Corporate Training’s $70+ Billion Dirty Secret


According to analyst Josh Bersin, US companies spent well over $70 Billion for employee training in 2013. Analysts predict that amount is will be significantly greater in 2015.

These are the kinds of statistics one might expect C-suite executives to pay attention to. So it’s odd that they seem not to be paying much attention to the ROI for corporate training.

It’s abysmal.

PHOTO elephant in room

Leading experts have studied the subject at length; the statistics they provide differ. Some say there are too many variables to allow for “one-size-fits-all” statements about how much training is retained, and how quickly it is forgotten. They note the  variety of training goals and audiences receiving the training, as well as differences in training delivery methods.

Having said this, there is general agreement among experts in the field that that corporate training’s success rate is, shall I say, “poor.”

One of these experts is Dr. Art Kohn, who has done a great deal of work on “the forgetting curve” and its effect on training retention. He’s also the recipient of not one but two Fulbright Fellowships for work in Cognitive Psychology and Educational Technology. In a recent article in Learning Solutions, he wrote the following:

It is the dirty secret of corporate training: no matter how much you invest into training and development, nearly everything you teach to your employees will be forgotten…this investment is like pumping gas into a car that has a hole in the tank. All of your hard work simply drains away.

The fact is that this “dirty secret” is really not secret at all.

The research and resulting articles about this have been out there for years. Yet there’s not much evidence that corporae executives are acting upon it, despite its its obvious and critical importance to the bottom line.

Bersin’s research also shows an explosive growth in technology-driven training, including self-authored video, online communication channels, virtual learning, and MOOCs. Worldwide, formal classroom education, now accounts for less than half the total training “hours.”

According to Bersin, mobile devices are now used to deliver as much as 18% of all training among what he calls “highly advanced companies.”

Does this mean that employees are using their iPads to access Udemy courses? If so, is there a significant difference in retention rate for employees who have information presented by a live trainer while sitting in a room with 20 fellow workers… versus those who receive it on mobile phone the subway on the way home at night… compared to someone being trained via  iPad while sitting in the living room after the kids have been put to bed?

We won’t have statistics to provide answers to those questions for some time.

But corporations should be watching closely to see if new methods of delivering training result in a dramatic increase in retention among employees once they’re on the job — because if Kohn is right, even achieving a whopping 400% increase in retention will mean that after just one week, the average employee will still be retaining only about half of what is needed on-the-job.

That’s hardly a stunning success rate.

Research has made it abundantly clear that the basic premise that drives corporate training is fatally flawed.

It’s abundantly clear that the training corporations are currently providing to their employees  is not succeeding in providing them with the information they need to do their jobs properly the first time. So why does corporate America keep throwing good money after bad, trying to find a “patch” or download an “updated version”?

It’s as if a purple elephant with pink toenails is standing next to the coffee table and corporations are only willing to acknowledge that there’s an “unusual scent in the air.”

My next blog will give more compelling facts to show why a major change in corporate training is needed.

High Innovation Hiring?


dilbert on training

I have been researching the difference in approaches to learning between Boomers and Millennials. I recently started reading and hearing about a new approach to hiring and learning called a “high innovation system”.

We know there has been a sea-change in the old hiring for life contract between employer and employee. And the union agreements are disappearing faster than you can say “retiring boomers”. There is also a newer change in the way companies view employees learning.

We originally had a “high commitment system,” which valued long-term employment and on-the-job training. The new approach is called “high-innovation”. Here’s the idea in a quote from  Andrew S. Ross writing in SFGATE

Engineers are typically hired because their skills and knowledge are required for a specific technology or product being developed. This system is seen as cost-effective, since the company can hire required skills and does not have to retrain experienced workers, who usually command higher wages than new graduates. Of course, this puts engineers, who are no longer retrained by their companies, at a disadvantage as they age.

I had an epiphany about why older workers over 40 are becoming an endangered species, not only in the high-tech industry, but in companies worldwide.

