Professional development trends Featured

7:00pm EDT November 24, 2006

The online intersection of training and technology has forever changed the world of professional development in all business sectors. How will it change your life? According to Anne Hach, executive director for professional training at Tri-C’s Corporate College, professional development training — whether online or instructor-led — can make the difference between success and failure for workers, employers and entrepreneurs.

Smart Business asked Hach to comment on new educational techniques that can propel a professional’s career to new heights.

Why is professional development more important now than in the past?

More than ever, workers are asked to do more in an ever-changing and highly complicated workplace. And the bottom line in today’s economy is that people with more skills — more portable and universally accepted skills — are more employable.

Additionally, professional development is imperative regardless of your profession. For example, keeping current as new versions of computer programs and updated tools are introduced, as well as becoming more efficient at the basics, have come to be expected by most employers.

What are current trends in professional development?

Soft-skill training is highly in demand. For one thing, it is easy to apply across business sectors. It’s also easy to do. Some of the simplest things can have the highest impact. One soft-skills training track that is gaining a lot of attention is multigenerational management — that is, teaching 50-year-olds how to manage 25-year-olds, and vice versa. Classes offer solutions to bridging the generation gap to succeed in business.

How is the Internet driving the training industry today?

Every day, more people and organizations are using the Internet for training. One advantage is that online training is self-paced, convenient and private. A major benefit is that training can be completed from anywhere a student has a computer and an Internet connection. Tri-C offers approximately 1,000 online training courses, and enrollment is increasing exponentially with each school semester.

But not everyone is a believer. An entire class of people still prefers an instructor-led environment. For most topics taught online, there is also an instructor-led version. And perhaps the most interesting thing is that the division between online learning fans and traditional classroom advocates doesn’t have anything to do with age. We find that learning styles — not age — drives the need for both delivery methods.

How can students and employers gauge the success of training?

A clear trend in professional development today is the focus on specific, tangible results of training. Learning outcomes are as important as content. People need to acquire skills that they can transfer to their workplace immediately. Progressive schools go beyond just learning information to give students the opportunity to practice their skills so that when they take those skills with them into the workplace, they can hit the ground running. We encourage people to discuss actual situations that they face at work so that we are dealing in real-world problems, not abstract case studies.

In addition to training benefits that both employers and employees reap, employees feel valued when given the opportunity to participate in training and improve their skills. After training, many participants leave with the feeling that, ‘My employer values me.’

What are some new developments around the clustering of skills?

Across the industry, we are increasing the number of certificate programs we offer because research shows that taking a series of courses around a subject can increase knowledge, skills and abilities at a much higher level than simply taking one class. One of our target tracks is geared toward administrative professionals.

Now, instead of learning to type faster, participants are learning how to improve their writing skills while typing faster. This clustering of skills also makes sense for sales professionals where training includes classes in presentations, communication and negotiation.

ANNE HACH is the executive director for professional training at Tri-C’s Corporate College. For further information on Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College, phone (866) 806-2677 or visit www.corporatecollege.com. Reach Hach at (216) 987-2962 or anne.hach@tri-c.edu.