Training 2.0: Future of Training & Development

Nov 13 / Jerry Morla, MBA, MSL, PMP®
The Future of Training & Development: Navigate the shift from content to learner-centered strategies, embrace personalized learning experiences, and prioritize practitioner expertise. Explore the evolving landscape in the age of A.I. Read more below for insights on staying relevant and effective in training & development.
With the rise of A.I. and an ever-increasing supply of information and training options available on the internet, I've found myself in frequent discussions with colleagues regarding the future of Training & Development (T&D). I have also heard from clients who are increasingly unsure about what approaches to follow for identifying Learning and Development (L&D) options that effectively address the diverse needs of people at all levels within increasingly complex organizations and stakeholder landscapes.

For the benefit of some of my new readers, in a nutshell, while T&D focuses on job-specific skills-development training, L&D has a broader and more holistic scope, including skills training as well as leadership and other areas of employee development as it concerns organizational development and performance. 

The truth is that not all training and development programs are created equal. Given that often uninformed customers pay more attention to costs than to the quality and assurance of realized benefits and outcomes, the options implemented are frequently focused solely on short-term metrics and compliance, rather than on the learners, resulting in the achievement of hardly any development for anyone. That is a key reason why year after year, organizations are left wondering what their time, effort, and financial investments in T&D delivered for them.

Whether a trainer or L&D professional, failing to go beyond routine and box checking, and shifting focus to a more human-centric approach, including modernizing L&D in all aspects for meeting the demands of a next-gen workforce, will surely accelerate irrelevance and obsolescence, leaving trainers and L&D folks out of the game, some even effectively replaced by A.I.

The Learn-or-Die Paradigm

Instead of worrying, T&D professionals should learn new skills and evolve to meet the demands of learners in a new world. Perhaps, organizations could also take a more holistic evaluation and selective approach to the T&D programs they are investing in, that goes beyond just checking boxes on curriculum content, instructional design tidiness, and post-nominal letters after instructors' last names. Otherwise, risk losing vast amounts of money in ineffective training, not to mention downtime from employees sitting in front of monitors fast forwarding, scrolling, and clicking through slides for avoiding a non-compliance notification from HR due to pending training in the queue.

A starting point is to look closer and learning to differentiate between content-centered or learner-centered learning/training design. Content-centered training strategies are often more focused on communicating or transferring task related knowledge, as with the example of standard corporate compliance training and specific technical job skills, than in operational outcomes with little emphasis of learners’ growth. These types of training options are abundant and well received in the market due to lower costs and ease to control, automate, and scale. However, as often these wrongly predict the efficacy of one-size learning approaches, its far too common to see these failing to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce and leaving customers wondering where their time and T&D dollars went.

Content vs. Learners

A content-centered approach is what teachers use in school, where the goal is to help students learn ideas, fundamental concepts, and task-based knowledge in prescribed areas. Content-centered learning is highly reliant on the teacher's level of knowledge and skills for imparting and evaluating students. Most compliance, technology, and product-oriented training is content-centered and designed to address specific task related skills instead of preparing learners to be problem solvers and self motivated to take ownership of their own development. This is in part why common training approaches fall short of meeting customers' perceived learners' professional development needs and the organizational performance-oriented desired outcomes.

On the other hand, a learner-centered approach is more focused on the needs, interests, and learning styles of the learner, rather than on the instructor's expertise in the subject. In the learner-centered approach, the instructor is more of a facilitator than a teacher, and the responsibility of the learning process and experience is shifted more towards the learner when compared to content-centered or traditional teaching models. Learner-centered T&D supports making learners more independent and fostering lifelong learning and continuous development mindsets, leading to longer lasting and more impactful performance outcomes than typical canned training.

Shifting more responsibility to the learners and giving them leeway to integrate knowledge from their own experiences into the learning process results in a much more contextualized and personalized learning experience, leading to increased engagement, relevance, and knowledge and skills development, compared to training programs and courses that are highly predictive or rigidly designed and delivered.

While in the content-centered approach, instructors lecture and submit adult learners to activities like boring webinars and long death by PowerPoint sessions, in the learner-centered approach, seasoned practitioners who are also facilitators create spaces where learners can contribute to their own learning experience, explore, collaborate, and test their ideas to challenge, affirm, or develop new knowledge, fostering a culture of learning, creative thinking, and innovation. In learner-centered programs, facilitators coach and mentor by strategically intervening to help learners develop knowledge and skills, achieve desired outcomes, and grow, instead of just lecturing students to death and subjecting them to intense cramming sessions to ensure high passing rates on the final tests.

Check Who's Teaching

Last but not least, a key to selecting quality T&D solutions is to closely evaluate the instructors or program delivery SMEs' level of experience to ensure they have practical mastery in the subject matter. Their qualifications should not be solely gauged on academic achievements or the number of classroom-acquired post-nominal letters they have. While having the letters and certifications can be useful as a convenient filter to ensure a baseline level of competence required for teaching a subject, ensuring that trainers also have experience as practitioners can enhance the quality of delivery and success.

Generally speaking, seasoned practitioners have walked the walk and can leverage first hand experiential knowledge to better engage, guide, and coach learners to achieve learning and development outcomes faster and more effectively than non-practicing instructors or theoretical experts. There are many well-intended masters and academics out there, who though are instrumental in developing knowledge, frameworks, content, doctrines, teaching models, tools, standards, and surely many other things, have very little real-life experience and lack the in-depth understanding of how knowledge is applied within the reality of the context and often challenging conditions of the learners' work setting.

Closing Thoughts...

Whether you are an instructor pondering the future of T&D or a client seeking T&D solutions, take the hard route and don't settle for box-ticking and the lowest bid. Otherwise, many L&D jobs could soon also be at risk of extinction and A.I. replacement. Instead, if needed, elevate your game by acquiring new T&D knowledge and delivery skills or gaining understanding to better assess and select effective L&D program options, and defend your decisions when recommending something other than the lowest bid. Above all, ensure that humans are developed and become more instrumental to organizational success, rather than viewed as expenses and liabilities for managers to balance through layoffs when facing headwinds.

T&D should be a lot more than information transfer, checkbox compliance, and routine. It should be about transformational learning experiences that facilitate the growth of individuals, while equipping, empowering, motivating, and inspiring them to contribute effectively toward organizational development goals and boosting performance for the long term.

A genuine human-centric approach to training and development is the key!

If you need assistance with L&D consulting or end-to-end learning solutions please contact us.

Jerry Morla draws upon decades of experience managing projects and providing workforce training for telecom and ICT customers, including corporate clients and Fortune 500 companies globally. In addition to this, he has experience in Higher Education instruction for both undergraduate and graduate students. Jerry holds an MBA, a Master's of Science in Leadership, and has completed all coursework, along with partial dissertation research, toward a Doctor of Education in Organizational Development, focusing on organizational performance and next-gen leadership models.