8 Future Trends in Training and Development

By | June 6, 2023

Inch by inch the water level rises and there’s nothing you can do about it except try and use sand bags or other devices to protect your belongings. The river always wins.

Inch by inch the water level rises; it’s slow, continuous and unstoppable.

It’s a bit like the future of corporate training and development. The internet has enveloped many industries already and will, inch by inch, take over the remainder. Just observe the music industry, the world of movies, estate agency, electrical gadgets and books.

The internet has only lightly touched training and development so far. If you think it’s cloaked it, you’re wrong.

But inch by inch it will begin to envelop it over the next few years. Allow me to explore the changes that we can see ahead and how these will affect training and development professionals.

Apply it, don’t teach

The internet contains everything you ever need to do anything. How to unblock a drain, understanding the negative correlation in investment portfolios and ideas for Christmas presents for someone who has it all.

Mobile internet has only exacerbated this. We can now look up how to trim a rose bush whilst waiting for the number 91 bus. Mobile internet will dominate as we browse our tablets and smartphones and with 4G coming along with lightning fast download speed, this trend will accelerate.

So if we have every piece of information on our phones, why don’t we just use this exclusively? Because there is just too much, cluttered with advertising, spam websites, erroneous information, dated data. It’s like drowning.

Look carefully though and you can see the internet de-cluttering information and making it easy for us to consume, sometimes for free, but increasingly being charged for. Take the BBC and the Open University. Collaborating to show excellent information, knowledge and techniques from two trustworthy brands – for free.

Or Wikipedia, or YouTube – the greatest depository of techniques, strategies and how to on earth

Our role as training and development professionals is to utilise the internet but focus our attentions on applying the knowledge, using it, making it fit. It’s the application of techniques and knowledge which is the key not regurgitation of knowledge that someone can quite easily look up for themselves. They’ll pay us for being able to apply it, not look it up.

This weekend my 17 year old son came home from school moaning that he didn’t understand the negative externality of demand and supply. Nor did I, until we played a YouTube video together and I was able to help Lewis apply this theory and give him some examples to bring it to life. My role as a trainer was to find the information and apply it to the question or challenge.

That’s how we’ll work alongside the internet. Work with it not against it.

Training simulators

Continuing this theme of applying knowledge and techniques, we need to mature our use of training simulators. Pilots, train drivers, air traffic controllers use them to hone their skills before practicing further on expensive airplanes or trains, so should we.

If you previously had the word “skills” on your course programmes – e.g. listening skills, sales skills or meeting skills then you can only advertise these if you have some sort of training simulation dominating the course programme. You see, to gain a skill in something, you have to learn the techniques and then apply them to your world. For example, learning meeting skills can’t be done in a classroom setting in the traditional sense. Learning with PowerPoint how to chair a meeting or the 5 principles of running a group discussion.

You can get this from the internet; YouTube will have hundreds of videos on these topics. Instead we need to help our people develop these techniques into skills and the only way to do this, is to help them apply to their world. In other words how to run a group discussion with the quietest, demotivated team in the building who have been sent to a meeting to be creative and inspiring. It has to be the real world – all hairy and warts – to become a skill.

Our role is to set up this simulation in the first instance and apply the techniques to become a skill.

Many of us do this in a classroom already with role play or role play on steroids using actors playing the parts of real people. That’s a simulator. Or better still, a web based simulation package. Or even better than that, as a trainer we should evolve into coaches and go with our learner to their workplace and observe and coach them whilst they’re running the meeting.

All trainers should be excellent coaches and have the credibility and substance to be able to relate to the real world. To be experts at applying knowledge and techniques. No longer can training departments be filled with career trainers who haven’t experienced the real world but experienced, credible individuals steeped in the ability to apply.


Gamification – taken from the burgeoning gaming market.

I was reading the Economist this week and they stated that the gaming industry is now worth $67 billion rivalling the movie industry. Games offer excitement, entertainment, challenge and the ability to win and it’s this Gamification that will affect training enormously in the next few years.

In their new book “For the Win“, Werbach and Hunter argued that future communications can be enhanced by gamifying their style. Gamification has now entered the management buzzword directory.

Games have distinct ingredients and so must our trainings and coachings.

I talk about WIPEing the message.

  • W is for win, can the activity that you create to communicate allow them to win something?
  • I is for instant feedback, how can the group players get instant feedback?
  • P is for points or badges to signify progress and success and
  • E is for excitement, which tells its own story

So trainers, sales managers with a message, will want to gamify their offering, particularly with online training.

