This chapter will help you
► identify directions for the training field
► recognize the foundations of training and development
► identify training topics for the future
► understand the steps for entry into training and development
No other aspect of communication has a greater potential than training and development. The future for training is bright, not only because of the demand for people who have training skills, but because training offers a combination of research and teaching skills in an ever-changing environment.
As we suggested, there is a greater need now for trainers than ever before. This is primarily due to three major changes in the way society functions. First, society itself is undergoing very rapid change in the ways we accomplish things; the ways we now process ideas; and the ways we conduct ourselves in our jobs. This rapidly changing society demands that we constantly upgrade our skills so that we can adjust to the needs of our jobs and our environments. For example, many of you, just like the authors, have had to go from typewriter to computer in order to do what we now label word processing.
The second major reason the future looks so bright is that we have reached what many of the futurists call the information age. As a result, we process information rather than material kinds of things on some form of an assembly line. We will talk more about this a little later in the chapter, but we would like to give you an overview now.
The third reason is that corporations are increasingly interested in continuous, “just-in-time” learning. They want more immediate problem-solving experiences in “real-time”– that is, more help solving the actual problems they face. A skilled trainer/facilitator will continue to be in demand.
Certainly, we are not writing the book to speculate on the future of training and development, but would like to look at essentially four areas to help you prepare yourself for what tomorrow has in store. First, we will look at the underlying foundations of the training field as we move toward the year 2000. Next, we will prognosticate a little bit and look at the topics and processes for training that we think trainers will be involved with for the rest of this century and into the twenty-first century. Finally, we will consider the ways you can get into training should that not be what you are now doing.
In case you haven’t noticed, society has changed to the point where we have more people now employed in service industries than we do in manufacturing and related fields. Certainly, training is a service, even though it is conducted on a very professional level. People are moving to service-related jobs because production has been mechanized to the point that assembly-line skills and other basic jobs are no longer necessary. Witness the demise of industries like the copper industry, as an example.
What does that mean for us? As more people move into service-based industries, the more they are going to need what we would call people skills. Service is essentially offering something to another individual. Therefore, when we offer household cleaning or maid service, we are attempting to communicate our ability and credibility to the person who might hire us. Therefore. service industries are very people oriented. With this people orientation those who go into the service industry must recognize that the skills they need are very much oriented to selling and motivating people.
As trainers we have the opportunity to develop these skills in people who go into the wide variety of service industries. We are convinced that training has a lot to offer such people, particularly in the field of communication. What better skill to develop in a service-type employee than the ability to communicate and to sell the services that he or she has to offer? That’s our job as trainers and something we can look forward to as we move into the twenty first century.
What caused this movement to service-related training was a mass shift in the development of manufacturing and assembly-related skills. Through the 1940s and 1950s, most training centered on the development of the mechanical skills necessary for assembly line work. With the shift to less manufacturing and assembly work due to automation, industries no longer need a trainer who can provide this very technical expertise. As we suggested earlier, the trainer of today is one who can help people relate to other people as they provide the services or the management skills for the very few who might still be in some kind of manufacturing role.
A second major foundation in the future of training and development is emerging from what we would call a communication/transportation society, rather than the industrial society of the past. This is not a new concept: other futurists have written about it for many years. In essence, these writers are suggesting (as we are) that society is at a point where it relies less on transportation and more on communication. From our discussion in the chapter on computers. you should already be aware of the amount of communication that takes place between individuals via the computer network. With the telephone video, and the computer, we will rely less on transportation in order to get messages around. We now communicate with our colleagues around the world via electronic mail. We type a message to a friend in Berlin and get a reply via computer almost immediately.
A greater emphasis on communication will create a demand for trainers who can provide the skills necessary to communicate effectively. As we suggested in the chapter on computers, any understanding of communication must be assisted by knowledge of the microcomputer. We believe these two skills go hand in hand. Communication is the outcome, the computer provides the means for that communication to occur. You will still need to understand and to train in interpersonal communication skills, but you may be operating with a personal computer rather than in a face-to-face setting.
