Corporate training is in itself a rather old concept. Businesses understood very early on that they need to offer development opportunities to their workers if they wanted to be successful in their respective fields.
Corporate training is a win-win for both the organization and employees.
It develops and refines the skills of employees, boosts their morale, keeps them motivated, improves their performance and their work productivity. It gives them a sense of achievement and makes them feel productive, skillful employees. The increased productivity through highly trained staff brings more revenues to the company and improves business profitability.
So, bottom line is, corporate training is a great thing and has brought nothing but benefits for both employers and employees throughout the years.
There are, however, voices who claim that old-school training has become obsolete and needs to be completely replaced by new-school learning and development programs.
Old-school vs. New-school workplace learning
Let’s take a look at several aspects of both old-school and new-school e-learning to see what the differences, advantages and disadvantages of each version are.
Training and development has always been recognized as a necessity for any organization. It has, however, also been regarded as a rather larger expense and a somewhat risky investment. Good learning programs, famous trainers, specialized speakers and well-organized conferences all present rather high costs, and employees benefiting from them can chose to leave the company once they have reached a certain level of expertise.
Even in the case of businesses who hired their own trainers, the costs of setting up the logistics and taking employees out of their jobs for days at a time in order to attend training sessions proved rather high. This is the reason why some companies asked their employees to sign agreements stipulating that if they were to leave the organization within a certain period of time after participating in such expensive learning events they will reimburse the company for those expenses. Predictably enough, this sort of obstruction didn’t do much for employee engagement and lead to employees even refusing participation in these programs.
What the new-school training proposes is maintain learning and development as a very important function in the organization while reducing costs and allowing employees the freedom to choose what and how they learn.
While the expertise of highly skilled trainers and expert speakers is greatly valued, it all can be converted into very good online material. Video material has been used in training sessions for a long time but with the latest technology it’s even easier to edit and incorporate it in e-learning modules. Furthermore, subject matter experts are almost always consulted during the design of learning material so that the end product is both accurate and valuable.
Basically, without making any cut-backs on expertise, creating relevant learning materials now has highly reduced costs and is in no way disruptive to the workplace (because e-learning material can be accessed at any time and over a number of devices).
Old school training pretty much meant instructor-led classroom learning. The duration normally varied between a few hours and a few days and there was usually need for transportation and lodgings for both trainer and participants. Some companies invested in their own training locations but most needed to take it outside the office spaces.
Going through all the hassle to get everybody in the same place at the same time meant that the time spent learning had to be exploited to the fullest. This lead to extensive presentations, tons of information, heavy hand-outs and lots of extra reading material.
It left little room for the trainer to work on getting the participants interested or engaged. For many of them these sessions were more of a drag than a pleasant and fulfilling learning experience.
New school workplace learning goes outside the conference room and into the learner’s handbag or pocket. Aside from getting rid of the logistics nightmare, e-learning allows for a great variety of delivery methods that the learner can choose according to their likes and needs.
There is no need for a certain number of participants to have a training session as each person who is interested can go through the material at a different time. Furthermore, there is growing recognition of informal learning as a valuable knowledge source.
In an age where we no longer search for information — it finds us — we constantly learn something new and helpful.
In traditional classroom training, the content and delivery were both trainer-driven. It was the facilitator’s decision what got taught and in what way. It’s true that good instructors have always known how to get a feel of the room and adapt both the information and the way it was provided but the options were still pretty limited.
Learning styles differ greatly even among people of the same age and with similar upbringing so the best a trainer could do was include a little bit for everybody and decide to take a break or do an entertaining exercise when energy levels were down.
E-learning on the other hand is more focused on the learner. Starting with eliminating time and space restraints, mobile learning enables the user to choose what modules are important to them and what are just ‘snooze-fests’ – whether because the presentation method is not compatible with their style or they already master that particular topic. It also allows going back without being disruptive of others, pausing and resuming whenever.
A case still can be made for the social nature of classroom training but since most of communication nowadays is done online anyway this aspect is also being covered by simply incorporating the social networks.
Old school corporate training has its great merits but it also has had its time. The newer generations do not have the patience to sit through long lectures. Information has to come to them on a need to know basis because they were raised with all the answers at their fingertips.
New school training with its flexible, mobile and learner-driven focus is the right answer for today’s business world.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.