New research from the Pew Research Center finds that approximately one-third of business and technology leaders lack confidence in the educational and job training programs in the United States. Respondents to the Pew survey felt that business and technology firms will encounter serious problems finding workers with the necessary skill set and that this problem will persist for decades.
Some, such as Andrew Walls, managing vice president at Gartner (an IT consulting firm) have gone so far as to suggest that “barring a neuroscience advance that enables us to embed knowledge and skills directly into brain tissue and muscle formation, there will be no quantum leap in our ability to ‘up-skill’ people”.
Although I agree that current training practices are poor, I do not agree that we need neuroscience advances akin to implanting memory chips in people’s brains. The truth of the matter is that scientifically-validated best practices in training have already been identified. Importantly, these derive from, and are grounded in our understanding of the neuroscience of learning. The problem is that these best practices are not being used broadly in the current business landscape. All too often training involves shadowing a fellow employee or watching an instructional video, and a one-size-fits-all approach is the norm. Best practices suggest that training is best when the learner performs the task and receives corrective feedback, as opposed to simply observing the task being performed. In addition, there is strong evidence that personalized learning approaches lead to faster, more robust learning, and are more cost effective.
Businesses need to think long and hard about ways to protect themselves from harm (e.g., frivolous lawsuits from improper employee engagement and losing key personnel). By incorporating validated best practices not only will this serve as a protective function, but it will increase productivity enormously.