Several centuries ago, training and development programs helped European and Japanese trading firms grow and prosper. Outside these companies, most training was done was through apprenticeships, a practice that remains popular with guilds and unions.
Inside these trading companies, especially in Japan, a system formed in which workers would rotate from one position to another as they learned about the industry. This allowed them to learn many different aspects of running a company—more than many workers ever see during their careers in the United States. Over time, these workers were recognized as better decision makers, and they provided a deeper pool of candidates eligible to move on to director positions.
In the modern U.S. work environment, we are seeing more innovative training methods like this, and they are having a very positive affect on the workforce. Here are some additional trends that will affect the future of training and development.
The concept of training is ancient: The Art of War and The Way of The Samurai were used for centuries to help soldiers learn how to formulate strategy. More recently, sociologists like Frederick Taylor have contributed information on employee behavior that has helped training and development professionals more effective programs.
In terms of training advancements, the 20th century has largely been about creating a knowledge base that standardizes methods, and then porting that information to computers and other devices. This approach enables learners to access materials autonomously and from any location.
There have been many studies on whether self-paced learning can be as effective as classroom-led training, with proponents of self-paced learning continuously improving their materials to make experience as close to a classroom environment as possible. As technology has blurred the lines between the two approaches, training delivery methods that include both have formed as a new standard.
Today’s training and development professionals have access to much more accumulated knowledge than Benjamin Bloom, a psychologist who, 60 years ago, helped develop a set of educational objectives for trainers to use. Leveraging technology and sociology via online social media, it is now possible to create training programs that offer return on investment in the form of higher test scores and better knowledge retention. For companies that rely on training in IT and other areas, the bottom line continues to be tangible results such as certifications.
Gamification is the all the rage today within different companies, but according to Allencomm, it was used as far back as the early 1800s by the Prussian army to train staff members. Gamification has evolved in a way that encourages employees to get more involved at work by offering rewards and incentives for attaining knowledge and results. A sales game, for example, might help management shape how well the sales team collaborates as a team as they accomplish their tasks.
A key breakthrough in gamification happened when the IT world finally understood that people wanted simpler ways to run applications and create data. The user interface revolution, which began with seat-back tablets used on airplanes and quickly expanded to encompass iPads, Android devices, and the Internet, made it easier for trainers to create learning environments and gamification concepts that work in the modern business world. The advent of social media and with the integration of social learning has also further enriched gamification.
Now that simpler interfaces, social media, and high-speed Internet offer a larger toolkit for training programs, what will the next innovation be?
With the millennial generation—perhaps one of the most documented generations in history—at the helm, it seems clear that technology will continue to drive training progress.
One area we can expect to see continued change and development is in simulated activity through virtual reality and remote-controlled devices. Just ten years ago, for example, an employee who needed centrifuge training would need to go to a lab containing centrifuges for classroom-style instruction. Today, trainers can develop a curriculum that leverages online centrifuges that can be controlled remotely over the Internet. Such flexibility and innovation helps training professionals ensure that their training precisely matches their client’s requirements.
There is little doubt that new technology will allow employees of the future to learn in visual environments. The sound engineering room at the University of California, San Diego, for example, allows gesture-based design without a computer keyboard. The sooner the training and development industry can meaningfully leverage such technologies into their work, the more return on investment your firm will see.
For more on the future of training, see Free Digital Lessons Fuel Lifetime Learning.