The future of training - 10 year outlook

Written by
Changeboard Team

08 Feb 2013

08 Feb 2013 • by Changeboard Team

People focused employers

Cultures in business are slowly shifting to become more people-focused and the end of the recession will likely speed this. Employers are realising that people are not machines, need to work sustainably, have emotions, families and even spiritual beliefs. This trend will however collide with the idea of "more from less" - which has been getting people to work longer and longer hours. "The end of more" is a trend that applies to both consumerism and the future workplace. Ultimately the "return of the human" trend will win out as it is more competitive long-term (e.g. reduce sickness and burnout) - we are seeing this with leading edge companies such as Google, Semco and Innocent today. Long may it continue.

Diversity and equality training: rise and fall

Businesses and other organisations have been getting more tuned in to diversity, equality and how language can be oppressive over the last twenty years. This is a good thing - Stewart Lee says why better than I can - that has transformed working environments. Training companies have made a lot of money teaching people why "person with disabilities" is a better thing to say than "disabled person" for example, and this will continue...for a time. There has also been a backlash against what is perceived as political correctness and I believe diversity and equality training will decline, both because of this backlash and because eventually I hope, we will reach a point where such training is no longer necessary, as it will be a given.

Interestingly, there are now many trainers out there doing what I would call "post-PC" diversity and equality training which accepts that phraseology constantly changes and can be a mouthful, and moves beyond a "blaming and shaming". Hurrah!

CSR and green training

The growing power of business means that it will be demanded that business have social responsibility in the future. This change will also come from the inside as those involved in business evolve personally. This one is a hope as well as a prediction, because if business doesn't do this we are doomed (yes, doomed).

In part this will be about post recession business checking its values and from a younger generation which has motivations beyond profit. London Business School for example now run courses in CSR, socially responsible investment and social enterprise because of demand from younger students. Crucially such changes are also profitable so the old-guard will be left behind. The times they are a changing.

Growth of integral approaches to training

Training that includes more of the delegates will prosper. "Head-led" Power Point borefests will not be as successful as interactive, emotionally informed embodied training. Training that takes into account all of Wilber's quadrants (subjective and objective, plural and singular) lines (multiple intelligences), levels (developmental stages), types (e.g. MBTI) and states of consciousness will grow. Training that is integral is more effective and gets better Results as it takes into account more of the factors that are involved.

Decline in e-learning

E-learning has become popular and will continue to do so because it is cheap and versatile. It also not really learning. Wow, hang-on cowgirl, what did I just say? 9 times out of 10 E-learning is learning "about" things. It rarely teaches how to do things and I've never seen it teach about the person doing the things. This last level (called second order or "ontological" learning) is what really makes the difference. Wikipedia is a good way to learn about things, training needs to provide a better service in the future.

I don't mean to be too hard on e-learning - there are some great providers locally like Epic and Brightwave - and it has it's place. The place of e-learning is in support of bespoke human-led training -machines can not teach like people. I therefore predicted that blended learning will grow and the one-size-fits-all-people are just-machines form of e-learning will decline.

Measured training Results

Those responsible for training in organisation and outside providers will be under increasing pressure to "prove it". Application over theory will triumph and training Results will increasingly be demanded and measured. As the downside of reductionism and excluding tricky human unmeasurables becomes clear, people may becoming dissatisfied with key performance indicators and we may eventually see a decline in this trend. One way of looking at this is that training needs to moves from a pre-rational belief based model where it's at currently, through facts and figures to a post-rational human way of doing things.


The coaching method will increase as the learning paradigm shifts from expert led to learner led, with an emphasis on practice and application rather than just theory. This will mean a growth of not only coaching but of action learning sets, humanistic schooling, etc.

Coaching also risks cynical kick-back and decline however due to lack of standards and regulation. (If I see one more under qualified life-coach on Twitter..."). This trend will also mean a growth in informal non-classroom learning (facilitated by e-learning used appropriately).

Knowledge management training

Organisations are realising that much learning happens "off-line" in informal settings. Also that organisations know "more than they know" to steal a phrase. As a trainer I find the classroom as a group will often know more about a subject combined than myself as an "expert" individual (my role then becomes bringing out and managing that knowledge).

Perhaps more fundamentally we increasingly live in a "knowledge economy" where the ability to retain and grow knowledge in any organisation is paramount. With these things in mind I predict that training relating to knowledge management will continue to grow.

Slow training emerges

Over the years there has been an ever increasing pressure to do training in less and less time. I'm told that Ashridge for example in the 1930s had a standard 13 week leadership course (where now five days would be standard), similarly my half-day courses are very popular and bite-size lunch-time learning has become a trend. I think there will be a kick-back against this as people realise that real learning takes time. The "slow" movement will emerge as it has in food, parenting and travel.

Decline of business training institutions

I don't think many large training institutions will survive the next ten years - they are too unwieldy for the rapid pace of change. The CIPD may become defunct, many MBAs irrelevant and the large aristocratic British business training residencies may suffer. In many cases I hope not, but this is my prediction.

Further information
For further information you can visit Mark's business training website and training blog