The Future of Training and Development

By Noe, R.A.

Edited by Paul Ducham


A recent study found that the competencies and expertise included in the ASTD competency model are likely to be needed in the future. However, increased emphasis will also be placed on the ability of trainers to more effectively use technology. Also, as companies become more global, they will need to adapt training methods and content to local cultures.Table 13.3 shows the skills that trainers will need to develop in the future.

Table 13.3


Benchmarking is the practice of finding examples of excellent products, services, or systems (i.e., best practices). Benchmarking is an important component of a company’s quality strategy. Benchmarking training practices are useful for several reasons. By looking at how excellent companies conduct training, a company can identify how its training practices compare to the best practices. Benchmarking also helps a company learn from others. A company can see what types of training practices work and how they were successfully implemented. Use of this information can increase the chances that new training practices will be accepted and effective. Learning what other successful companies are doing can help managers create a case for changing current training and development practices in the company (i.e., overcoming resistance to change). Benchmarking can also be used to help establish a training strategy and set priorities for training practices.

Benchmarking was developed by Xerox Corporation in order to compete with the low prices of plain paper copiers made in Japan. Xerox’s benchmarking process features the 10 steps shown in Table 13.5. Besides collecting its own benchmarking information, a company may want to subscribe to a service that collects data regarding human resource practices from several companies. For example, the American Society for Training and Development sponsors a benchmarking forum. The 40 companies that belong to the forum are generally large companies such as Xerox. They report information regarding training expenditures, structure of training programs, training design, and delivery practices. This information is shared among forum members; a report summarizing the results is sold to other interested parties. Some estimate that as many as 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies use benchmarking on a regular basis.

Trainers need to take several factors into account when benchmarking. Trainers must gather information about internal processes to serve as a comparison for best practices. It is important to clearly identify the purpose of benchmarking and the practice to be benchmarked.

Upper-level management needs to be committed to the project. Both quantitative (numbers) and qualitative data should be collected. Descriptions of programs and how they operate are as valuable as knowing how best practices contributed to the bottom line. Trainers must be careful to gather data from companies both within and outside their industry. Benchmarking may actually limit a company’s performance if the goal is only to learn and copy what other companies have done and not consider how to improve on the process. Trainers should be careful not to view human resource practices in isolation from each other. For example, examining training practices also requires consideration of the company’s staffing strategy (use of internal labor market versus the external labor market to fill positions). Benchmarking will not provide a “right” answer. The information collected needs to be considered in terms of the context of the companies. Finally, benchmarking is one part of an improvement process. As a result, use of the information gathered from benchmarking needs to be considered in the broader framework of organization change.

Table 13.5


Trainers need to understand their current training practices and processes and evaluate them to determine what should be changed. Reengineering is a complete review of critical processes and the redesign of those processes to make them more efficient and able to deliver higher quality. Reengineering is critical to ensuring that the benefits of new training and development programs will be realized. Reengineering is especially important when trainers attempt to deliver training using new technology. Reengineering is also important when training departments try to streamline administrative processes and improve the services they offer to their “customers.” This streamlining can apply to course enrollment processes, processes related to issuing tuition reimbursement, and processes related to employees reviewing their training records. Applying new technology (e.g., Interactive Voice Technology) to a course enrollment process burdened with too many steps will not result in improvements in efficiency or effectiveness. What it will result in is increased product or service costs related to the introduction of the new technology.

Reengineering can be used to review the training department functions and processes or it can be used to review a specific training program or development program practice such as a career management system. The reengineering process involves the four steps shown in Figure 13.3: Identify the process to be reengineered, understand the process, redesign the process, and implement the new process.

Identify the Process

Managers and trainers who control the process or are responsible for functions within the process (“process owners”) should be identified and asked to participate on the reengineering team. Team members should include employees involved in the process (to provide expertise) and outside the process, as well as internal or external customers who see the outcome of the process.

Understand the Process

Several factors need to be considered when evaluating a process:

  • Can tasks (e.g., course enrollment and pretraining assessment) be combined?
  • Can employees be given more autonomy? Can the process be streamlined by building control and decision making into it?
  • Are all the steps in the process necessary?
  • Are data redundancy or unnecessary checks and controls built into the process?
  • How many special cases and exceptions have to be dealt with?
  • Are the steps in the process arranged in their natural order?
  • What is the desired outcome? Are all the tasks necessary? What is the value of the process?