I come from a generation of continuing education – workers tagged to go from event to event to learn new skills and improve or update old ones. I wondered why we consider so many older (read post-40) workers as part of the ‘long-term unemployed’. The answer is that “knowing” has replaced “learning”. According to the SFGATE article, if a company can find a worker with a specific skill to fill a job that requires that skill, then there is no need to spend the time and money training someone to learn it.

In today’s flat and hypercompetitive world, it’s the equivalent to trying to teach a square peg ‘roundness’ when simply finding a round peg will do.

It is the difference between the “high-commitment system” in which employees expect to be taught and learn and improve skills while they are working in order to improve their performance, and the “high innovation system” in which people only become employees when they can already perform the skills that are required. How they learned them is not important. Being able to prove they can do them is all that counts.

In the industrial economy, where change happened more slowly, there was time and money to train someone in a new skill. In today’s Digital economy, where there is more talent out there than time or money for training, the trend among some companies is that learning and development is irrelevant. The digital revolution happened so fast that an entire segment of the workforce now has an ‘use by’ date stamped on their foreheads.  It appears that what a Digital Native has already knows will always be in higher demand than what a Digital Immigrant can learn.

To quote Mark Zuckerberg: “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,” Facebook’s CEO told a Y Combinator Startup event at Stanford University. “Young people are just smarter. Why are most chess masters under 30? I don’t know. Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family. Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.”

The problem with this approach to hiring and learning is that it may work for hard skills, but with regard to softskills – for example people management – learning never stops. You may temporarily find the round peg for the round job, but wait a few months and the shape of things will change. The Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives must both be continuous learners of softskills. And the experience of the older workers – especially in the area of soft skills – will always be an important part of the younger workers learning. Mentors are not born, but only made by adopting and adapting to success, failure, more success over lots of time.

Training for hard skills will soon become as obsolete as the chalk board. My prediction is that it will soon be replaced by performance support utilizing the Internet of Things (IoT) to help people who simply want operational or procedural information on the job.

Training for hard skills will soon become as obsolete as the chalk board. My prediction is that it will soon be replaced by performance support utilizing the Internet of Things (IoT) to help people who simply want operational or procedural information on the job.  Using embedded chips or beacons, machines or equipment will be able to ‘talk’ to you. They will tell you what to do to make them work, how to troubleshoot a problem, instruct you about fixing a broken part, walk you through completing a safety inspection checklist or finishing a regulatory compliance report form. That finally solves the problem of your mind falling off the forgetting curve and takes hard skills training – and the many millions of dollars and uncountable hours of development time – off the high-commitment table.

It’s the people-to-people skills that are still and always will be hard to learn, especially for people who prefer to spend time focused on things or ideas. You cannot put a performance support beacon on a worker and have it instruct you about what to say if their performance is not meeting the company’s expectations. Or they need time off for an operation. Or they are depressed over someone’s death. Or … or … or ….

So that still leaves us with the need to learn soft skills. An area from what I understand Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook could go to school on.

How would you define your company, as high-innovation or high-commitment? And as time marches on is this just a temporal blip on the hiring radar of the Millennial generation? Is high-innovation a symptom of an outmoded approach to training that no longer really works? Will a culture of learning evolve and replace what we once called the high-commitment company? You tell me ….

Discursive or recursive? The fractal nature of education


We’d like to share the article below by Steve Wheeler, Assoc. Professor of Learning Technology in the Plymouth Institute of Education at Plymouth University in England.  We admire Steve not only for his thinking about the future of learning and education–but also for the clarity and beauty of his writing. His blog can be found at:  Steve Wheeler

I presented a keynote at the Curriculum Enhancement Day for Portsmouth Business School recently, and chose this bright coloured image as one of my opening slides. It is as beautiful as it is intriguing, and it’s known as the Mandelbrot Set. I didn’t choose it solely for its visual impact, although as you can see, it certainly is quite a stunning image, and there are many variations. I chose it because I wanted to use it to make a point about what education is, and what education can become. You see, the image represents a mathematical formula that is recursive. In other words, as you zoom in to the image, which represents data points of a mathematical calculation, it continually reproduces itself towards infinity. Mathematicians will understand the explanation below from Wikipedia, but the rest of us might struggle:

