Training Trends for 2014: Considering the Costs

Part three of a series reviewing 2013 from a training perspective and the training trends we can expect to see in 2014. Check out other insightful perspectives here.

As in 2013, budget pressures continue to drive training innovation – forcing businesses to focus more strategically on results and outcomes that align with organizational objectives. Within this context, here are some key predictions for 2014:

Expansion of the Virtual Classroom
Virtual classroom training (VCT) is nothing new, but it’s becoming an increasingly important component of the cost/benefit equation. In addition to allowing learners to directly interface with the trainer and others on the course, VCT makes learning financially feasible for those who aren’t able to access programs in brick-and-mortar classrooms. This is not a trend that is exclusive to Europe; the push to reduce costs is being felt globally and VCT is a powerful tool to help drive costs down.

As this trend progresses the need for physical classrooms will shrink. This will impact facility management – an issue which is under-discussed in our industry. The need for large areas to conduct technical exercises, soft-skills role play and systems training are significant cost factors when considering overall training spend. Without careful consideration and long-term planning, today’s “wise investment” and “valuable asset” (i.e. branded training facilities) may come to be viewed as a liability three, five or 10 years from now.

Increased Customization
Off-the-shelf management training (think generic, Management 101-type material) has been very popular for years, but we’re starting to notice some pushback. Learners are finding that this generic guidance is not always enough. This year, we’ll see more learners seeking (and more trainers providing) customized management guidance. In many cases, this will increase the cost of training solutions, and users will need to prove a significant return on investment to convince purchasing groups of its value.

We still find simple off-the-shelf training is typically more practical in technical fields such as basic computer skills (although that’s not always the case, especially as you rise up the competence chain). Again, this isn’t a wholesale change, but a trend to watch.

Focus on Value
The purchasing process varies across industries, organizations, and departments within companies. But we’ve noticed that overall, more purchasing groups have come to view training as commodity, and they’re aggressively seeking the lowest possible price. This often puts them at odds with user groups, who are seeking outcomes over price. At the moment, purchasing groups seem to be winning this battle, but I believe this focus on the numbers alone (price per person, price per hour, etc.) will ultimately be detrimental to user groups and organizations as whole.

Training providers must react to meet the demand — emphasizing cost-effectiveness and the value of developing a true training partner for the long term.

And, it’s All about Cost
This year, the push to do more with less will drive training professionals and providers to produce creative solutions. We’ll see organizations continue to outsource training and consolidate sources. Yes, it’s all about lowering costs, but simply delivering the same courses at reduced cost is not a smart way forward. It’s about helping organizations reduce spending through innovative techniques and learning transformations. It’s our responsibility to ensure they’re making wise and sufficient training investments, spending limited funds in a way that truly moves their organizations forward.

What are your primary training objectives for 2014?