If you’re not providing training, your people are getting it from Google or You Tube or LinkedIn.
When my husband’s company held a 1920s-themed party, we dressed him like Jay Gatsby complete with bow tie. When we needed to learn to tie the bow tie, we went to You Tube. It’s how he’s learned to cook mussels at home, to change the refrigerator water filter, and to get stubborn stains out of favorite t-shirts. You Tube is not just cute bunnies and awards shows performances.
There is a strong learning environment on the internet: anything you need to learn how to do has been taught in some video somewhere. I show How to Change a Flat Tire in my process class. There are even videos on how to make how-to videos. Amateur trainers are all over the internet. It’s like the Wild Wild West out there for learning and development:
Zero regulations and crowd-control credibility.
There is no publishing industry gatekeeper preventing your neighbor from writing the how-to guide on bird watching, pool cleaning, or pressure washing. Most of these trainers lack credentials, some even lack the basic technology needed to put together an effective video, and even more have the technology but ramble, go off on tangents, or digress completely from the primary aim of the lesson. Experienced, efficient, and knowledgeable trainers are hard to find.
You Tube relies on user feedback to rank videos and the philosophy that the crowd will sort itself into good, better, and best, is somewhat effective. Most savvy internet users will look for highly-rated, shared, or viewed content and consider those to have more credibility. But, that ranking system is flawed, as we all know, and for more specific skills like training a hawk a video may not provide the safest or most effective way to proceed.
It is impossible to hire anyone who knows how to do everything and knowing they can simply Google “pivot table” and access a short video on how to manipulate Excel provides some comfort, but can you risk employees being trained in this manner? Quality and relevance aside, free online training and the use thereof presents a specific challenge to companies.
Your people are self-selecting what they learn.
Sure, they could Google “five best PowerPoint strategies” but they’re probably just going to click on “Make Your Presentation Awesome” wherever they see it. Unless it’s next to “Five things you missed in Wonder Woman” in which case, they’ll watch that instead.
When learners self-select content, they choose what they’re interested in before what they need. What they’re interested in may not be what your company needs them to know. And, chances are they are not mind readers, so they have no idea what you need them to know.
How can you direct them to the best possible learning? Here are three strategies:
Keep a list of Frequently Requested Content with links to the best online resources for training. Consider this an aggregated library of third-party resources. Review and refresh the library frequently so that your learners see something new every time they visit.
Host a Learning Channel on Slack or a Learning Forum on some other platform where learners can share resources and trainers, managers, and executives can vet content.
Encourage discussion and review of the content. Point out the strengths and weaknesses of each piece so learners are also learning how to evaluate content.
Share content regularly with a round-up of the forum posts or a newsletter with top-rated sites and reviews from your users. The more frequently you call attention to learning resources, the more those resources become part of your employees’ daily habits. When learners seek and experience content daily, they become more discerning consumers.
Yes, online content, if curated and vetted, can be a useful training source and provides the flexibility of individual learning sessions. However, if left alone to choose training without thoughtful leadership, be prepared for your employees to know everything about Angry Cat and nothing of what your stakeholders need.