Reactions to the non-training approach to workplace learning

Following my recent post on the case for a non-training approach (NTA) to workplace learning and the launch of my NTA website, I’ve received quite a bit feedback and read a number of blog posts and comments about it. So I thought I would plot all these reactions on the learning technology adoption curve that my Internet Time Alliance colleague, Harold Jarche and I produced last year (which is an adaptation of the one originally produced by Geoffrey Moore).

Firstly, just in case it is not clear, this chart plots organizations along the curve in terms of their use of learning technologies but also in terms of how “learning” is perceived and fits in the workplace. So for the purposes of this adapted chart, the “chasm” represents the point where organizations move to adopting both new technologies and new mindsets. So …

  1. The Late Majority and Laggards are still focused on meeting their compliance needs. Many of these organizations are in traditional industries.
  2. The Early Majority are focused on learning and particularly course delivery. They are comprised in large part of education and training (E&T) intensive organizations, including schools.
  3. The Innovators & Early Adopters have shifted to a work focus. Many are in newer industries. Others are in more traditional industries who have seen the urgent need for change. They are focused on supporting social and informal learning and integrating it into the work flow.

Now, to plot the reactions to my non-training approach to workplace learning on this curve — and also to give my own responses to these comments.

Firstly, there were a couple of consultants and vendors who felt that the emphasis should still remain firmly fixed on traditional training approaches in the workplace.

My response: This was not a surprise since these people and organizations are selling (training, e-learning, blended learning, LMSs) products and services into the Learning and Compliance Focused areas. But they shouldn’t feel too threatened by what I have been saying, since the number of organizations in the green area of the chart (where they operate) is very big and most of these will remain focused on course delivery for a few years to come. But nevertheless they are still well advised to keep up to date with what the Early Adopters are doing (by reading more about their activities on the NTA website, as well as keeping up to date with what my Internet Time Alliance colleagues are talking about), so that they don’t appear out of date to their clients, who may well be doing the same!

Secondly, there were a large number of positive reactions from individuals working in organisations in the Early Majority area. Although these learning professionals personally could see the value of non-training approaches, they felt that their organizations were not yet ready to embrace the culture shift required to support the kind of non-training approaches I was talking about – still preferring to focus on traditional training events.

My response to these people is that they should continue to monitor what is happening, so that they can feed all this back into their organization. Many organizations are only willing to make changes, once they see others around them doing it, so helping them understand what other companies, including their competitors are doing, will be a good start. Then once their organization is ready to move forward, they are well placed to help them. So they just need to keep up to date with what is happening on the NTA website as well the thinking of my Internet Time Alliance colleagues; we all freely offer a lot of advice and support in our blog posts, articles, etc.

Thirdly, I received a surprisingly large number of positive reactions from learning professionals who not only saw the value of non-traditional approaches themselves but their organisations did too. However, these sub-divided into two groups. The first group were those where the organization was all to happy to tear down the barriers to make this work successfully. They had clearly “crossed the chasm” and were moving swiftly forward with new thinking and new initiatives.

My response to these people: I really look forward to hearing more about what you are doing in the NTA Community.

The other group comprised individuals from organizations where they were either still finding it a little difficult to visualize what this looked like in practice, or needed help to overcome some of the more persistent cultural barriers – in order to “cross the chasm”.

My response to these people is that this is exactly where the (free to access) NTA website will provide some support, as I expand it to cover more examples and ways that other organisations are addressing some of the barriers. (I should also add here the Internet Time Alliance has been working with a number of big organizations over the last 18 months helping them do just this, so if you are looking for some more bespoke advice, we’d be very happy to help).

All in all I’m really pleased that so many people are able to see that these non-training approaches are the way forward and provide new exciting ways to support the workforce, and that they are not seen as threat but rather as a huge opportunity to evolve their own role in the organisation in order to help people to do their jobs – or do them better.