The Pendulum Of Corporate Training And Development

The Path Of The Pendulum Of Corporate Training And Development

It’s the year 2010, and instructor-led training (ILT) is a staple in corporate America. Companies are using it to engage and develop their employees on a daily basis. People are attending live seminars, working in small group sessions and even helping each other 1-on-1. These methods are used to develop and grow employees, to help them become more successful in their current roles, and to better prepare them for future roles.

Skip 4 short years to 2014, and almost every company in America took their corporate learning program (which previously revolved heavily around ILT) and converted to eLearning, web-based training, nearly overnight! Everyone was using new buzzwords and highlighting the latest and greatest features of eLearning, tracking, assigning, grading, ease of use, global integration, etc. While these are all important and very necessary, was dropping ILT as a whole best for these companies? Did this pendulum swing benefit or hurt these corporate learning programs? And what comes next as the pendulum of corporate Training and Development continues to swing?

With most things, we encounter on a daily basis there is a general progression path. Let's consider the iPhone; every Keynote in September the entire world waits to see what new iPhone will be revealed. Apple started with the iPhone, then launched the iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, 4s, 5c, and so on. There was a general progression in their motives. They walked the consumer down a path by adding new feature after new feature while simultaneously getting their users accustomed to the newest technology. The same can be said for almost every industry! The general progression leads the user down a path that at some point blends the "old" with the "new" before leading the user into a completely new frontier. The keyword here being "blends". So why did corporate Training and Development not follow this progression path?

The New Trend

While eLearning emphasizes tracking capabilities, global integration, and ease of use among the list of their strongest features, why is it that employee adoption and usage rates continue to remain problem areas? Could it be that employees didn't buy into the idea due to it being so abrupt? To clarify, I strongly believe that eLearning is an effective tool, but not as a standalone solution. As I mentioned previously, nearly every company in America transitioned to eLearning practically overnight. While this was happening, a handful of the Top Fortune 100 Companies hit the brakes. They conducted an Internal Needs Assessment and realized that the overnight move to eLearning could endanger their learning culture. They chose instead to slowly introduce eLearning in stages. Does this sound familiar? The pendulum of corporate Training and Development did not swing directly to the opposite spectrum, thus skipping the steps in between! I have had the privilege of speaking with a handful of these companies, and their corporate Learning and Development programs are stronger than ever! Many have invested in building large corporate universities as well.

The Pendulum Hanging In The Balance

The key to their success lies in the fact that along the general path of progression they realized that when the pendulum reached the halfway point, their programs were more successful than they ever could have hoped for. They ultimately realized that blended learning was the answer they had been looking for. Ironically, I have consulted with many other Fortune 5000 companies, and they are all scaling back from solely eLearning and moving towards a blended learning approach as well.

Blended Learning

If you are looking to move your corporate learning program from an ILT-driven environment, the move to blended learning is a much easier step to take. You are always able to add more technology as you see fit, thus making it a fluid and flexible transition, ultimately benefiting your user base. If you are moving from an eLearning centered environment and looking to incorporate more ILT or eliminate some eLearning features, it is very necessary to conduct a Needs Assessment to ensure all groups’ methods of learning will still be met. Ultimately this blended learning approach will allow your employees to engage with each other, the instructor, in small groups (role plays, real life scenarios) while using technology. I often see eLearning training before and after ILT sessions which is used as pre-work and to sustain what the employee has learned in the form of quick videos, follow-up activities, knowledge checks, job-aids, etc.

I would encourage all of you, before buying the latest and greatest technology, look to evaluate your current situation (Needs Assessment). If you decide to move forward, do so in a way that allows your users to seamlessly transition, and follow the path of progression! Don't be afraid to take baby steps; it is easier to scale back if things don't work. Lastly, take notes from the major players in your industry and more importantly outside of your industry; they are at the top for a reason. Doing these will greatly increase your chance of success and better position you for the next trend in corporate Training and Development.