Let’s talk about training, baby

An American university professor, Cathy Davidson believes that 65% of children starting school these days will get a job that doesn’t exist today. That’s a lot of jobs.

Whether that’s completely accurate or not, there can be little doubt about her point. In a rapidly changing world, we spend large chunks of our time talking about how everything is changing, evolving, transforming and whatnot. In some cases, companies even adjust their realities and offerings to this. But interestingly, and disturbingly, this is not always the case with regards to people development and training.

Because this very much applies to the business world too. In this case, we’re obviously not looking at a time frame of about 18 years (including college and whatnot) but maybe one or two. In that case, let’s put the number at 4%. By which I mean: 4% of your current employees could within a few years have a job or at least role that doesn’t exist today! Could? Or should

The ramifications of thinking this way are rather large. Look at the current trainings taking place in your business. What are the contents? Who is running the training?

Odds are that many of them are aimed at improving skill sets at what is currently worked on. Basically your, “we’ve been doing this for a long time and here’s how it works” type trainings. But, to proverbially beat a well-worn horse, imagine around the turn of the century when all the horse-drawn carriage drivers were being trained to deal with ever faster horses (granted, employee benefits of this sort were probably few and far between, but you get the point). How was that going to make them prepared for the auto-mobiles which were making their

The reality is that most skills currently being taught in businesses is aimed at improving or maintaining what you were really good at yesterday. But, sadly, this also tends to make you really good at that tomorrow. It used to be said, “give a man a fish, or teach him how to fish” but what about when the fish run out? Nay, give a man a fish, or teach him about making or catching edible stuff in general (and what’s poisonous of course …).

Obviously, you can’t teach what doesn’t exist yet (the aforementioned horse-folks of course couldn’t talk about cars before they came) but your trainings should include elements of looking ahead, teaching how to improve and innovate rather than passively sit and accept. Imagine if, at the end of each held training, your contents and therefore your services became just a few percent better. That adds up pretty quickly.

And one day, suddenly, they will have moved so far that it’s a new role.

But, in closing, this is not to say that new = young. I see far too many cases of companies with traditional, offline presences and employees completely eschewing these for fancy UX sessions when designing their webshops. If someone has been selling your product, in close contact with your customers for any amount of time, the practical experiences they will have on this front will far outweigh any initial “standard” training that can be offered. Then once it’s up and running you can review, iterate and maybe even use that data to pass back to the offline channels and optimise them further through trainings.

But only if you train for tomorrow and not yesterday.