Writing testOver the next five years, how you train and educate your staff won’t just change; it’ll transform. What’s the difference? Changing means continuing to do essentially the same thing, only introducing some variation in degree. Transformation means doing something utterly and radically different. For example, moving our music from cassette tape to CD changed how you listen to music. But going from a CD to having all your music in digital format on your smart phone and with you at all times transformed how you listen to music.

Exponential changes driven by processing power, storage, and bandwidth are now reaching a stage that allows us to transform business processes including how we educate and train our workforce.  This transformation will certainly accelerate. The only question is whether your organization will take advantage of it.

So what does the future of corporate training look like? To get a clear picture, you first have to know a few facts:

  • The majority of phones professionals are using worldwide are smart phones. In other words, your employees’ phones are actually multimedia computers with internet access. That alone has huge ramifications for training them.
  • Tablets and smartphones are outselling PCs globally and employees have access to them wherever they go including home. So smart mobile devices like phones and tablets are rapidly becoming the new platforms for training and education. That doesn’t mean employees are no longer using laptops, it means we are using them in different ways and much less.
  • These smart devices will get exponentially smarter every year, giving us new capabilities. It used to be to access a super computer you had to be a university or major corporation. Today, even a small company can access (from their phone) a super computer in the cloud and run advanced simulations.

Knowing these things, it’s time to rethink how to train your employees from here on out. Here’s how to do it:

  • Implement Just-in-Time Training

For most people, the best way to learn something is by doing it. That’s what just-in-time training enables people to do. Rather than sit in a classroom or one-on-one with someone and learn, people can learn in real-time. Remember, most employees have a multimedia computer with them at all times (their phone or tablet). With just-in-time training, they can access any element of what they need to know at the moment of need. If they have a question or need assistance, they simply touch an icon on their device’s screen and are connected to a live trainer who can help. If the trainer needs to see something to give assistance, the employee can aim the device’s built-in camera to the problem so the trainer can see it. This alone would cut training costs tremendously.

Does this mean we eliminate classroom or other formal training sessions? No. There will still be formal training, but less of it because now we can have distributed training in real-time that’s just-in-time. So this isn’t about getting rid of something; it’s about using a new tool for training and education.

  • Create Interactive Training Materials

We also now have the ability to create interactive training manuals and textbooks. In the past, e-books have been static, basically an electronic PDF of the book. Now they are becoming dynamic e-books where you have embedded audio, video, and links to other resources. And thanks to visual communications, you can even have a way for employees to tap a special button in the training manual and be connected to someone who can give more advanced training on a specific subject.

Additionally, employees can tap into a series of videos that allows them to personalize the training for their specific needs. Since the training manual is no longer static, employees can personalize the manual by plugging into a menu of more advanced training options embedded within.

  • Today, training is measured in one-hour blocks of time. One hour needs to become ten-minute blocks of highly focused time.

I recently heard some one say they watched “an entire TED talk” as if it was a long amount of time.  Our attention spans are short and the list of things each of us must accomplish seems to be getting longer. Measuring the units of training in one-hour blocks of time is already obsolete.

By taking advantage of the virtual, mobile, social, and visual revolutions that are already taking place, we should measure employees training units in ten-minute blocks that include a short focused lesson with an application tool.

  • Tap Into the Gameification of Training and Education

Gaming isn’t just for kids. Interactive gaming is a tool that can transform training and education. I’ve identified five core elements of gameification that when applied together can dramatically accelerate learning. They are:

1. Self-diagnostic. Interactive, competitive, and immersed training modules can know each person’s skill or knowledge level and progress accordingly. It can know where someone left off and give next steps from that point when the person logs back in. This is the best way to allow for individual training and learning.

2. Interactivity. Regardless of someone’s inherent learning style, learning is much more effective when you’re interacting with the material, not passively sitting there. When you learn by gaming, you’re interacting with the information and concepts and actually doing things. It’s no longer passive training.

3. Immersion. In the recent past to the present, video games use interspatial 3D, where you go into worlds. So instead of images popping out at you, you go inside to them. That’s how games on the Xbox 360 and others have been working for years, by using a regular television set or flat panel display. This sort of technology gives an immersed effect, which engages people more.

4. Competition. Humans are naturally competitive beings. When you’re sitting in class or doing one-on-one learning, there’s little competitive value. No one advances until the session is over. However, when you’re competing, as in a game, there’s an adrenaline rush that keeps you engaged and focused on the task at hand. In an effort to “win,” people master concepts faster.

5. Focus. When you’re playing a game, you’re forced to focus. You have to do A in order for B to occur. If you don’t do A, then you won’t get far in the game. Focus is the result of interactivity, competition, immersion, and self-diagnosis. When you can focus, you can learn virtually anything…fast.

Embrace the New Era of Training

The ideas mentioned here are already possible. Use them to redefine how your company trains its employees. Since businesses spend large sums of money on training and education, anything that can accelerate or enhance learning will save both time and dollars. And always remember, if it can be done it will be done; if you don’t do it someone else will.