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Urgent need to upgrade corporate training

Corporate training, for the most part has moved online. But the transition has been done in a very inefficient way. Although a vital component of the corporate world, training continues to languish in the past.

Ganesh Lakshminarayanan | June 19, 2015 | Updated 19:54 IST

Ganesh Lakshminarayanan
Tomorrow's industry leaders will be organisations that are able to train their workforce using learning that is personalised, gamified and consumed as entertainment, says Ganesh Lakshminarayanan.

Corporate training, for the most part has moved online. But the transition has been done in a very inefficient way. Although a vital component of the corporate world, training continues to languish in the past.

Let me explain.

Essentially, there are three training categories in the corporate space. The first is a set of courses that revolve around mandatory compliance training, which is mostly a check-in-the-box activity. The second group is related to talent development and most programs under this are self-learning courses in an online form, where content has largely been transferred from old power point courses. This category of training programs is rarely completed effectively. The third set of training programs are those that are related to a company's products, or functional training programs like sales and service skills. Although these are quite often, better managed, most of them are delivered through classroom training or during expensive field-sales and field-services seminars held in exotic locations. All in all, each of the above methods has its own drawbacks.

Technology investments to mitigate training inefficiency. Notwithstanding these inefficiencies, companies are spending more on training. With the economy picking up in the US, corporate training spends grew 15 per cent last year (the highest growth rate in seven years) to over $70 billion in the US and over $130 billion worldwide.

Any inefficient spend will attract deployment of new technology, and technology is attempting to revolutionise the training market as well. There is explosive growth in technology tools to train people today. Self-authored video, online communication channels, virtual learning, and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are all growing rapidly as training tools. Formal classroom education is now less than half the total "hours" people consume in training around the world.  

Although MOOCs' obituary has already been written albeit somewhat prematurely, the fact remains that only a fraction of those who enroll in MOOCs end up completing these courses. Now, there is a new version; SPOC (small private online courses), which have the same challenges as MOOCs. Both MOOCs and SPOCs solve the wrong problem-by massively scaling experts and content originally designed for classroom delivery, through badly designed online courses, which in turn lead to abysmal completion rates.

Not 'training people' but letting 'learning happen' is the future For training to truly emerge as a key and effective 21st century corporate function, the right answer is a ground-up design to enable learning through the ubiquitous smart phone - a device that has reshaped millions of businesses and fundamentally altered life for billions of people.

But it is also critical that training content is customized for this format / device; just as it would be utter foolishness to try and fit games designed for arcades and consoles on the phone, so also it is with porting training content and programs meant for classrooms into the smart phone.

There are few key enablers that can spur transformative changes in corporate training and underline its importance today and well into the future:

1. A content creation process that is enabled using a simple workflow platform which generates content for the mobile. With the advent of high resolution smart phones, open-source video editing tools, and lowering bandwidth costs, this should become easier.

2. A knowledge-check mechanism which is gamified. Imagine corporate learning with a Temple Run or Angry Birds type of reward mechanism.

3. An analytics module which can make taking courses and achieving points as attractive as tracking a work-out program.

4. A delivery platform which can be controlled by users to present learning modules to them at their convenience - at any time and place of their choice and designed to be delivered on a Smartphone.

5. A pricing model where the app can be freely downloaded and companies pay platform providers for completed learning modules. Continuous learning is critical for competing in a world where the rate of change is going to increase quickly. Progressive companies need to let learning happen the same way as entertainment will be consumed in the future - in a personalised and gamified manner, and delivered in short bursts.

The author is Director on the Board of Linkstreet.

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