A third major foundation for the future, again, has been hinted at throughout this book. As Toffler and others like Naisbitt have suggested, we are in an information age. We are being bombarded by information and must learn how to cope with the volume of material we receive in both written and oral form. As a trainer in the field of communication, this development can only be exciting, and serve as a challenge as one develops the necessary skills. As organizations become increasingly demanding about just-in-time learning, they need trainers who can help them improve the process of learning, as well as the learning of specific topics.
As early as 1983, Williams and Dordick posited five changes that would affect us in this information age. First, Communication, as we suggested earlier, is becoming a substitute for expensive transportation. Look at the success of the Internet. Second, information increasingly is becoming a commodity in our post-industrial economies. Third, network information services are bringing everything from banking to shoe shopping into the home. Fourth, electronic leisure is one of the fast-growing components of our society – including television, pay TV, discs, video games, home computers and so on. Finally, the most exciting uses of technology for educational purposes are occurring more rapidly in business than in our public schools or universities. As a trainer you may find state-of-the-art facilities in which to work with your trainees. Keep in mind that to be effective, you must keep up with the latest changes in this information age.
If it is industry and business that will make the true advances in education and training, the impact in these areas will be felt in the home as more and more households have their own personal computers, as well as video recording and playback equipment. You only have to go to the local video store to see the number of self-help tapes, CDs, and training programs that are already provided. These training programs go beyond simple golf lessons and aerobics. You can go to the computer store and see the same development in discs and CD-ROMs.
All of these issues we have talked about so far provide the foundation for a very exciting future for the individual in training and development. Regardless of the state of the economy, there will be a need for people who can train other people to communicate and to survive in an information-based society. The person who is knowledgeable about people skills and who has the ability to apply those people skills to technology will certainly have the edge in the years to come. With this foundation, you should then prepare yourself to develop skills in certain topic areas.
In the next section of this chapter, we will discuss some of the key areas, particularly in communication, we feel have a potential for significant training and development programs. As we said in the beginning of the chapter, it is difficult to speculate on what will happen one year into the future, let alone five years. We think that our prognosis is good, since it is based on our study of the training and development field, as well as on an examination of what other futurists have had to say. As far as topics are concerned, we see seven key areas in the field of communication that we think trainer should focus on in the short and long term.
First and foremost, the trainer should develop skills to assist trainees in enhancing their abilities to cope with change. Trainers should be asking questions like “How do we communicate change?” “How do we adapt to change using communication as the underlying process?” These questions are among the most important ones that trainees will have to face in the years to come. We know how our knowledge base has rapidly increased in geometric proportions; that will only continue. If knowledge has doubled in the past few years, just think of how much faster that knowledge base will double in the next few years.
A second area of communication important for future trainers is listening skills: those that make us both critical listeners and empathic listeners. It is not our intent to go into a full discussion of these topics, as you can do additional reading should they pique your interest. Listening is emerging as a critical topic in business and in the short term this should grow even more rapidly. In the long term, we will see listening being integrated much more with the other half of the communication process, namely that of communicating.
The third area of focus for trainers is public speaking. Perhaps no other skill has been demonstrated to separate the true leaders from followers as has public speaking. We will continue to need an emphasis on public speaking as part of an effective training program. Certainly, as a part of this emphasis, we will need to develop videotape feedback as part of the training process.
The fourth communication skill needed for training is the ability to facilitate groups, as well as to develop good group communication skills. We are seeing the need to develop individuals who can help groups solve problems and negotiate. The kind of training we are talking about here is not necessarily that of developing group leaders, but preparing individuals to go into a group they may not be a part of, and facilitate or negotiate that group toward the resolution of problems and/or conflict. It is these facilitation and negotiation skills that are becoming more important.
As a corollary of the facilitator and negotiator skills, trainers need to develop within trainees the ability to use the group process for problem solving. In the past, we may have encouraged the use of traditional problem-solving methods, however, such procedures as brainstorming and nominal group technique are just as important.
Next, as a logical adjunct to the development of group process, we are seeing a continued interest in the area of conflict and conflict resolution. This is certainly a skill that communication trainers can provide, even to the point of training in the area of negotiation. Business is finding a great need for people with negotiation skills to facilitate contracts and business’s relationship with public and other civic-minded groups. For example, industries increasingly find it necessary to negotiate with environmental groups over issues of plant operation and pollution. As trainers, we can train people in the art and science of conflict negotiation and resolution.
