.”
The Effectiveness of Delivery Methods
The content of training in the future will also change based on results of the growing body of research in effectiveness of training delivery methods. As the popularity of online/eLearning continues to grow, there will be a greater need for training instructional designers and specialists in effective use of these methods. Although current research initially seems to be showing support for the effectiveness of online learning, more research with varied samples across fields is needed to determine which training delivery methods are best for a given situation and how to create effective technology-based training delivery methods.
The 2009 Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning report by the U.S. Department of Education states, “The literature on alternative online learning practices has been conducted for the most part by professors and other instructors who are conducting research using their own courses. Moreover, the combinations of technology, content and activities used in different experimental conditions have often been ad hoc rather than theory-based. As a result, the field lacks a coherent body of linked studies that systematically test theory-based approaches in different contexts.”
The Emergence of Coaching
Another trend sure to influence the future of training is the emergence of coaching. The International Coaching Federation, formed in 1995, defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” The number of businesses turning to coaching is expected to continue to grow at a very rapid pace.
“Coaching plays a pivotal role in upcoming training and development programs simply because coaching is based on the premise that individuals are naturally creative, resourceful and whole, and in turn responsible for their own lives, growth and success,” says Robin Albright, certified life coach and owner of Zinger Zanger, Inc., a coaching and consulting company based in Eureka, Illinois. A major study of business coaching published in June 2008 by the American Management Association in conjunction with the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that the popularity of business coaching is being boosted by companies struggling to develop a new generation of leaders to fill positions held by retiring baby boomers. Of U.S companies surveyed, 52 percent reported having existing business coaching programs in place, and another 37 percent said they planned to implement coaching programs in the future.
The transition from the Generation X to Generation Y workforce will also have a significant impact on the future of training. Dictionary.com defines Generation X as “the generation following the post-World War II baby boom, especially those born from the early 1960s to the late 1970s,” while Generation Y includes those born from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. This year, the number of people in Generation Y will outnumber Baby Boomers.
The 2009 Junior Achievement/Deloitte Teen Survey found that nearly nine in 10 teens use social networks every day, and more than half said they would consider their ability to access social networks at work when considering a job offer. If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest, according to the video Social Media Revolution by Erik Qualman. Some sources report that China’s version of Facebook, QZone, is even larger, with over 300 million users. Albert Einstein was right on target when he said we would need to use a different kind of thinking to solve the problems of today. Traditional face-to-face training simply will not be effective with this generation.
One major reason that the upcoming workforce will thrive on online and eLearning is that they are the first native online population. Research shows that digital natives, or those who have grown up with digital technology, and digital immigrants, who learned to use digital technology later in life, learn very differently. In order to stay competitive, businesses must adapt training to accommodate this difference. For example, digital natives are accustomed to receiving information very quickly. They multi-task and network, and they thrive on instant gratification and rewards. As Mark Prensky documents in Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, “Digital immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language.” Businesses that succeed at training workers to excel in a global economy will be those who are able to teach Digital Natives in their “native language.”
Junior Achievement (JA) is one example of an organization that is taking steps to ensure that Generation Y is prepared to be successful in the global workforce. The JA Digital Strategy Advisory Task Force convened in Washington, D.C. this February for its first meeting. The Task Force will serve in an advisory role and will define an action plan around the use of technology in JA’s future program development and delivery, with a goal of applying the learning to drive systemic change in K-12 work-readiness education.
The future of training will clearly be impacted by changes in the content of training programs, the growing popularity of business coaching, and the emergence of the Generation Y workforce. The training and development field is embracing these trends and remains on the cutting edge of research and application of alternative training delivery methods. We are well on our way to seeing exciting changes in training consistent with Einstein’s concept of solving problems with new, innovative thinking and ideas. iBi