American dreams?

US training trends are usually expected to migrate to the UK.  DeeDee Doke asks training experts on both
sides of the pond to assess their likely impact this year

At the beginning of 2003, the economic and political challenges facing US
business are becoming training issues in corporate classrooms, as business and
training themselves adapt to the uncertainties of a volatile world.

From security awareness to human performance analysis, US business is
looking to training to help it adapt to manifestations of the new world order
such as terrorism, corporate ethics and values lapses, productivity stagnation
and globalisation. Or, prevent such challenges from taking big bites out of the
bottom line.

"It is a time of dramatic change," says Pat Galagan, managing
director of content at the American Society of Training and Development, in
Alexandria, Virginia. "It is also a time of great promise. New doors are

One example is e-learning, which in the US as elsewhere, infused the
training industry with a new breed of IT-literate trainers with different
skillsets than most veteran trainers.

Trainers are also being required to have greater business acumen than ever
before to guide their audiences through the ever-increasing complexities
involving a company’s strategy. This equates to more training for the trainers,
along with companies’ chief learning officers, on a variety of fronts.
"Companies are becoming more global, everything is being done faster. New
skills are not just business skills, but emotional skills, teamwork, and global
awareness," Galagan says.

Performance gaps

One area of increasing training focus in the US is human performance
analysis – a 30-year-old movement that Galagan says is now gathering speed.

A performance consultant will examine all aspects of a workplace situation
to determine where a performance gap is occurring, what the cause is and how to
fix it. "What’s new is analysing the situation instead of defaulting to a
training course. It is very results-orientated," Galagan says.

UK training consultant Andrew Forrest wishes such a system was taking hold
here. "I think it ought to be a trend," he says. "A lot of money
is thrown at organisational training, and I think evaluation is an absolutely
key point. I’d like to see organisations taking evaluation more

Even ‘world-class’ organisations are far behind the power curve in
appropriately assessing the type of training they actually need because they
don’t necessarily understand what knowledge gaps exist, he says.

Forrest believes that knowledge management expertise within the UK generally
remains at "a very, very basic stage". He says: "There’s a long
way to go to identify good processes in one part of the organisation and for it
to make its way to the other parts."

Greater rewards and recognition must be put in place to underscore training
in this field, Forrest says.

In terms of business training content, look no further than the news
headlines of the past 12 to 18 months to get an idea of two of today’s key
training content trends in the US.

Let an issue become a cause celebre in the US, and a training course on how
to – or how not to – choose the same path is sure to follow. Consider the 1974
Watergate scandal, for instance. It first forced then-President Nixon to
resign, and then changed the course of US journalism training to develop and
instil new investigative skills in the nation’s reporters and editors.

This tradition of seeking solutions to crises and preventing mistakes that
led to earlier crises is now being played out in US businesses’ training
centres as the events of 11 September and the Enron and WorldCom scandals force
business to reconsider security practices and procedures, and ethical codes and

"Since 9/11, there’s been a lot of interest in security training,"
says Galagan. "The creation of the Homeland Security department will
further drive up interest." Companies that feel vulnerable to terrorist attack,
such as transport firms, airlines and energy providers, are among the most
likely to seek out such training, although the post-9/11 anthrax attacks and
the Washington DC sniper incidents are prompting a broad variety of business
interests to become more security knowledgeable as well.

Similarly, fallout from a lack of concrete ethics frameworks within US
business – unlike the UK’s corporate governance model – has fuelled interest in
ethics and values training, particularly within leadership development
programmes and MBA offerings.

And to tie up all of those pressing business issues into one
strategy-conscious package, a training method of helping companies visualise
their past, present and future is picking up steam among US-based companies
such as Charles Schwab, IBM and National Semiconductor.

San Francisco’s Changeworks Global guides senior teams to, literally, see
‘the big picture’. A strategic illustrator works with participants to develop a
visual representation of what a company wants to accomplish. "We help
organisations set out their change road map," says trainer Cynthia Scott.
"We show the big picture in a way they can understand."


Comments are closed.