The Transformation of Corporate Training

Corporate training is broken. Overpriced and inconvenient for busy professionals, it is undergoing massive fundamental changes as we move to cloud-based mobile devices. Recently, I met a SalesForce manager who said the traditional approach is dying. Instead of taking days off from work to attend costly workshops, then forgetting the materials and having to retake the classes, professionals want real-time, on-demand training that enables them to train and refresh their learning on the job anywhere.

This desire for “in-context training”(ICT) – on-the-job training that is driven by employee needs and requirements, not rigid classroom formats – is the wave of the future.

We are witnessing a major transition to an entirely new type of training – from supply side, location-based “dinners” to demand side user “grazing” — where employees can learn anytime, anywhere while working, but our training methods remain stuck in the past. Many companies still rely on workshops, heavy manuals, desktop-based Learning Management Systems (LMS), and one-way video lectures, but these methods are falling behind users who want more effective methods.

Fortunately, Silicon Valley is pioneering new social and mobile learning technologies and methodologies that are completely changing the way that employees learn. Currently, the most popular methods are:

  1. One-to-many:  Webinars, both real time and pre-recorded, are the most affordable ways for companies to train employees and market their products. Every week, I receive dozens of webinar invitations featuring guest speakers, slide shows, and call-in discussions on social marketing, Big Data, data security and a host of other relevant topics. These webinars are free and sometimes useful, but they focus on general topics. Moreover, they require attendance at a fixed time and are followed by sales people anxious to sell their products, but rarely do they care about one’s problems and challenges. Video libraries are useful for delayed viewing, but lack advanced search tools so one must sit through the entire program to find specific topics.
  2. Videoconferencing: Skype, Webex, GotoMeeting, Messenger and other video services enable employees to discuss issues and share data in real time, but like social networks, they are better for one-time meetings since they lack advanced search, storage and reporting tools.
  3. Personalized Training: The plethora of new mobile apps and services, personalized dashboards, and training libraries on the cloud makes it much easier today to personalize one’s training using YouTube and hundreds of other video sites, but there are few ways to easily access and share past classes, personal training, collaborations and knowledge bases while maintaining total control over the content.

Where is corporate training headed?   In late 2012, Interactyx’s “What Will Corporate Training Look Like In Ten Years?” post forecasted four types of corporate training. How have these methods fared so far?

  1. On-Demand Training: Khan Academy and Coursera set the standard for open courseware where students can learn on-demand, which is being adopted by business and government. Coursera is moving into the enterprise where profitability is greater.  Currently, eight types of Coursera monetization models are being pursued, which could be applied to enterprise MOOCs (massive open online courses) In the future, I foresee companies offering courses for in-house use as well as supply chain and external sales. Advanced interfaces will enable “personal universities” that will be used as portfolios for college and job applications, B2B theme sites and B2C “schools” like Khan Academy.
  2. Social Learning: Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter are probably the fastest-growing learning platforms since they enable users to share ideas, photos, videos and data instantly. The problem is that these platforms own the data, lack advanced search, reporting and storage management tools, so they remain secondary learning tools. Moreover, many companies ban them to prevent socializing and shopping during work hours.
  3. Mobile Learning: Mobile video is booming among consumers and will transform corporate training soon. The early users will be product researchers sharing data and insights and marketing teams communicating directly with customers. Unlike traditional methods, m-learning will initially be “sneaker ware” from consumer services, just as the PC originally was, until corporate managers accept consumer-grade platforms and strengthen them with stronger data security.
  4. Gamification: This is an overused buzzword, but will gradually enter the enterprise since Millennials are much more interested in challenging, relevant, interactive and collaborative methods similar to online games. Compliance, certification, marketing/sales and HR roleplaying will be early adopters since they are critical to corporate operations. Bunchball and Badgeville are the current leaders in this emerging field, which uses game, reputation and social mechanics for major users such as AMEX, Deloitte, Samsung, EMC, Bell Media, Kendall-Jackson and Marketo.

So the corporate training field is quickly being reinvented. Companies who ignore these new approaches risk being left behind over the next few years. There will be many new training methods and technologies since cloud providers are shifting to user-driven design where users have control over their interfaces, training content, sharing and other activities.

Sheridan Tatsuno, San Francisco, CA, sheridan at

Updates (29 Jan. 2015):

Gamification Examples by Bunchball: Who Can It Motivate at Your Company?

5 Gamification Trends to Watch in 2015:

Gamification pitfalls and how companies are avoiding them: