Why Corporate Training is Broken and How To Fix It

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Informal learning expert, Jay Cross outlines why corporate training is ineffective for most businesses and what trainers can do to fix the problem.

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  • 1.Why Corporate Training is Broken And How to Fix It By Jay Crossjaycross@internettime.com

2. Executive Summary ...................................................................................................................... 3Where Corporate Learning Came From........................................................................................ 3Corporate Learning Today ............................................................................................................ 5Training is not the same as learning ............................................................................................. 6Corporate Training Is Broken ........................................................................................................ 7 Senior managers are dissatisfied .............................................................................................. 7 Chief Learning Officers Know Training Is Not Working ............................................................. 8 Managers Feel Training Has Scant Impact ............................................................................... 8 Real learning takes place elsewhere ........................................................................................ 9 Workers are disgruntled .......................................................................................................... 10 Training is out of sync with the times ...................................................................................... 11 The Collaborative Organization............................................................................................... 13 1. Collaborative Culture ........................................................................................................... 14 2. Collaborative Motivation ...................................................................................................... 14 3. Collaborative Infrastructure ................................................................................................. 15 4. Collaborative Learning ........................................................................................................ 16 Whats the hurry? .................................................................................................................... 18About Jay Cross .......................................................................................................................... 19About Internet TIme Alliance ....................................................................................................... 19About GoToTraining .................................................................................................................... 20References .................................................................................................................................. 212 3. Executive SummaryCorporate training is broken. Training departments are no more at fault than bankruptcompanies like Blockbuster Video, Borders, Silicon Graphics, Nortel Networks, Circuit City,Bethlehem Steel, Smith Corona, Polaroid, Wang Labs, or Underwood Typewriters. They alloffered great products. They all fell behind the times. They were all eclipsed by newtechnologies.The world around corporate training has changed. What worked twenty years ago doesnt workwell in the social, always-on, networked world of business we now inhabit.Traditional training departments cannot build courses fast enough to keep up with the speed ofchange. Service industries challenge workers to acquire tacit knowledge -- the kind of know-how one learns on the job, not in the classroom. Person-to-person instruction is no longer cost-effective.Industrial organizations are morphing into collaborative organizations. Traditional training isbroken and needs to get back in step with the times.Where Corporate Learning Came FromThe 20th Century was the great age of training.Corporate training was invented in the early 20th century when instruction by senior managersreplaced apprenticeships. General Electric opened the first corporate school. NCRs JohnPatterson invented the flip chart and conducted the first formal sales training. Managementbecame recognized as a profession, Harvard Business School opened its doors, and the termexecutive education was first used. Frederick Taylor promoted Scientific Management, andtrainings mission evolved from how to do the job into how to do the job more efficiently.Training became much more formal and important with the advent of World War II as themilitary used boot camp and training films to train millions of men rapidly, while women weretrained to do the jobs the men left behind. The American Society for Training and Developmentwas founded and designers brought a systems focus to training. After the war, big corporationsreplaced small companies. Drucker wrote The Practice of Management. Bureaucraciesmushroomed. White collar workers outnumbered their blue collar colleagues for the first time.Training became a department and a standard facet of every business.3 4. The social revolution of the 1960s gave rise to the concept that learning is individual. RobertMager and others promoted the profession of instructional design. Malcolm Knowles pointedout that adults learn differently than children. Training technology focused on the person, notthe group: PLATO introduced computer-based training; Stanford pioneered instructionaltelevision; teaching machines and programmed instruction enjoyed brief popularity. DonKirkpatrick proposed a model for measuring the outcomes of training. Standardized coursesand workshops multiplied.The 1980s saw the shift from an industrial to an information economy. Peter Senge promotedfive disciplines that are finally kicking in now, twenty years later: personal mastery, mentalmodels, shared vision, team learning, and systems thinking. Forward-looking companiesestablished corporate universities and tried to become Learning Organizations.In the late 1990s, the web changed everything. eLearning was born. Venture capitalists fundedscores of eLearning companies, most of which disappeared in the dot-com crash a few yearslater. Remember Digital Think, SmartForce, Pensare, NETg, KnowledgeNet, UNext, Docent,One Touch, Centra, InterWise, and their brethren?Many of the corporations that adopted eLearning fell under the same mistaken spell thatbeguiled investors. They counted on big savings in salaries, travel costs, and facilities ascomputers replaced instructors. Some companies bought employees PCs so they could learnat home, on their own time.Vendors churned out page-turners and shovelware. Training departments purchased librariesof this garbage and touted cost savings. Unfortunately, workers avoided these awful courseswhenever possible and training departments sullied their reputations. Apologists who hadfallen for the lure of computerizing all aspects of learning supplemented eLearning with face-to-face meetings and other forms of support and dubbed it blended learning.CFOs questioned the return on their companies investment in training. Training directorslearned enough accounting to talk about ROI. Unfortunately, Generally Accepted AccountingPrinciples value intangibles such as employee know-how, reduced turnover, and wisdom atzero. As Einstein observed, Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everythingthat counts can be counted. Training became the first area to get the axe when times weretough and many sound programs were gutted. 