Training is an important barometer of changes in work, including those that affect its structure. When the context of work changes significantly, organizations often alter their training to help people adjust. Information trends in training practices can shed light on the changing nature of work. Changes in the topics of training reflect a different competitive environment. For example, a comparison of the Training Magazine surveys in 1988 and 1997 shows increasing proportions of organizations offering courses in creativity, strategic planning, and managing change (Lakewood Research, 1988, 1997).
New technologies were the most significant issue affecting training practices, according to a Human Performance Practices survey conducted by the American Society for Training Developers (ASTD). A high proportion of firms responding to the survey offered courses in computers (91 percent), exceeded only by the proportion offering an orientation to the firm (93 percent) and management training (94 percent) (Bassi et al., 1997a). Among companies responding to a survey of workplace skill, 75 percent cited computerization as a factor contributing to needs for additional skills, and 67 percent cited greater teamwork and employee participation practices (Olsten Corporation, 1994). In a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (1996a), establishments reported that computer training consumed 20 percent of their training hours—more than were devoted to any other single subject.
The next most important issue affecting training practices among the Human Performance Practices respondents was restructured and redesigned jobs (Bassi et al., 1997). Most establishments provided related training, including technical (88 percent) and quality assurance (76 percent) courses. Among training respondents, the percentage offering technical training rose from 76 percent in 1988 to 91 percent in 1997. Fewer offered quality training—63 percent, up from 50 percent in 1991 (Lakewood Research, 1988, 1991, 1997).
The restructuring trends noted earlier are altering the content of training. The mode of lesson delivery is also changing. Instead of printed sheets handed out in a classroom, electronic delivery provides lessons at the time and place that the worker needs them, a feature that offers learners a significant advantage.