As interpersonal communication comes to the forefront, one particular area we had hoped would dissipate has only increased. That area is one that we’re seeing a great deal of press about: stress and stress management. While this may be viewed as a topic for someone whose interest is psychology or psychiatry, communication plays a very big role in stress management and reduction. As trainers, we should offer our skills in interpersonal communication toward the resolution of stress that might be brought about not only by the work environment but also by a trainee’s interpersonal relationships with others. This can be a big source of stress and one that communication can certainly help resolve.
Last, and certainly not least, we are seeing a resurgence in the understanding of ethics, particularly as it applies to business. While we are not in the business of teaching ethics per se, communication trainers can certainly offer training in how to communicate about ethics. This topic is beginning to come back into vogue in business. We can offer our facilitation skills to help business, industry, and government resolve some of the significant issues in the fields of situational and related forms of ethics. This topic, as can be seen in recent business publications, will only continue to grow in importance.
These are the key areas we feel will continue to develop and emerge as communication-based topics for training in the decades to come. We would add one area which combines all of the above topics under one label – customer service.
We believe that the information age combined with the increased emphasis on service industries will demand that employees learn how to deal with customers, consumers, and the receivers of products. It will require a trainer who is skilled in the above communication topics and also knows about technology.
Having discussed the skills that effective trainers will need to possess, we now want to look at how our training roles will develop as we try to train those around us.
If the media and the computer become the basis for information exchange, the role of the trainer will change drastically in the future. Where training in the past may simply have involved the processing of information, the trainer of the future will have to play a far more dynamic role. Two computers can exchange information, but it is the human and computer in the exchange process that will require the ability of the trainer. Trainers will take on the very important role of interpreter and maybe even that of mediator to ensure that the parties to the communication via the computer understand their complex roles as they interact. It will be the trainer’s task to make sure that we understand and are understood in our communication with others. Technology can aid in the transmission of this information, but training will be needed to explicate the nuances of the meanings to the messages. Thus, even if technology grows rapidly, we will still need the trainer as a facilitator between the person and the machine.
We fully expect, then, computer assisted instruction in educational technology to be a central force in the training process. We will see computers used not only alone, but also with videotape as a means of providing training on a wide variety of topics, including communication.
Another area where processing communication is concerned is that of teleconferencing. A good trainer is going to have to know how to reach groups in a wide variety of settings, since we have already suggested that communication will take the place of transportation. For example, one state bar association provides continuing education training for its attorneys through teleconferencing, rather than putting on a conference in a major city and expecting all of the attorneys to show up at that site. Thus, a speaker can be training live in one facility and via teleconferencing network can be sent to fifteen or twenty other locations throughout the state at much less expense than bringing all the attorneys into one environment. Multinational and national companies will see this as a way of providing training for a large number of employees at a much-reduced cost. Your role as trainer will be to facilitate such teleconferencing training efforts.
Last, there will continue to be a need for what we have called the stand-up trainer. Not every organization will be able to afford television, computers, or teleconferencing, but they will be able to afford an individual who will provide the training. This role will continue, but for you truly to get ahead in the training field, you’re going to have to know how to adapt to all of the other processes or training that we have described.
As we said earlier in this chapter, self-help audiotapes and videotapes and computer variations of discs and CDs are on the increase. As a means of providing training, this process will only continue to grow. Our goal as trainers will be to provide viable learning experiences by such self-help tapes, either through the companies we work for or through some sort of free-lance effort. This is big business and should be part of our training repertoire.
Most of the processes we have talked about in this chapter relate to your role as a trainer working for some organization, rather than working on your own. We would suggest that you read the appendix to this book if you are approaching the field from a self-employed point of view. If you are thinking of being a full-time, free-lance trainer, there are many other issues that you will have to face in addition to the topics and the processes that we have described.
Needless to say, whether you are approaching training from within an organization or as a free-lance consultant, you will have to know how to market and advertise your training programs. We say marketing and advertising from within and outside the organization because we believe that the trainer must take an active role in developing a market for training programs. We are suggesting that the effective trainer of tomorrow is one who is proactive rather than reactive. You should not sit back in your training department and wait for some manager or CEO to come to you and say, “We’ve got a problem, we need training in participative management.” The viable training organization is the one that is constantly out talking with employees and with managers to find out what the needs are and what should be made available in the area of training. This is true for the in-house trainer as well as the free-lance consultant. It is the proactive trainer who will make a mark and have a future in the training field.
