It’s clear that something isn’t quite right in the world of business training. Despite the fact that training has become increasingly more important as the demand for new skills rises, employers haven’t managed to keep pace.

The main problem seems to be the fact that employers haven’t updated their training methods for a long time. The problems that employees have to solve have gotten a lot more complex, and yet training styles haven’t risen to the challenge. Employers are still relying on the same tired techniques that were appropriate for yesterday’s economy, not the future.

The amount of training offered by employers has been in long term decline. Back in the 1990s, companies were spending more than an hour and a half every week training their staff. But fast forward just a couple of decades, and that’s down to less than 30 minutes. In other words, as the demands in the economy have risen for better skills, employers themselves are taking on less of the burden while complaining that there’s a talent shortage.

It used to be the case that businesses were skill generators. Young, inexperienced people would join firms, get trained up and slowly but surely become productive members of society. But over time, that’s changed. Now businesses are skill-takers: they take people who have been trained elsewhere and use their skills in their business.

Whether or not this is sustainable remains to be seen. Businesses seem to be relying more and more on calling on people outside of the company itself to fulfill vital functions, functions that would ordinarily have been carried out by people within the firm in times gone by. The business has become a sort of leach, searching for skills in the economy to suck up without actually generating any by itself.

Perhaps even more worrying is that the training that businesses are deploying is ineffective. A study by InterCall in 2015 of more than 200 workers found that over a third thought that their training time was time wasted. Another third said that what they were doing we neither productive nor engaging.

This should be worrying for employers. If people are going to be valuable in the highly technological economy of the 2020s and 2030s where artificial intelligence, smart robots, and big data rule the day, then they’re going to need the right skills. The economy isn’t just going to wait for businesses to catch up. Companies need people now who are able to adjust to radically different business models: models that are based on virtual environments, the cloud and in artificial intelligence.

The good news is that technology itself is making the process of training more effective. We experienced a lull in the last couple of decades in training, thanks to the hollowing out of middle-class jobs. But it’s likely that this process will come to an end, as the remaining jobs will be hard to completely automate. Instead, employers will need to train their staff using a mixture of different methods, all made possible by the new technology-based tools available to us.

Combine In-Person Training With Online Training

According to the InterCall study, both online training and in-person training have significant benefits. The study revealed that in-person training was highly effective at helping colleagues retain information. Thus, if your business is one that relies on employees remembering a list of facts and figures, rather than applying knowledge, then in-person training might be right for you. Trainers, in this setting, have been shown to help workers collect their thoughts, as employees themselves are able to ask questions to get clarification.


The problem is, however, that once the trainer leaves your office, it’s all too easy for people to forget what they’ve learned. According to, a better approach is to use a variety of methods to get the best training outcomes. The InterCall study backed this up. It found that learning was more effective when in-person training was followed by online training. It turned out that more than 48 percent of employees wanted some sort of mechanism whereby they could review what they had learned at a later time. Combining both old and new methods of training, therefore, could be a good practice for the future.

It makes sense that this sort of approach would work. Thanks to the way our brains are wired up, a single exposure to an idea or piece of information is rarely enough to make it stick. But the more times we go over something, the stronger the connection in our brains representing that idea get, and the more likely we are to remember it and be able to use it to solve problems.

Give Hands-On Training

Not all workers learn well just by sitting in a room, listening to somebody talk. They learn best when they’re actually doing something. They are the so-called kinesthetic learners. A study by Skillsoft in 2013 of more than 1,000 office workers reported by found that over a third actually preferred learning by feeling their way to the truth, rather than having it communicated orally. In other words, they preferred the hands-on approach to learning: learning by doing. When employees were able to apply what they’d learned to everyday tasks at work, they were able to perform those tasks better than when they had just been told how to do it by an instructor.

This is good news for companies who operate at the lower end of the job skill spectrum, especially anybody involved in hospitality, manufacturing or logistics. On-the-job training in these environments is most effective when training involves actually doing something, rather than playing around with abstract ideas. Companies in these sectors need to jump on the opportunities of hands-on learning wherever possible, as this is likely how their employees will learn best and also the most appropriate form of training for their particular business.

Hands-on training also has some benefits that go beyond just regular training. It’s able to give employees more confidence which in itself is a massive productivity booster.

Use Mobile Training Apps

With the rise of the gig/sharing economy and mobile working, workers require more and more location flexibility. It’s simply not convenient to get them to travel to a central office on a regular basis for training if they have to be out in the field. According to a survey by Global Workplace Analytics, more than 25 percent of workers in the US now work remotely to a greater or lesser degree.


This is where mobile training apps can be helpful. According to a study by Brandon Hall of more than 500 businesses, only 10 percent offered their employees the opportunity to learn modules remotely, a figure that is too small given the number of people who work away from the office. Experts are starting to recommend, therefore, that companies branch out and start using mobile apps to train their workers. Mobile apps are helpful for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s really easy to centrally track an employee’s progress on the training program, thanks to sophisticated data mechanisms. But perhaps more importantly, mobile apps allow employees to engage with the training material at their own pace. Training can occur anywhere, far away from the distractions of the office. And it can be good from the perspective of employers because not all training has to take place in the office. Employees can be encouraged to work during the day and then catch up on training when they get home in the evening, saving their bosses time and money.

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