By Julie Ogilvie
With the recent announcement that Training magazine will cease publication after the March/April issue, I was reminded of a meeting I had about six years ago with its publisher (this was before Training was acquired by Nielsen). The topic of the meeting was advertising, but we quickly got into a discussion of the publication’s name.
The publisher felt that Training was a great name, and expressed annoyance with the more recent fascination with the word “learning.” “You don’t learn people, you train them,” he said in exasperation. He went on to say that their audience research showed conclusively that chief learning officers were scarcer than hen’s teeth. “The title doesn’t exist,” he fumed.
As a marketer, I could sympathize with his frustration. Sometimes a perfectly good product or publication name suddenly can seem dated or even take on a negative cast. That seems to be what has happened with the word “training.” The word has, for many people, become associated with a limited set of educational initiatives. It connotes one-way communication, and we tend to associate it with compliance or teaching a relatively simple process. It’s not to say that training is bad; it’s just that we now see it as a small part of what learning has to offer, not the totality.
The growth in the learning field in recent years has been around providing an ecosystem of learning resources that support today’s complex organizational requirements, in the flow of work and at the point of need. It’s likely to include e-learning, online learning courseware, digital books, virtual mentors or any other of a number of informal resources. It may be compelled by management or it may be a completely learner-driven experience.
In some cases the “trainers” are the learners themselves, especially with the emergence of social learning platforms such as inGenius. Obviously it also may include classroom events, but these are an ever decreasing part of the learning mix. For more background on the topic: you might consider reading Training and Development (T&D) Magazine’s in-depth article: “Disappearing Act: The Vanishing Corporate Classroom”.
Training departments are changing in many ways to reflect this new reality, and sometimes that involves a name change as well. For some this may precipitate a bit of an identity crisis, but I would submit that it is better to change the name of the department than to become irrelevant to the organization’s objectives. Training magazine was a great publication for many years, and I can’t help but wonder how much of a role the name played in its demise.