The first point to note is that unlike most other areas of science and technology, research in training methods and approaches does not drive practice. Why not? Research in training has built a substantial body of theory but training practitioners are not reading what academics publish. Practitioners are focused on lightweight ‘how to’ material. Given that research leads to progress this seems to pose a real threat to the future of training and development.
Secondly, academics suggest that training professionals are under-qualified. In most other areas of science and technology there is a structure which ‘naturally’ accepts diffusion of new ideas. In engineering, academics pass knowledge to engineers. Engineers structure the world for technicians and technicians manage fitters. Knowledge diffuses from research to application. Fitters talk a different language to academics and no diffusion would occur unless other levels translate it. Is one threat to training and development perhaps to do with a poor diffusion structure?
No Off-the-Shelf Here!
And finally some academics point to the dangers of defining training and development too narrowly saying “trainers offering off-the-shelf-courses is not what a modern organisation needs”. This suggests that in the future training must offer true intervention with training and change management almost becoming synonymous. Trainers should behave as consultants engaging in high-end strategies such as mental model development and virtual reality. If trainers are indeed under-qualified with poor diffusion structure in the discipline, this suggests that training will not meet organisation expectations in the future.
Ultimately, firms are faced with a “make or buy decision”. This idea of make-or-buy comes from economics. The Coase Theorem says that firms will develop their staff only if they can achieve the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed cheaper than making staff redundant and recruiting new. If training does not become better regarded, firms will be faced with Hobson’s choice and treat staff as a variable cost, changing out rather than up-skilling.