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TRAINING: The Future of Training and Development [Part II]

Last week we introduced you to the concept of New Social Learning and the possibilities it has to influence and enhance training and development departments.  To continue the discussion I’ve relied heavily on the book The New Social Learning by Tony Bingham & Marcia Conner. The book did a great job at giving some quick glimpses into how organizations are applying the New Social Learning model to develop their employee programs for a new century.  Here are some examples to illustrate how much training and development has changed and will change moving forward:

Microsharing – Microsharing is the class of social software tools that enables people to update one another with short bursts of text, links, and multimedia through stand alone applications (think Twitter). For busy people who need to find ways to manage their attention stream, microsharing seems just enough to not seem like a burden; it fits into the spaces between the critical work people do.  People use it as a digest, checking in once in a while and getting an idea where the institution is on a topic, what’s up. One more blip isn’t distracting; they view the microsharing stream when they have time.  They can engage when appropriate. The trouble with our old way of ‘sharing’ is we customarily ask the person closest to us rather than someone known to have the right answer.  Microsharing helps us reach the right people without even knowing who they are.

My favorite mircosharing platform currently is Tweetdeck.  Tweetdeck is a platform that allows users of Twitter to look at multiple streams of information at one time.  Many people see Twitter as a nuisance (or at best, a narcissistic media channel for people to tell “us” the flavor of their coffee).  I use Twitter more as an ad-hoc focus group.  Based on the people I follow or just by typing in a search term, I can view what millions of people are talking about on a continuing stream of conversation (try typing in New Social Learning and see what continual information comes up in the stream).

Today, I had Tweetdeck open and it was giving me live streams of the current topics I need to keep a pulse on: management, New Social Media (for this blog), leadership, health services (for a client), etc.  I was getting high valued links to papers, articles, and blogs at a second’s tweet. I didn’t have time to “scour;” TweetDeck provided the short “infobursts” I needed.

Performance Reviews – Instead of waiting months for formal review from their manager, people have begun to ask their peers for continual feedback.  Using microsharing tools and other social software, peers now ask other peers to help them learn how to improve right away.  Think of it as a virtual (and self-prescribed) 360 performance evaluation.  This will start to grow exponentially in the future as the Millennnial generation’s need for constant feedback and instruction fuel the growth.  Look into tools like Rypple, and en.dorse me as new feedback tools that provide in-real-time, performance feedback.  They are also great for virtual teams and project-based groups to get organic, real-time feedback on their progress.

Mentoring (even after the mentors leave) – Many companies have started private YouTube-like channels on their internal intranet to help mentor and reverse-mentor employees.  With in-house videos, employees planning to retire create videos about their areas of expertise.  A senior executive creates mentoring videos and gives advice to newcomers.  A technical employee creates a step-by-step video to explain a procedure (great for all those Train-the-Trainer programs out there).  The training departments have begun to ask employees to create videos to incorporate into a learning program. 

Example: Marathon Oil Corporation
Using an in-house production studio, two dedicated streaming servers, and rich media creation software, Marathon was able to provide live daily streaming webcasts and a library of archived presentations available on demand.  The presentations are scalable and can reach all employees at once.  Typically 1,200 to 1,400 employees participate in live broadcasts, and as many as 8,000 view on-demand content. Video also helps bring Marathon executives’ personalities and inflections right to employees at their workstations wherever they may be. (The New Social Learning, 2010 ASTD)

Employee Orientation – Many companies have gone the route of creating their own, in-house social network specifically for their employees to get to know one another.  New hires can easily find five people who went to the same college they did, three who worked for the same company, and two who grew up in their small town.  Whenever someone with a similar history joins the organization, he or she gets an alert of all the other people with that similar history.  With the ability to make these kinds of connections, cold and impersonal “first days” quickly turn warm and welcoming. Deloitte, a company who has fully embraced the notion of social learning, has launched a social platform for all their employees much like the one just mentioned (watch as Patricia Romeo of Deloitte talks about how her company views the future of T&D). 

Project Management – Companies have started to use the free tool of wiki to create both private and public wikipages that employees can constantly update.  Wiki (Hawaiian for quick) allows a group to make changes to a shared web page.  Wikipedia is the largest wiki in the world; however many companies use smaller wikis to keep conversation and projects constantly discussed. 

Example: Intel’s Wiki
A person at Intel needed to accomplish a task.  To do so, she needed to use a piece of software no one in her group had ever heard of, let alone knew how to use.  It would have taken months to learn the software and complete the task.  Instead, she searched the organization’s internal wiki system and found someone who had done a project using the software. She contacted the person and asked for help.  Within a matter of weeks the project was done.  How many wiki pages was the efficiency gain worth? Add up not only the time saved by one person, but also the advantages of a quicker time to market for this project, and you have a totally new critical path.

On-the-Job Training or Field Training (Also known as Train-the-Trainer programs) – By equipping technicians and potential trainers within the organization with a media mindset and a culture of collaboration, everyone can begin to share responsibility for educating one another and giving each person an opportunity to seek focused help.  The workforce becomes the organization’s lifeline to what’s happening in the field right now.  Yes, you will still need classes to teach people how to properly instruct (or how to use the media), but field training will begin to happen organically and minute-by-minute.

Example: In-House Learning and Collaboration System
Before repairing a telephone line for a customer, one telephone repairman noticed that a tree was precariously close to the pole.  Something just didn’t feel right.  The man walked back to his truck, took out his handheld video camera, pointed it toward the pole and narrated the situation.  Three minutes later he uploaded the digital footage to his company’s in-house learning and collaboration system. Within 10 minutes, colleagues from across the country had commented.  One pointed out a wiring issue the repairman hadn’t seen.  Another suggested a new technique she’d used that he  hadn’t heard about. And yet a third reminded the repairman of a similar sticky situation the repairman had been in and encouraged him to follow his veteran instincts. (The New Social Learning, 2010 ASTD)

What if groups of people could access their collective knowledge quickly when facing a new problem or complex decision, sorting through all other noise, and keying in on the most relevant information? What if training became an ‘in-real-time’ activity, where learning was a continuous process, not a special event?  It would vastly improve our ability to deal with complex, urgent problems – to get the best possible understanding of a situation, including the best possible solutions.  Organizations need to dramatically re-evaluate their concept of training and development, making sure that as they enter the new Millennium they are on a continuous quest to move to a more shared, collaborative, and organic development process, a process which allows all of us to be teachers and students again.  Then we will have truly captured the essence of the new training and development department – a continuous learning hub.

 Continue by reading our newest article on the future of learning, Social Learning: Social Training and Social Workforce Learning.








  • Very much enjoyed this article. Thank You! Began reading The New Social Learning recently and have found it, along with articles such as yours, beneficial in how I approach my work as a training manager. All the best!

  • Thank you. Enjoyed the article. Delighted to learn about Tweetdeck. Dying to use it.

  • Thanks Mike and Dibyendu for adding the comments. Appreciate your readership and hope you continue to visit and add your insights. Enjoy the book and Tweetdeck as well! Things are a changin’


  • A gripping read with matured views and insight, the better part – the suggestions are doable.

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