the missing half of training

The training industry is based on models that were developed for the military. The Systems Approach to Training includes the ADDIE [analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation] model, with variations used throughout industry. Robert Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction inform much of instructional design. Gagne’s early work was in military training. Other models were developed in the second half of the 20th century but they mostly remained in line with their military roots. One model for instructional design that I promote is Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping. It’s a welcome change, but is focused on individual training.

In the military there is much more training than individual, skill & knowledge-focused, course work. There is also ‘collective training’. Collective training is what military units do when they are not on operations. Collective training is run by operators, not trainers, and is informal, social, with an emphasis on simulation. Types of simulation can range from expensive highly technical combat mission flight simulators, to distributed war games, or command post exercises involving thousands of personnel.

The civilian training industry has missed half of the military training model

Training does not end for military personnel once they have finished their formal qualifications. Nor should it end for civilians, but it does — until the next course. As a result of this pervasive mindset, the scam of compliance training was developed. It is premised on the assumption that a formal course will change behaviour. As a result, workers are forced to take compliance training, so that in the event of a disaster, management can say that people were trained, and the organization has no further responsibility. The training industry is fully compliant in this charade.

Compliance training assumes that formal instruction is all that is needed. Such an assumption ignores or refutes the influence of job experience, or exposure to others, on human performance. From the perspective of the 70:20:10 principle this is incredulous.

In my last post on the uncertain future of training I said that promoting self-directed learning, supporting social learning, and removing barriers to learning should replace training course development and delivery. I noted that training as knowledge delivery is dead. When training is needed, such as learning how to do a procedural task, it can be automated through simulation. This is progressively getting cheaper to do. It’s about time. The training industry needs to focus on the other half of the military model, and the other 90% of the 70:20:10 heuristic. Fortunately, this is much easier to do today than before the internet.

The military has the luxury of training collectively when it is not on operations. One reason is that battle is chaotic and complex. A lot of practice, with difference scenarios and variables, is needed to prepare for these conditions. Most civilian organizations and pretty well all businesses do not have this luxury. They cannot go off on a simulated exercise for a week. Usually, qualified people are hired for a job and they start doing it as soon as possible. Some workplaces provide initial coaching and support but the general expectation is to be productive as soon as possible. Time is money.

When my wife worked as an RNA [Registered Nursing Assistant] she went back to school to become an RN [Registered Nurse]. On graduating she took on a position as an RN in the same facility where she had been an RNA. On her first day she arrived for the night shift, being expected to do her duties. But she had no experience with the many delegated medical acts for RN’s. Luckily she got a quick briefing from the departing RN, and then learned quickly over the next few months. This facility had 110 patients, staffed at night by two RN’s and two RNA’s. Duties were split 50/50. In the event of a problem, the facility administrators could say that their staff were qualified, washing their hands of any further responsibility. This is what happens when an entire field of practice accepts the compliance training fallacy.

Today, we have the technology, and hopefully the understanding, to address the compliance training fallacy. We can embed learning with work. Social technologies can provide up to date job aids, something my wife would have appreciated. Enterprise social networks can provide coaching and mentoring so that new staff arrive with a support network and they can continue to learn as they work. Digital media and powerful software can create simulations to prepare for different scenarios. What the military has traditionally had as collective training is now available to civilian organizations through digital networks.

If half of the military training model was good enough for decades, just imagine how much better 100% will be for organizational performance. We have the technology and the frameworks to address the 50% of training that has been ignored for almost a century. This could be a great opportunity for the entire training industry.

3 Responses to “the missing half of training”

  1. Roger Mundell

    I fully concur with the description of the problem, but the solutions sound a bit vague, and this article is targeting the wrong people. To accuse training departments of being complicit in the “compliance charade” overlooks the fact that most senior management and budgets are driven purely by that objective. I can count on two hands the number of major client companies who have been willing to invest in a broader framework of mentoring, social networking, self directed learning, and performance support to truly implement real learning and change. (I can count a few more that talk about it, but don’t really do it). In each case it has taken a strong visionary to champion those things internally, and to overcome resistance from IT, HR, accounting, other departments competing for budget, etc. Maybe the first step needs to be a concerted effort to tell the story at the boardroom level, and to highlight the success stories in publications and media that investors read!

    • Harold Jarche

      Yes, management has final responsibility, but training professionals happily go along with it. Witness the amount of compliance training developed by the profession, both inside organizations, and by courseware vendors. The training profession is compliant.


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