The Mandelbrot set is the set of complex numbers ‘c’ for which the sequence (c, c² + c, (c²+c)² + c, ((c²+c)²+c)² + c, (((c²+c)²+c)²+c)² + c, …) does not approach infinity. The set is closely related to Julia sets (which include similarly complex shapes) and is named after the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, who studied and popularized it. Mandelbrot set images are made by sampling complex numbers and determining for each whether the result tends towards infinity when a particular mathematical operation is iterated on it. Treating the real and imaginary parts of each number as image coordinates, pixels are coloured according to how rapidly the sequence diverges, if at all.

Follow that? Me neither. The rest of us simply admire its visual appeal or marvel at its fractal properties and how it is never ending. The point I wanted to make at the conference was that much of our education systems are fractal in nature. Education is delivered recursively, where students are required to reproduce knowledge that is already known.

It’s a safe approach to education, and learning can be easily measured. Those that become teachers continue this tradition, teaching their own students the same knowledge, in more or less the same style they were themselves taught. Assessment of learning also has fractal features. Standardised testing is based on reproducing knowledge. Final examination success is premised on the student’s ability to reiterate what has already been taught in lessons. There is no room for exploration or creativity in summative assessment.

My point was that when education is conducted in fractal mode, it does not obtain its full potential and students are disadvantaged. I asked my audience to consider the difference between recursive and discursive education approaches. In recursive education, we see reproduction of knowledge, and we see students learning content towards a product – memorising facts and then reproducing them for the examiner. In discursive education, students are allowed to digress from the pathway, investigate new and untravelled pathways, and discover for themselves. Instruction is minimised, learning takes centre stage in the process. This kind of learning can be found in project work, problem based learning and personal research and many other progressive approaches.

My question for my audience was this: How can we as educators provide discursive opportunities for our students?

What would it take for us to leave the safe and mundane world of product based, recursive education behind and adopt new pedagogies that promote self discovery, digression from prescribed pathways and learning by a process of serendipity?

It would be a major risk for many institutions, and there would be some personal cost. But if we don’t try, how will we make any progress? This is an initial foray into this area for me and I would interested in your views on these ideas. As ever, I am open to discussion and revision, because I’m wholly committed to discursive enquiry.

Steve can be reached at S.Wheeler [@] plymouth[.ac.uk]

Equal Opportunity Corporate Learning


Screen shot 2015-03-18 at 10.37.18 PM

This post written by Susan Fry and David Grebow

“Push” learning has gone the way of the cassette tape, tube television and electric typewriter.

Leading educators and trainers now regard push learning as inefficient, suboptimal and outdated. Even many schools, often the slowest institutions to change, are rapidly making the transition away from that model.

Yet, despite the fact that “push learning” is clearly not suited for today’s “economy of ideas,” corporations have been surprisingly reluctant to make the necessary change.

Why?

The reason may well lie in the fact that a “pull” learning culture is truly democratic. It’s a culture that encourages and supports everyone to explore and demonstrate their initiative and abilities, allowing the best to rise to the top based on merit.

That sounds like a great benefit to any organization. But when put into practice, the concept can prove to be quite revolutionary.

Throughout history, providing access to knowledge has been a way to control who gained power, wealth and status.

Learning and training are often hoarded and carefully doled out to people upon whom top management wish to confer success. Often, they are golden keys to elite private club that are given to friends’ children, colleagues, and clients, alumni from the same university, people of the same culture, class or color.

There can be no doubt that in the last 50 years, countries with the world’s leading economies have worked to erode discrimination and provide greater employment opportunities to people regardless of their race or gender.

It’s time organizations make another much-needed cultural shift, and “tear down the wall” by replacing the old, “push” learning culture with a “pull” culture that ensures equal opportunity learning.

