The ‘Wikified’ Future of Employee Training

The recession is technically over, but that doesn’t mean organizations are keen to spend one penny more than they have to. Just look at training — back in 2009 when the financial crisis was still raging, research firm Bersin & Associates asked firms how their training budgets were faring. The answer was predictably gloomy with the training market seeing its greatest contraction in a decade.

No surprise there — but what’s interesting is what took the place of many formal, centralized training programs, and what’s happened to training since then. At the time, Bersin & Associates president John Bersin noted that while training budgets were shrinking, training itself was alive and well in a different form:

“While formal, instructor-led training is not going away, it is becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of training budgets. Business, HR, and learning leaders must think differently about corporate training and focus on those informal and collaborative strategies that will save money and increase the breadth of organizational learning.”

“Today’s business world demands a combination of formal and informal learning with an emphasis on collaboration, knowledge sharing, social networking, coaching, and mentoring.”

In the economic fires of the recession, companies switched from high cost (admittedly more high quality and tightly controlled) formal training to a lower cost, decentralized approach that empowered multiple employees to share bits and pieces of knowledge whenever it was useful — a sort of ever evolving, multi-author training wiki. There are signs that even though the economic climate has improved, this approach continues to expand.

The blog of training company Dashe & Thomson, for example, recently predicted the extinction of corporate training departments. You’d think such prognostications would depress a training firm, but Dashe insists that there was life in training yet, just in a different form:

“One of the most notable aspects of recent advances in technology, is the democratization of creative output. Take the film industry as an example.  It wasn’t long ago that it took months, or years, and at least tens of thousands of dollars to produce the most bare bones, budget-conscious feature film or television show…. Today, broadcast quality video can be shot on a digital SLR camera that costs less than $2,000.”

“A similar trend is taking place in the learning and development industry…. Today, dozens of rapid authoring tools have sprung up that require little to no technical expertise.  As a result, many business leaders no longer rely on the training department for performing, or outsourcing, technical eLearning development. But who will produce the training?  The answer is simple:  everyone.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Mindflash’s CEO Donna Wells in her recent interview with Fast Company:

“Just as more and more employees are expected to have basic multi-media skills–the ability to blog, for example, or to shoot images or videos on their smartphones–so will they be expected to have the basic ability to share knowledge with their peers.”

“As it becomes easier for workers to toss together presentations for their colleagues, “training” will probably come just as often in the form of 10-minute “classes”–to transmit bits and pieces of knowledge that need to be shared quickly–as the lumbering hour-long courses we’re more familiar with.”

Do you find this vision of the “wikified” future of training convincing? And if so, does it sound like a better way to do business or a recipe for confusion and duplicated effort?

(Image courtesy of Flickr user lumaxart, CC 2.0)

London-based blogger Jessica Stillman covers generational issues and trends in the workforce for BNET.com.