Mom used to keep old dresses along with Dad’s old sport coats, never wearing them but refusing to toss them out. “I’m keeping them for when they come back into style,” she’d say. Sure enough, the overall style would become popular again, but of course with a modern twist that made the old version, well, obsolete.
The same seems true in Learning and Development (L&D), or should I say Training and Development? Yes, the “Training” word is making a comeback. As Tony Bingham said during his opening remarks at the American Society for Training and Development’s International Conference and Exposition, “Yes, Training is back. Our customers are demanding it.” Well, like my Mom’s old dress, it may be back, but it’s got a modern twist that makes the old version obsolete.
A little of my history, so you understand my perspective. I entered the field somewhere around 1997 when I joined a relatively new corporate university to focus on “e-learning.” At the same time, I learned we were changing from using the word “training” to the word “learning,” the point being that the latter focused on an intended outcome rather than on a process. We created learning objectives and then designed engaging, interactive experiences that stimulated users of our new learning products to learn. Or did we?
The reality is that nothing much really changed, within the organization or within the industry as a whole. We’ve always focused on stimulating learning among our participants to achieve some objectives. But what did happen was a mad rush to create this new elearning stuff, often with the expectation it would be cheaper, faster, and more effective. Today that’s somewhat laughable. Looking back, it seems a little like Wiley Coyote chasing the roadrunner. It started with computer-based training (CBT) tools that evolved quickly into Web-based training (WBT) tools. As the Web continued to evolve, the tool-makers struggled to keep up and many simply disappeared. This left increasingly disillusioned developers and designers wondering when the insanity would end. Sponsors grew increasingly frustrated.
With Adobe Flash, things started to settle down. After a few years, it became ubiquitous and allowed development across multiple platforms using any of a number of tools. Better and better products began to emerge. And then things changed again with the now ubiquitous smart mobile devices: smartphones and tablets.
Increasingly we are becoming a learning on demand society (see Reuben Tozman’s “Learning on Demand“). L&D organizations have never really been the predominant providers of “learning,” but we have to recognize that the informal learning that has always taken place now happens at exponentially faster rates. Charles Jennings’ 70-20-10 construct, where 70% of an individuals’ learning is informal, takes on added meaning. L&D organizations must find ways to encourage, sponsor, support that informal learning among their employees.
So switching back to creating training seems right. It changes nothing, but allows the conversation to more naturally take place with the organization’s business units. Learning represents “pull” and training is the “push.” Both have their place, but the emphasis going forward must be on intelligently blending the two, and that’s the new modern twist that makes the old training obsolete.
The workplace of today is quite different from the workplace of 1997. The worker of today is far more connected, more technologically equipped and savvy than the worker of 1997. Times have changed.
Thanks for reading!
This work by Tom Spiglanin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at tom.spiglanin.com.