 

KnowledgeStar is a corporation that consults with large and small organizations to transform themselves into learning cultures. Contact us at David(at)KnowledgeStar.(com) 

Carmel, California: The new epicenter of educational consulting


Move over, Cambridge, Palo Alto, Madison, Ann Arbor, New York and Nashville —  Carmel, California may soon become the hotbed for innovation in education!

We at KnowledgeStar thank our clients  — McGraw-Hill, the United Nations, Brandon-Hall Group, Bersin by Deloitte, and the Navajo Nation — for giving us the privilege of working on such exciting projects this last year. Without them, we wouldn’t have received the nice honor pictured below.

CrystalBlue.png.md.cc.DELY-RBAX-BGVV

Learning, art & science — and golf


Screen shot 2015-03-17 at 2.06.15 AM

This post was written by David Grebow and Susan Fry

When we talk about creating a learning culture, we’re defining learning as “the ability to adapt what you know and what you know how to do to an ever-changing variety of circumstances.”

To become a learning culture, an organization must understand that learning is not a discrete training event or even a series of them. Rather, learning is an ongoing process, one that occurs over time. Sharing and expanding knowledge in a culture is very different from the “rote learning” or classroom learning model that prevails in most organizations, and which rewards short-term memory.

By “rote learning,” we mean any brief, highly structured learning event that employs quizzes to provide a score intended to gauge how much the participant “learned.” The problem is that the goal of these “learning events” is  to ensure that, to be considered “successful” requires only that the attendees retain information long enough to get a passing score on a quiz or test (or multiple ones, scattered throughout the session.)

Ask yourself what the scores would be if the quiz was taken again, a few days after the “learning event” was over. A huge percentage of what was supposedly “learned” would already have been forgotten. (I’ll leave the cost-effectivemess of such training for another discussion.)

Interestingly, art and science have proved to be two areas where what we’ve just stated above do not apply.

This is because art and science require an evolving degree of knowledge from basic to advanced. Think about learning to play the tuba or conducting a chemistry experiment. This is subject matter that was always learned by apprenticing with or being tutored by a master, someone with a great deal more experience.

Would anyone consider handing a Bach score and a cello to someone who played a little guitar and expect him to master it after two hour-long seminars and a demonstration video?

Real learning is somewhat like sleeping. You do not go to sleep; rather, you go through the process of sleeping, which is completed in a number of stages. If you’re constantly interrupted, you wake up the next morning feeling like you had a bad nights’ sleep. Real learning requires stages as well and you cannot skip over any of them.

What neuroscience researchers have learned by studying golfers helps shed light on this.

They describe how learners reach a point during the adoption phase where they peak at the physical learning part of the game. After enough time has been spent “on the job” practicing the required physical movements, a point comes when it stops being necessary to consciously think about the movements.  When that happens, the brain is freed to focus on the parts of the game that require active mental thought and calculation. When you hear coaches use the phrase “muscle memory,” or tell athletes “get out of your mind” or “you’re over-thinking it,” this is what they mean.

When a golfer has mastered the essentials of the physical game, the mind becomes is table to focus on more complex issues.  And that focus is truly the key to transforming a good player into a great one. But it takes a very long time, and a lot of practice to get to this stage.

An analysis of the eye patterns of novice golfers on a green, lining up a putt, translated the players’ eye movements into graphics. What it showed looked like someone had thrown a plate of spaghetti on the green: there were lines and loops going every which way.When they graphed the eye movement of top golfers, the patterns were a few lines most of them moving directly towards the cup.

The reason why most classes offered by organizations are essentially a waste of time is because they do not include enough time to complete the learning process. The material presented is not reinforced and internalized through experience.  No time is allowed for the learner to practice the concepts or methods that have been presented and try them out in the “real world” or workplace, repeatedly, over time, until they become like “muscle memory.” Because of this, little is retained.

Now imagine what would happen if the organization provided continuous opportunities for learning, actively encouraged its members to be learning continuously, built in time for them to practice, and measured progress not by pop quiz scores, but increased productivity.

