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.