Technology, Change and Training the New Workforce

By Dan Bobinski

Dan-Bobinski

Change is a constant, and with that change is an ongoing need for learning. New equipment, new employees and new policies are just a few reasons. But as our workplaces and the people staffing them change, how do we keep up with training? It would be wonderful if we could hook people up to USB cables and download needed information, but for the foreseeable future, humans still need knowledge, skills and safety/quality concerns taught to them. Therefore, the question is, “In these changing times, what are the most effective and efficient ways to do training?”

Part of our answer must come from studying people in today’s workplace. In an Influencer presentation by researcher Josh Bersin, we discover that 60 percent of the incoming generation believes they are being loyal to an employer if they stay employed there for a mere seven months. They also expect weekly feedback on their work and annual progression to another level in the company.

Even more interesting, a company’s culture and values are deemed more important than the quality of its senior leadership and employee’s compensation package.

All of this might be fine if it weren’t for a few trends. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, productivity in America shot up drastically (over 10 percent) between 2007 and 2011, but it has pretty much leveled off since then. Coincidently, 2007 is when the iPhone was introduced, and 2011 is when Twitter hit 100 million users. Correlation does not equal causation, but let me toss out a few more figures.

Research aggregated by the consulting firm Deloitte tells us that in the 1990s, people went online an average of five times per day. Today people are going online 27 times per day, and it’s not just to check the weather. Self-authored videos like what we see on Snapchat make up more than 55 percent of all Internet traffic. And regardless of whether they’re going online with their handheld devices, today people are unlocking their smartphones an average of nine times every hour. That’s an average of once every 6.6 minutes.

Think about all that. Productivity shot up when smartphone communication became ubiquitous, but it leveled off when platforms such as Twitter and Facebook became all the rage.

I know several professionals who’ve sworn off Facebook, calling it nothing but a massive productivity vacuum, but I’ll guarantee that we’re not going to see a generation that’s been raised on this technology give up their social media for the sake of their company’s productivity. Not when culture and values are more important than the quality of senior leadership or even one’s own compensation package.

I’ve been asked by many companies how to deal with this dilemma, and my response always mirrors what I see in all the training and development journals and blogs: Incorporate more e-learning and more micro-learning. After all, if the Internet is now deeply woven into society, it makes sense to train people using an online medium. You could think of it as following the old maxim, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Just how a company goes about this requires additional information. For example, e-learning creators will benefit by knowing that most Millennials don’t like watching videos that are longer than four minutes, and that if a video isn’t grabbing their attention in the first 10 seconds, the viewer is likely to mentally check out or just click away. Additionally, the Corporate Learning Factbook tells us that employees perceive that they have only one percent of their workweek available for training and development. That’s 24 minutes for a 40-hour work week.

Taking a birds-eye view of all this, our challenge becomes creating short, easy-access and engaging e-learning lessons that can be viewed on mobile devices. If you consider the fact that more than 70 percent of people now grab their smartphones to find quick answers to unpredicted problems, you can see how job-specific solutions delivered in short, catchy video bursts will be valued and used.

If your company has classroom trainers, their responsibilities may need some modification. Eight years ago, 77 percent of all corporate training was “instructor-led.” Today, only about 30 percent of training is delivered that way. In that same timeframe, online self-study and virtual instructor-led training has grown from 14 percent to almost 40 percent. That means that to meet the needs of current and future training, trainers need to be gaining skills in online delivery and e-learning creation.

Many different Learning Management Systems (LMS) are now available to meet various needs, but I want to strongly encourage companies to do their homework before making any purchases. Some LMS providers boast a lot but provide very little. You also want to first clarify your specific needs and then shop for a provider that will meet those needs so you don’t end up paying for more than you need.

Also, to create short, engaging content quickly, you’ll need a Rapid E-Learning Authoring Tool. I like to think of these as platforms that operate much like PowerPoint on steroids, allowing you to embed video and create branching scenarios to keep courses interactive. But if you don’t want to create e-learning in-house, consider hiring a company to do it for you. Again, because the quality of what you get can vary greatly, be sure to do your homework before signing any agreements.

The bottom line in all of this is that our workforce is changing, and so is the way the workers want to learn. Organizations won’t do well in the long term sticking with traditional training methods. If today’s employers won’t adapt the new methods of delivering training, today’s workforce will likely move on to an employer that aligns more with their culture and values.

Dan Bobinski is president of Workplace-Excellence.com and Everything-Training.com As a consultant, speaker, and trainer, he helps organizations of all shapes and sizes to help them create excellent workplaces. He is also the author of numerous books, including the best-selling “Creating Passion-Driven Teams.” Reach him at dan@workplace-excellence.com or 208-375-7606.