A number of techniques are used to understand processes. Data-flow diagrams show the flow of data between departments. For example, to investigate why tuition reimbursement checks take too long to reach employees, trainers may want to investigate the relationship between the training department (where tuition reimbursement is approved) and accounting (where checks are issued). Data-entity relationship diagrams show the types of data used within a business function and the relationship among the different types of data. These diagrams would be especially useful for investigating, for example, the time and people within the training department involved in filling employees’ requests for their training records. In scenario analysis, simulations of real-world issues are presented to data end users. The end users are asked to indicate how a new technology could help address their particular situations and what data should be maintained to deal with those situations. Surveys and focus groups collect information about the data collected, used, and stored in a functional area as well as information about time and data processing requirements. Users may be asked to evaluate the importance, frequency, and criticality of automating specific tasks within a functional area. (For example, how critical is it to have an employee tracking system that maintains data on employees’ fluency in foreign languages?) Cost-benefit analyses compare the costs of completing tasks with and without an automated system or software application. For example, the analysis should include (1) the costs in terms of people, time, materials, and dollars, (2) the anticipated costs of software and hardware, and (3) labor, time, and material expenses.

Redesign the Process

The team develops models, tests them, chooses a prototype, and determines how to integrate the prototype into the organization.

Implement the Process

The company tries out the process by testing it in a limited, controlled setting before expanding it companywide.

Figure 13.3


Change management is the process of ensuring that new interventions such as training practices are accepted and used by employees and managers. Four issues need to be addressed to facilitate the change management process shown in Table 13.4. These issues include overcoming resistance to change, managing the transition to the new practice, shaping political dynamics, and using training to make change stick.

Overcoming Resistance to Change

Resistance to change can be overcome by involving the affected people in planning the change and rewarding them for desired behavior. It is also critical for managers to divide the implementation of the new practice into steps that are understandable and that employees believe they can accomplish. Employees need to understand how new training practices help them meet their needs. These needs may include better-quality training, faster access to descriptions of training programs, a link between training and compensation, and more meaningful training or access to training programs from their personal computers.

For example, 20 different departments within the Pepsi Bottling Group’s shared services division had been accustomed to operating independently. They performed the same functions at different Pepsi Groups, but they each had their own practices and procedures for getting work done. A small team of employees tried to create one set of shared practices and procedures, but the departments did not accept them. The next step to persuade the departments to accept the change was to involve as many employees as possible. This larger group of employees came up with a common set of procedures and documented them online. Similarly, Detroit Edison used involvement of as many employees as possible to help determine ways to cut costs. One-third of the entire organization participated in the process. The changes were accepted by employees, and Detroit Edison saved millions of dollars.

Managing the Transition

Tactics for managing the transition include communicating a clear picture of the future and creating organizational arrangements for the transition (e.g., contact person, help line). It might be good to allow an old practice and a new practice to exist simultaneously (run parallel) so that employees can see the benefits and advantages of the new practice. Then, any problems that are identified can be worked out. This parallel process is commonly done when new technology is introduced in companies.

Shaping Political Dynamics

Managers need to seek the support of key power groups including formal and informal leaders. For example, successful diversity efforts are characterized by active involvement and endorsement by top managers. Not only do top managers talk about the need to manage diversity, but they also get actively involved through mentoring programs, setting up formal committees and positions to promote diversity, and rewarding managers for their diversity efforts.

Managers of support functions such as human resources that are not directly involved in the design, manufacturing, or delivery of a product or service to the marketplace can shape political dynamics by becoming business partners. The steps to becoming a business partner relate to the discussion of Strategic Training. First, the trainer identifies and understands the business problems that the manager is facing. Second, the trainer explains to the manager how training can help solve the problem. Third, the trainer works with the manager to develop the best training solution that meets the manager’s needs. The manager should be treated as a customer. Finally, the trainer measures how training has helped overcome or solve the business problem.

Table 13.6 shows several misconceptions that some managers hold about training. These misconceptions are likely due to a lack of understanding of the function and value of the training department. To counter these misconceptions and gain political alliances with managers in the business functions, trainers need to take several actions. Trainers need to ensure that the training department adds value to the business, builds relationships with functional business managers, and establishes credibility in the company. This reassurance is accomplished through helping functional managers deal with training-related problems, evaluating the effectiveness of training practices, and providing excellent service to the functional managers (e.g., providing information and finishing projects in a timely manner, committing only to projects that can be realistically delivered).

Using Training to Make Change Stick

Because many practices involve changes not only in the way the service or process is going to be provided, but also in employees’ and managers’ roles, training is critical. Managers and employees need to be trained to deal with new systems whether they involve job redesign (e.g., teams), performance management (e.g., use of 360-degree feedback systems), selection systems (e.g., a structured interview), or new technology (e.g., a new computer-based manufacturing system).