Now imagine that the organization is your organization.

Learning at the Speed of Now


I originally posted this as a Brandon Hall Group blog and kept thinking about it. If you have ever had an idea that seems to take seed in your synapses, and then germinate and sprouts, you’ll know what I mean. I came to a conclusion that startled me.  Here it is …

The Speed Limit of Now

              

I used this graphic recently in a Brandon Hall Group webinar. The idea was to show the underlying drivers of learning in organizations. It pointed out that in the 20th century there was time to learn. We measured the shelf life of knowledge in years. We had time to go to a course to learn something that you might need someday.

In Digital Economy of the 21st century, we quickly realized that everything was changing more rapidly, even the pace of change. The idea of learning something someday no longer worked. We based the new model on the idea of now, as in “I need to learn it now”, “Tell me how to do it now” and “I want that information now”. Now was also part of the learning DNA of the Millennials, raised with digital technology from the time they could walk, Googling replacing dictionaries, Facebook and Twitter replacing … well there was nothing to replace, it was all new.

The question that came up during the webinar was what is next, what does “???” mean for L&D professionals? How do we increase the speed of now? I thought about it and here is the answer to my answer.

Learning faster and faster has a top speed limit of now. Even ‘jacking in’ to their headjack for Neo and the others in The Matrix was all about now, only as direct and fast as you could imagine. So if now is the redline on the learning speedometer, what’s next?

The Slow Now and the Fast Now

The only thing gating the speed is connecting the person who needs to know with the person who has the answer. Taking the time to find the person who knows slows down the transfer. We already have the ability to jack in, only we rarely use it.

It’s called a Community of Practice (CoP). First, let me start with a new idea called the Community of Learners  (CoL). You can connect every class, or any learning event, where there are more than two people, into a  Community of Learners. That community enables the learners to network, start working together, get used to  the idea of a technology-mediated community in which learning something is the focus. They learn to learn as  a community.

When that Community of Learners graduates, they become part of a growing, active, worldwide, and always-  on Community of Practice. Learning continues. Continuously. Get enough people connected in that CoP, and  you will find that the community has encountered almost every problem, resolved almost any imaginable  issue, asked all the questions and most likely answered them. It not exactly the headjack but it’s as close as today’s technology enables.

I can connect to the CoP with any device, anytime and anywhere. I can read the answer in an email, listen to the answer on the smartphone, watch a video of the answer someone recently shot, or share a schematic as I get my answer. I can follow an answer step-by-step if I have a process or procedure question. I can even snap a pic and show the work I did to the person who is telling me what to do, so they can look at my work in real time and make sure that the red wire goes where the red wire needs to go. Learning, getting the answer now, is an extension of the experience of learning taken away from the Community of Learners. You want to learn about something. You learn how to ask the right question, you learn where to find the right person, and you learn to use the right community.

Some companies are getting it right. It was apparent in the winners of the Brandon Hall Group “The Award Winning Collection:  Best Use of Blended Learning”. These companies are finding out how to extend learning past an event, make it continuous and move the needle past the top speed of ‘now’, into the even faster speed of ‘community’. As I was thinking more about this answer, I wondered why an EPS (electronic performance system) is not faster than a CoP. The answer was, it may be faster, but it’s canned, formal. It cannot answer my now questions in the moment unless they are pre-programmed into the support system. You really need people to make now go faster. That was the startling revelation, especially since I tend to focus on educational technology. There is nothing faster than quickly being able to formulate the right question and find the right person who has the right answer. It no longer needs to be face-to-face, just brain-to-brain.

The blended programs I reviewed shortened the distance and increased the speed between the person with the right question and the person or persons with the right answer. Not all of the programs use the Community of Learners that graduate into the all-knowing, all-powerful Community of Practice. They will, because the faster now will always try to push past the speed limit of a slower now. Connecting the right question to the right person equals the fastest way to learn. And in a hyper-competitive world marketplace, to the fastest go the sales, services, innovations, collaborations and everything else.