The last topic we would like to consider in terms of your training future is how one can get into the field of training. Essentially, there are four ways that most trainers get into the field. We would like to look briefly at each one of these.
First, there are educational programs that are designed for someone who wants to go into the training and development field. These will vary from one or two courses on the topic to entire degree-related programs combining marketing, advertising, communication, small business practices, and other related skills. We would encourage you to look at various degree catalogs to find out what programs are available to pursue academic credentials in the training field. Moreover, many universities are designed to accommodate the schedules of working adults.
As a corollary, there are a number of professional organizations that offer workshops that vary from one day to three weeks on how to be a consultant. It is not our intent to evaluate these programs, but to suggest that they, too, offer an option for someone who wants to get some kind of educational background in the field of training and development, but who does not have the time to pursue a four-year degree program at a college or university.
Second, if you are already employed in an organization, you can attempt to transfer to the training department, if one exists in your company. If such a department does not exist, you can, as a number of our students have done, offer to work in the training area until a department has been developed with the hope that the student might then become the training and development person. It is not always easy to transfer into the training department unless you have taken the time to develop your educational background through a degree program or through the seminar approach to build your credentials in the training area.
An alternative way to build your credentials for a possible transfer within the organization is to volunteer to do training programs for your company. By demonstrating that you have the skill and that what you have to offer is valuable, you may be able to persuade management that you belong within the training area. One of our former students reported that she constantly volunteered to conduct training in addition to performing her entry-level job. After a year of successful training experiences using this volunteer approach, she was transferred to the training department. Had she not volunteered, she would still be at the entry level. You cannot always wait for opportunities; you must make them.
The third way you can break into training is simply to strike out on your own. If you read the appendix carefully, you will see that we do not suggest this alternative unless you have built up a good cash reserve and are prepared for a bleak period until you develop your clientele. To strike out on your own, you also need credibility, experience, and expertise in a topic area that is viable in the training field. If you have these, as well as some good marketing skills, there might be an opportunity for you to go out on your own and be successful.
The fourth and final suggestion for breaking into the training field is through an internship program. You can go to a university or college and check with the appropriate department to see if they have a formal internship program. If they do, you can sign up for that program and receive credit. Essentially, what you are doing is working for an organization much like an apprentice did in years past, without pay in most cases, but with the opportunity to gain credit and experience.
This may not be an alternative if you are already employed on a full-time basis, and therefore cannot quit your job in order to do an internship. What we would suggest here is that if you are really interested in breaking into training, you ought to volunteer to do an internship, either with your organization or with an organization that you would ultimately like to be a part of. This may mean evenings, weekends, or adjusting your work schedule in order to accommodate an internship.
Our experience over the past eight years in running internship programs convinces us that whether it is paid or unpaid, whether you receive academic credit or not, the internship proves to be one of the most valuable experiences one can gain in any field, and we would say in training specifically. You have an opportunity to learn on the job without risk of making a shift until you are truly convinced that’s the area you would like to be in. An internship or on-the-job experience will prove invaluable; we cannot impress upon you enough the importance of an internship or apprenticeship. If you look at the want ads, you will recognize, as we have, that most training positions want candidates who have had experience. If you are just out of school or just switched careers, you may be long on desire, skills, and motivation, but short on experience. An internship in whatever form can give you valuable experience.
In this chapter we have discussed the foundations for training and development in the decades ahead. We believe there are several key issues to keep in mind such as a service-based society, less emphasis on manufacturing, and more emphasis on communication and information. With that basis, the need for trainers will grow rather than diminish. We have also looked at what we consider to be the viable content areas for training in the decades ahead and the processes by which we will train in the future. Finally, we have offered four suggestions as to how you can break into the training field, recognizing as you do now that it’s an exciting, rewarding field to be in. You need to build the training program and your role in it by getting actively involved as a volunteer or intern. You have to build your credibility as a trainer.