For example, these principles helped with the introduction of a computerized flexible manufacturing system at a manufacturer of diesel engines. The computers were to be used to provide instructions for customized orders and to give the order center updates on production status. The production workers were reluctant to use the computers. Their objections included that they did not know how to type and that their jobs made their hands too greasy. To ensure that the production workers would use the new system, the company took several steps. First, an electronic performance support system was placed in the cafeteria to answer employees’ questions about the system. Second, the company asked workers for suggestions as they tested prototypes of the system. Third, the touch screen system was modified so that employees could use foot controls, thus alleviating concerns about greasy hands when typing. Twenty months after the process for introducing the new manufacturing system began, the system was in place.

Training plays an important role in ensuring that changes that result from a merger or acquisition are successful. Consider the role of training at PNC Financial Services Group and Wachovia Bank, two companies that have needed to successfully manage change in order to grow through mergers and acquisitions. In 2007, PNC Financial announced its acquisition of Sterling Financial Corporation. Just over one year later, Sterling’s offices reopened as PNC retail locations. To facilitate the successful acquisition and integration, current PNC employees were sent to Sterling’s work locations to serve as mentors for new employees and to help them learn PNC’s systems, policies, and procedures. Each of Sterling’s more than 1,000 employees received training from PNC. The training included a mix of classroom, online, and on-the-job experiences. At Wachovia Bank, which has completed more than 100 mergers in less than 20 years, an enterprise merger training team is formed soon after a merger is announced. The team uses the ADDIE model (analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation) to analyze the other bank and determine what training is needed. Much of the training focuses on the acquired company’s culture. Wachovia designs training to embrace the company’s culture and help employees understand and accept the new Wachovia culture. Typically, on the first day of training, the first several hours focus on culture and change and the values of Wachovia. Each newly merged employee is given a booklet that includes an overview of Wachovia’s products, how its organizational structure works, its diversity mission, its focus on volunteerism, and its core values. Trainers are prepared to answer questions on a wide range of human resource issues, from number of vacation days to type of health benefits. At Wachovia, training doesn’t necessarily lead change management but it supports it. At the end of every merger, a “training cookbook” is created which documents all of the processes, roles, and responsibilities needed to help make the merger successful from a training perspective.


Besides training, there are several interventions that companies have used successfully to bring about change. These include survey feedback, process consultation, and group interventions.

Survey Feedback

Survey feedback refers to the process of collecting information about employees’attitudes and perceptions using a survey, summarizing the results, and providing employees with feedback to stimulate discussion, identify problems, and plan actions to solve problems. Surveys can be administered via the Web. The goal of survey feedback is to identify issues, solve problems, and improve relationships among work group members through discussion of shared problems.

Process Consultation

In process consultation, a consultant works with managers or other employees to help them understand and take action to improve specific events that occur at work. Process consultation may involve analysis of relationships between employees, the work flow, how decisions are made, communication patterns, or other behaviors. The consultant helps employees diagnose what processes need to be improved.

Group Interventions

Large group interventions involve employees from different parts of the organization. They may also involve customers and other important stakeholders from outside the company. The interventions bring together the participants in an off-site setting to discuss problems and opportunities or to plan change. For example, the Work Out program within General Electric (GE) includes six steps:

1. A process or problem for discussion is chosen.

2. A cross-functional team, including customers and others outside GE (e.g., suppliers), is selected.

3. A “champion” is assigned to follow through on recommendations made by the team.

4. Team meetings generate recommendations to improve processes or solve problems.

5. Top managers meet with the teams to review recommendations and evaluate them.

6. Additional meetings are held to pursue the recommendations.

The program grew out of former CEO Jack Welch’s desire to motivate the more than 300,000 employees at GE. Welch believed that employees have to be involved in creating change for it to occur.

Large group interventions seek to bring about radical change in the entire company by involving the entire company system (managers, employees, customers) in the change effort. Intergroup activities occur on a much smaller scale. Intergroup activities attempt to improve relationships among different teams, departments, or groups. These interventions have been used for labor-management conflicts, to smooth mergers and acquisitions, and to alleviate differences between staff and line functions. One intergroup activity has the involved groups meet separately and list the beliefs they have about themselves and the other group. The groups discuss their similarities and differences and how misperceptions have developed. The groups then discuss possible solutions to their conflict and misperceptions. Seagate, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of computer hard drives, flew 200 employees to New Zealand for its sixth annual Eco Seagate, a week of team building that concludes with an all-day race in which employees have to hike, bike, swim, and rappel down a cliff. The event is designed to break down barriers, increase confidence, and make employees better team members. Seagate wants a culture that is open and honest and that encourages employees to work together. Each morning, one of Seagate’s top executives gives a presentation on the characteristics of a strong team. In the afternoon, employees divide into “tribes” and go out for physical training in one of the race events. The week concludes with the teams competing in such events as kayaking, mountain biking, swimming, and hiking.