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Opinion: When technology disrupts the training room

Business Shifts

Posted online

There’s a shift in how learning is consumed and how it is delivered.

With advances in algorithms, artificial intelligence and neuroscience, it was inevitable that these forces of change would influence how we shop, invest, run our businesses – and learn.

Software companies like, which offers a self-learning bot named Alex, uses artificial intelligence and data gathered from pulse surveys so that Alex, an automated coach, can tell the manager-learner what they need to work on to be more effective. The learning adapts as the manager’s needs evolve.

New learning technologies, in contrast with traditional learning, focus on providing short, adaptive and personalized content. One trend aptly called microlearning, delivers tiny bits of content much like we might see in a five-minute YouTube video, a brief article or in tweet-sized tips.

Some learning platforms now offer ways to deliver instantaneous advice to a salesforce on how to best present new products, tailor a sales message or overcome objections. Technology adjusts as learners’ demands change.

Traditional training providers are beginning to get the message of change. Agile providers offer training when, where and how the client wants it. They adapt their content to reflect what the learners already know, and then focus on what’s most needed to further improve performance.

There’s plenty of pent-up demand for training today. Millennials expect employers to invest in sufficient training to help them perform well in the job and to advance their careers. What’s more, seasoned employees want training in order to stay relevant with the pace of change.

Demand for training aside, talent development professionals are feeling pressure to change.

Elliott Masie, CEO of educational think tank The Masie Center, said in a recent issue of Chief Learning Officer, “The number of (learning and development) professionals has dropped by as much as 80 percent in some firms.” Asynchronous e-learning and webinars presented virtually have reduced the overall demand for face-to-face classes, according to Masie.

Technology-driven learning has quirks, however.

It’s not very likely that you can teach the complexities of leadership, technical jobs or sales skills in short YouTube videos. Those skills need to be taught and then practiced in the real world.

Technologies also aren’t reliable for promotion or firing decisions because the human element is missing. Personal issues, learning style and cultural differences can disguise an individual’s actual mastery of a subject or abilities. On its own, technology can produce unfair results.

Any type of training – whether its leadership, technical or sales that’s delivered by e-learning or in face-to-face trainings – should produce positive results. Unfortunately, a great deal of the money and time invested falls short of expectations.

Britt Adreatta, author of  “The Neuroscience of Learning,” emphasizes that such training involves three fundamentals: learn, recall and do. To master the learning that produces change, more effort must be spent on doing what’s learned, she says.

Amplifire, an e-learning software company that also bases its approach on neuroscience, finds that retention increases to 79 percent and mastery of the information approaches 95 percent when utilizing such methods as learning adaptation, gamification and spaced intervals.

Technology definitely can bolster training by reducing costs and increasing accessibility, and traditional training can help by contextualizing training to the learner’s true needs. The rise of agile technologies and responsive traditional training solutions could therefore enable organizations and people to have better access to improved learning.

Continual improvement in how we learn, retain and do what we’ve learned is critical for everyone’s future.

Consultant and professional speaker Mark Holmes is president of Springfield-based Consultant Board Inc. and He’s also the author of “The Five Rules of Megavalue Selling.” He can be reached at


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