Low attention spans

I believe we’ve always tried to squeeze a round peg into a square hole when we run our long two or three day programmes. I don’t believe people have an attention span big enough and they never have. But with the advent of always on internet and information at your finger-tips, this attention span has shrunk even further.

Now there is no average attention span of an adult, it really depends on them, the subject, state of mind, the weather etc.

But what is clear is that we can’t deliver traditional training in outdated ways. It needs to be short and sharp and delivered in bite sized portions if we want to maintain attention.

I’m not referring to the method of training delivery I’m focusing purely on the timing. We can deliver bite sized face to face, on the job, online via Smartphones.

Web delivery

The internet will encase training and development by making it the place to deliver our training. We’ve all experienced static webinars, these are improving. The future will be on demand learning via the internet. People will pay for on demand learning if it saves them time searching the internet.

Web delivery in the future will mirror what we are capable of doing face to face. That’s when video will take over. If we’re presenting, then stand, don’t crouch in your seat in front of a webcam. Imitate what you currently do but deliver through the internet. Get used to presenting in front of a camera imagining your audience behind the lens.

One client I work with has invested in web delivery for the future. They’ve converted two rooms into video rooms, kitted them out with the latest video and sound equipment. Their trainers pitch up and deliver their training in the room to an audience on the internet not in front of them. Yes, they have a long way to go, since the trainers are pretty much mirroring how they would normally train just in front of a camera. They are adapting to involve the audience more, talking with them rather than at them, running group exercises and letting the audience do the talking too.

It will come with time.

Applying the learning can be achieved using web delivery. Discussion forums work very well and in the future we’ll all be using video based discussion forums where best practice is shared and ideas debated.

Webinars are common; they allow giving of information generally. Yes, you can put your hands up and ask questions but they’re mostly clunky and technology dependent. Try running a Google + Hangout immediately afterwards so a few people can discuss how to use the ideas whilst looking each other straight in the eye. That’s the capability of the internet that we’ll be using more in the future.

The real future lies in something rather different though, more on that later. Just imagine Star Treks’ Holodeck.

A tailored suit

The price of clothing and particularly suits has plummeted so much that you can buy a suit from the supermarket for £20. Admittedly it’s not the best cut in the world – you get what you pay for. It does make the cost of a tailored suit somewhat cheaper though – £200 to £300 is not uncommon, a figure you would pay for a decent suit a few years’ ago.

A good tailor can reduce your waste-line by at least 2 inches and make you look a stone lighter. And sliding into a tailored fitted suit is luxury.

In the same way, all training in the future should be tailored. Off the shelf type learning events just don’t cut it anymore. You can get the same outcome from the internet.

Tailored or bespoked training takes more time to develop but can focus exclusively on applying the learning. You can involve other methods such as web delivery to supplement if you wish, you can use real examples, actors to bring the application to life, put the learning in the workplace. You can do all sorts of things to ensure it makes a difference.

The future of bespoked training again is the application of the learning using simulators. But off-the-shelf courses will disappear.

In company, on the job

Released from the shackles of off the shelf learning programmes or standardised eLearning packages, you can focus your trainings on the job, in the office, on the factory floor. The future will require corporate trainers to own strong shoes, as they wander and labour alongside the workforce. Armed with their tablet devices able to access information from the internet, videos on demand, these highly trained coaches will help people apply the learning’s and techniques.

They’ll deliver short, sharp sessions, where needed and when required. In fact, the manager of the future will be doing more of this, and we’ve been preaching this for ages.


With the demise of off the shelf programmes, stagnant eLearning packages, generalised training, trainers will become more specialised and expert at what they do.

Future trainers will be experts in their field, people will demand this. They will be expert not only at their subjects and skills but in being able to distil the internet and apply the learnings to people’s jobs. People will pay for expertise in the future not generalists. The internet will become next years’ generalist.

Trainers will be able to apply real world insights and wisdom, be an asset to complement the internet not try to imitate it.

That’s the future of training and development.

The last word – the real future

First came MPG 1 which compressed audio files, followed by MP2 and then the ubiquitous MP3 that now dominates our music players. Swiftly followed by MP4 which has done the same to video clips. The next step will be compressed holographic files which can send your hologram through the internet to meet with someone else’s hologram in a virtual meeting room.

That’s maybe 5 years’ away, maybe longer to bring the cost down, but that’s when the floodwaters will reach their peak and training and development will be completely cloaked by the internet. Just wait and see.