The confluence of a weak economy, “app for that” technological innovation and a multi-generational workforce has produced some noticeable trends in continuing education, training and professional development.
For starters, the current economic weakness siphoned away money budgeted for training-related travel as well as training staff. According to the American Society of Training and Development’s (ASTD) 2009 State of the Industry report, training expenditures per employee fell 4% from 2007 to 2008. A Bersin & Associates survey showed corporate learning and development budgets were cut by 11% in 2009 and by a total of 22% since 2008.
Another outcome is newer learning tools, derived from new technologies that have often become platforms of choice for the next generation of workers. Remember when podcasts were cutting edge? In the handful of years since, they have been overshadowed by the explosion of informational blogs, by “do-it-yourself” video instruction via YouTube, and by mobile applications that allow learning on the go through cell phones, iPads, Kindle and so on.
With more than 70 million baby boomers in the U.S. nearing retirement – and some 40 million GenXers and 30 million Millennials waiting in the wings – training providers must leverage newer tools used by the younger generations to effect a successful transition. Many in the workforce already use these tools to foster their own learning and development.
Which gets to a third trend – that of providing as many resources as possible to engender learning. You want to be more strategic than “see what sticks,” but training today should incorporate as many options as possible, including e-Learning, mentors, classroom instruction, blogs, intranet/wiki, virtual classrooms, on-the-job training and more. In many instances, you drive the content and the training; in others, individuals pursue the knowledge/skills via the resources available.
A common undercurrent among these training trends is achieving efficiency and ease of access (kind of like online registration software). The tools are out there to do more with less. Often the bigger challenge for providers is speeding their own learning curve to determine how to best use these tools.