Are you In Love with Virtual Training and Technology?


When Everyone is “In Love” with a Technology

The Association for Talent Development has been in business since the early 1940s and they are a prestigious organization that encourages employee development. The group recently concluded a market research study showing that in the COVID lockdown period, “98 percent of organizations used virtual classrooms to deliver at least some training to their employees,” and in fact that that “virtual classroom training comprised at least half of formal learning hours delivered at 65 percent of organizations.”

It is no wonder that nearly 90 percent of all organizations that will require training will spend at least as much, if not more on virtual training over the coming year. But will it continue to work?

Aren’t We In-Love?

We will conclude their findings with a single and telling quote, “Talent development leaders must be committed to maximizing virtual classroom training and the budgets that support it.” The quotes are ours, and at Virtual Training Associates (VTA), we well understand about such commitment however we fear that all of the spending in the world won’t work unless several important factors are in place.

It is no secret that COVID caused the virtual shift to elevate video conferencing and online training. It was all about encouraging the engagement of work groups and engaging those work groups in numerous workplace situations from technology and software training to safety to issues such as sexual harassment avoidance and ethical behavior.

While the love-fest in regard to virtual training was the 2020 “coin of the realm,” or the gold standard, if we drill down from the organization to the employees, the picture changes. There was a great deal of dissatisfaction with some virtual trainers, the lack of engagement and the overall quality of the production.

The numbers bear out the disappointment. Whether we are discussing workplace safety training, the cases of fraud, student engagement or sexual harassment, virtual training did little to stem the rising tide of unacceptable workplace behaviors.

We may be in love with the technology, but if the instruction falters and the lessons are not learned, little is gained.

What Happened?

At VTA we have carefully studied the reasons for virtual training failure. There are several factors that are important to re-state:

  • Untrained trainers – if the lack of experience or engagement is apparent in the in-person sessions, it is doubly so in the virtual.
  • Lack of engagement – if students are not engaged, they won’t learn. This is an instructor failure, not the student.
  • Lack of work group discussion – Work groups must absorb and reinforce lessons and if they are unable to do that the lessons are easily disregarded.
  • Lack of management buy-in – if important training is taking place, everyone in the organization must embrace it.
  • Poor technology – Virtual training demands quality delivery of material.
  • Lack of follow-up – “One and done” does not work. Reinforcement is essential.
  • Hybrid is best – Humans are social creatures. We do not concur that 90 percent of organizations will be exclusively virtual in 2021 and beyond. We project many organizations will begin to reallocate funds for in-person follow-up.

Students (and I again use the term in its broadest application) must buy into whatever is being taught. There is widespread self-deception when management is in love with a technology because it is “simple,” or “hands-off,” or even “more cost efficient.”

VTA is aware of the advantages of virtual training, but also of its pitfalls. Organizations unable to see or strike a balance cannot succeed in employee buy-in.



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