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Has Training Left the Building?

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In-person training is no longer the only way to go, but it hasn’t died out. Why do people who use e-mail, text and the web for daily business still gather in one room when it’s time to learn? Should clicks replace bricks?

It’s no longer automatic for people to book a flight in order to go “meet” with a client. In some wired circles, even the good, old-fashioned conference call is becoming passé. If most organizations have gone almost completely virtual, what does that mean for live training? Does the face-to-face approach still offer real value even if it’s no longer physically necessary? 

Here’s the debate:

The way you work should be the way you learn.
Everyone today lives on conference calls, web presentations and shared desktop screens. Why should training be any different from the way we get things done?
Make the connection.
Virtual training methods convey information, but they don’t replace human interaction and immersion in a culture. Learning requires all these elements.
Sorry about those frequent flier miles, but.
When people gather in person for training, they spend more time away from their jobs. They incur travel expenses. Then there’s the cost of using or owning a facility. The cost differential is just too great.
Mix it up.
Live training is an opportunity for employees to engage with leaders – people above them in the hierarchy – in a setting that invites questioning and expression. Organizations need a dose of that now and then.
Train at the speed of information.
Studies support the idea that virtual training can produce the same learning results with more speed and flexibility.
Train with the entire brain.
When you’re training on site, every participant is doing only one thing. The same thing. Virtual environments leave the door open to distraction and may limit people’s ability to immerse in what’s going on.
That’s what the technology is for.
The only reason traveling to live training was ever a standard practice is that there was no alternative. Now there is. Sticking with the old way makes as much sense as training via telegram.
People prefer to train in person.
Learning works best on willing minds – and when it comes to virtual learning, employees are less willing. Research shows live training is more popular, even among the youngest professionals.
Field trips are for school, not work.
Teaching employees new skills shouldn’t have to mean buying them plane tickets and hotel rooms. Sorry, everyone.
Live training works better.
Personal interaction, the communication of nuance and the opportunity to network all add up to more effective training. Surveys support the assertion.

My take

Bill Pelster, Managing Principal, Talent Development, Deloitte Services LP

Base training plans on the outcome, not the method.

There is still a need for in-person training. Sometimes that need is so prominent that it’s worthwhile for an organization to commit significant resources to a physical environment dedicated to learning. In fact, that’s what Deloitte has done with the development of Deloitte University.

Yet no one would consider building a training center, or flying people around the country, to convey basic information like how to fill out timesheets or expense reports. There’s an identifiable point in subject matter and complexity where the convenience of virtual training gives way to the nuance and focus of live training. The trick is finding that point.

It’s important to remember that training methods take many forms and neither “live” nor “virtual” has a singular definition. Few people get excited at the “live” idea of a closed room, a box of donuts and a PowerPoint presentation and even fewer are eager to sit through a 70-page webinar while their regular emails ping away in the corner of the screen. Wherever it happens, training must take people out of their day-to-day mindset and encourage them to participate with enthusiasm.

In my view, the best training starts with the desired business outcome in mind and works backward from there. A virtual platform tends to work better when participants are working within an understood context or building on existing knowledge – for example, when a group of tax professionals has to learn about a change in tax law. For developing new skills, such as when a group of IT managers must learn about a completely new technology or business process, learning most likely works better in person. Live training also tends to fit better when the subject matter is more qualitative, or when the outcome depends on personal networking.

Remember, that training is an investment in your talent. What you expect from these people 10 years from now should count more than which training method is more convenient over the course of a few days.

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