Trends for employee training are changing at a remarkable pace. In fact over the next five years, I predict a significantly large number of employers will place content on mediums such as YouTube for employees to access on an as needed basis for training. Imagine the benefits of this train-on-demand approach being not much different from what most of us already do most weekends or with projects around the home. We have already been conditioned to use YouTube when working on a motorcycle, refinishing a cabinet, or making many other small repairs. In the workplace, employees will access this training content as they need it on the job.
Resistance to change is significant. Most companies are currently fighting personal mobile devices in the workplace and on the factory floor as employees BYOD (bring their own device). Baby Boomers (and even some Generation Xers) see the phone or tablet as a disruption of productivity and even a safety hazard. Some are so blinded by the paradigms of the past that they cannot see the tremendous benefit these devices can provide. This lack of vision will not be shared by the Millennials as they take over supervision and management responsibilities in the very near future. They will determine that mobile devices, production, and safety can all co-exist in the workplace.
Another paradigm to overcome is our territorial attitude toward information. Today’s proprietary superstitions (of which many are exaggerated by our legal entities) are somewhat myopic and arrogant. So much of what we protect as proprietary information is in reality common knowledge. This attitude is most likely based on our own ignorance of what our competitors are doing and likewise. We spend millions of dollars copywriting and trademarking what everyone else already knows or in the future will share. While the attorneys are making money, organizations are building fences to protect themselves from an enemy that does not really exist. In some cases these protections are indeed necessary; however they are much rarer than most people realize.
In the workplace of the near future, companies will invest millions of dollars to place training content (knowledge) on platforms like YouTube for employees to access on demand. Employees will be encouraged to utilize their own devices (smartphone or tablet) to access this content when they need it and as they need it. Imagine a fifteen minute video being consumed bite by bite as a worker on a factory floor solves a problem independently while they work. Imagine a curious new hire surfing videos at home about his new job. Training is going to become more fluid as access to content is made available to everyone. As a first step and until current information phobias subside, we will likely see companies utilizing an “intranet” type platform for making this information available. The problem with this solution is convenience and access. Millennials are already conditioned to use YouTube and will not desire to negotiate the security required to keep this information protected. In other words, the more difficult organizations make this information is to access, the fewer number of employees will actually use it.
Twitter (or something similar like Snapchat or Instagram) will be used somewhat differently by the workforce of the future. YouTube training content for training will “pulled” by users as they need it. Twitter content on the other hand will be “pushed” toward users. Cutting edge organizations will push bite-sized content (140 characters or less) that employees find valuable or necessary for success on the job. The idea is that an information hungry generation of workers will consume this information and learning or information transfer will take place.
The challenge will be to make the information attractive to your employees in the hopes that they will choose to follow the organization. If they find the information distasteful, they will not choose to consume it. Packaging and appearance of the information will require considerable effort and companies will likely employ specialists to make the information attractive to consumers. We might even see titles like “Content Information Specialists” working all day to push content for organizational initiatives like safety, quality, customer service, morale, retention, etc.
In the meantime, I see organizations using content champions to push information. Individual specialists will push content using Twitter. The safety manager will push a dozen tweets a day with helpful safety tips and reminders. Employees in offices and on the factory floor will consume these tweets on their own devices and safety awareness will be enhanced on the job.
While something new may eventually come along and become the next “big thing” for the attention of today’s information-hungry generation, I see both YouTube and Twitter as the medium of choice for the near future. Failing to utilize these opportunities in the workplace only pushes the best and brightest of this generation away from your organization and toward those organizations that are willing to embrace technology. This technology and its utilization will dramatically decrease the cost of training and far surpass the dinosaurs of today. If your organization still utilizes the “numerous videos and paper signature dumps – that nobody remembers” for new employee orientation, you are becoming extinct by the hour.
John Grubbs is rapidly becoming one of world's foremost experts on generational change in the workplace. His ability to deliver relevant, high-quality information in a fun and entertaining way has earned him many keynote speaking opportunities with national associations and Fortune 50 companies.
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