Training and development has always been a structured and semi-predictable formula using age-old formats. With the rise of millennial workers and their affinity for social media and quick and “now” learning methods, the training and development organization is shifting from traditional layouts to online and in-time learning. Many large companies with high engagement, such as Amazon and Google, have instituted new learning methods for their budding geniuses and use technology in a savvy, social way. With training as fluid as sitting with a manager and learning something new at the exact time it’s needed, completing the task independently, and then being critiqued during a “lessons learned” session, employees are starting to respond to training that doesn’t require the traditional training request.
While this one-on-one technique is definitely a pro, many employees find that just-in-time training can overshadow their need to network and grow through the use of external courses. It also takes a great amount of time from managers to track progress, assess employees and share feedback. With this just-in-time approach, some employees may think management isn’t developing them for the future and is only focused on their ability to complete their current tasks. That can become a definite con if employees feel short-changed on their overall professional development. So, how does technology take the good from these situations and lessen the negative effects?
Virtual training methods can still give the just-in-time feeling but can align with and capture the learner’s training in their individual development plan, thus building upon their future plans and reducing the need for managers to individually assess as frequently. According to Shiftelearning.com, virtual training consists of e-learning (self-paced, web-based), blended learning (a mixture of various options per course), rapid e-learning (quick online microlearning sessions), mobile learning (the course is accessible anywhere the learner is) and ubiquitous learning (available anytime/anywhere, and activities are led by daily tasks). Many of these methods are useful to remote workers, learners with very little down time and employees who enjoy learning at their own pace. Employees can learn via smartphone, tablet, laptop and other portable methods. Simply making the courses available and compatible with technology can open training options and increase engagement in self-led professional development, not to mention indirectly adding income to the organization.
One advantage to learning using technology is that advancements are constant. Incorporating technology into the learning environment not only creates a highly accessible course, but it also prepares the workforce for the next wave of technology, such as artificial intelligence, gamification and virtual reality. According to eLearningIndustry.com, VR is a burgeoning $2.6 billion industry, and corporate e-learning has increased 900 percent in the past 16 years! So we know the trend will continue to grow as technology enhances over time.
With schedules that can meet the needs of many learners at once, we should think of content creation in new ways, such as discussion forums led by SMEs, podcasts and interactive modules. As training professionals adept in assessing our audience, we now have the added task of assessing learning styles, habits, schedules and technical knowledge. This brings us to a con: Many learners who are still transitioning to the prevalence of technology may not like online learning or find it useful, or they may feel that rapid learning is too quick. Therefore, extra training in the technology being used for the course may lengthen the process for rolling it out and overburden training staff with questions and inquiries about the use of technology. Assessing the audience and its level of skill in using the technology is just as important as providing the course itself.
Remember, as training managers, technology can help move our content into the hands of the audience more quickly and easily, but take the necessary time to introduce your learners to any new methods prior to releasing courses. If you do, you’ll find that you’ve conquered course creation and technical training all at once. Be on the forefront of technology in training for your company, and start developing content specifically for rapid learning, web-based and collaborative learning.