4 5. Corporate Learning TodayThe American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) reports that companies spend$1,067 per employee (2.7% of payroll) to deliver an average of 32 hours of formal trainingannually.Instructors lead 70% of this training, about 80% of that in person. Many companies are stillcutting expenses by off-loading instructor-led training to automated eLearning but they have aways to go.The remaining 30% of training is delivered via technology, about half of it self-paced (i.e.instructor-free, often dubbed eLearning) and a third by online instructors.However, go to any training conference, including ASTDs own International Conference andExhibition, and you dont hear much about instructor-led training or self-paced learning. Peopleat the big events are talking about informal learning, social learning, simulations, webinars,mobile, virtual classrooms, community, interactivity, and web 2.0. Whats up?5 6. Training is not the same as learningASTD measures only formal training, the workshops, classes, and assignments meted out bytraining departments. That accounts for a mere 5%-10% of the way workers learn their jobs.Workers mostly learn informally, from experience, by trying things out, mimicking what worksfor colleagues, asking questions, making mistakes, and conversing with friends. Savvymanagers expose people working for them to stretch assignments to expand their breadth ofexperience. None of this activity shows up in ASTDs and other trade organizations statistics.The times, theyre a-changin. The Industrial Age is giving way to the Network Era. In theIndustrial Age, workers were cogs in the machine. They were rewarded for efficiency and formeshing smoothly with their fellow cogs. In the Network Era, workers replace the machine;workers create the value. They are rewarded for delighting customers in innovative and non-routine ways.Training is imposed on people (for example, by the training department), as if they are cogs.Learning is what people choose to take in (whether or not through training), as if they canmake decisions for themselves. Training assumes the trainer is in control; learning puts thelearner at the helm.The distinction is vital because networks are democratizing the workplace, and workers havean increasing amount of say in what they learn and how they learn it. At the risk of soundingageist, it sometimes seems that the younger the worker, the more likely they are to resentbeing told what to do and to expect to be in charge of their own development. The Millennialsare used to having information at their fingertips, used to digesting, sharing and creatinginformation on the web.Training departments are mired in Industrial Age, top-down attitudes, and thats not playingwell with Network Era, customer-focused workers.6 7. Corporate Training Is BrokenTraditional training is not keeping pace with reality.Senior managers are dissatisfiedSenior managers dont think Learning & Development impacts business results. Three-quarters of the nearly 1,500 senior managers at 50 organizations interviewed by the CorporateLeadership Conference were dissatisfied with their companies Learning & Developmentfunction. Only one in four reported that L&D was critical to achieving business outcomes.(CLC) Corporate Leadership Council Survey, 2011 7 8. Chief Learning Officers Know Training Is Not WorkingChief Learning Officers arent satisfied with the outcomes of current corporate learningpractices. Fewer than one in four Chief Learning Officers surveyed by Internet Time Alliancesaid their employees were learning fast enough to keep up with the needs of the business.(ITA)Internet Time Survey of CLOs, 2009Managers Feel Training Has Scant ImpactUpon reflection, experienced managers agree with whats come to be known as the 70:20:10model. Knowledge workers learn more than twice as much from experience as from bossesand coaches, and the training department accounts for less half of that. 8 9. Real learning takes place elsewhereTraining professionals acknowledge that social and collaborative activities account for most workplace learning, followedby self-directed learning. Company training comes in dead last. (Hart) Learning Mode Number ofSocial & Collaborative Personal LearningInternal DocumentsResponsesActivities Strategies and TrainingCollaborative working within 446 Xyour teamPersonal & professional426 X Xnetworks & communitiesGeneral conversations and420 Xmeetings with peopleGoogle search for web415 XresourcesExternal blogs and news feeds403 XCurated content from external377 XsourcesSelf-directed study of external357 XcoursesInternal company documents 341 XInternal job aids330 XCompany training 296 X Informal Survey of Importance of Sources of Learning, Centre for Learning Performance Technology, 20129 10. Workers learn their jobs in the course of doing their jobs. Study after study finds that 70%-95%of learning in the workplace is informal and experiential. (Studies) Most corporate training is anexample of the Streetlight Effect. A police officer asks a man searching for his keys under a streetlight, Are you sure you lost them here? To which the man replies, No, think I lost them in the park. Why are you searching here instead of in the park? asks the police officer. The man replies, The light is better here.This analogy is evocative of HR departments that think formal learning courses and workshopsare the way to achieve learning and development success. These departments are searchingunder the streetlight rather than in the park.Workers are disgruntledWorkers are frustrated with corporate training because outside the firewall they have betterequipment, enjoy unrestricted access to the riches of the Internet, and find it easier to networkwith friends and acquaintances.Training has such a bad reputation that executive coaches have been forced to change thewords they use in conversation with senior managers. Instead of bringing up learning, they talkabout working smarter. Here are what the forbidden words really mean and how executivesinterpret them. 10 11. Taboo TermMeaning What Executives HearBetter to SayTraining Building capacity, improving performance Schooling. Ineffective. Not on myWorking smarterdime. Social Collaboration, collective intelligence. Goofing off, Facebook, the football Collaborative pool.Informal Predominant way people learn to do their Haphazard, lackadaisical, sloppy.Experiential jobs. Continuous. Natural. eLearningGenerally, useless shovelware.Inexpensive alternative to training. Online Learning Definition of training terms in the minds of executives.Training is out of sync with the timesTraditional training departments can no longer build courses fast enough to keep up with the speed of change. Serviceindustries challenge workers to acquire tacit knowledge -- the kind of know-how one learns on the job, not in theclassroom.Most workers have better connections to the Internet and social software at home than on the job.11 12. INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATIONS COLLABORATIVEORGANIZATIONSTimeframe Industrial AgeNetwork Era 1800 - 20102010 futureOrganization is...Machine, clockworkLiving organism,collaborative, networkExpected from workers...Loyalty, compliance, efficiency Create value, higher purposeTime orientationPast, conformityFuture, innovationControl Top-down, push, obedience,Bi-directional, pull, autonomy,command and control and shareGovernanceDictatorial DemocraticIncentivesExtrinsic, carrot and stick...