By Michiel Klønhammer, Chief of Things at LearningStone
All over the world people are worrying about the impact that technology will have on employment and existing industries in general. Self-driving cars, robots taking over the production chain, machines taking over manual chores, e-commerce… need I go on? Within each sector, the training world included, technology is disrupting businesses and replacing the workforce at a breathtaking speed.
Innovation nearly always means automation and automation means job losses. I was shocked when my company once won a tender to build an internet application and within the year, 30 people lost their jobs because of the gains in efficiency. I found it difficult not to see myself as the perpetrator.
Of course, you could simply not innovate to stop something like this from happening. Actually, that strategy does work sometimes. My first eLearning concept was once turned down by a publishing company which was worried that eLearning would eat away at their print revenue. I remember being pretty disappointed at such short sightedness but they were right longer than I usually care to admit. This specific company sold hundreds of thousands of books since that time and kept a lot of printers, distributors and others in the print value chain employed. Who can blame them for postponing the introduction of eLearning in a market they dominated?
Get used to it and move on
So innovation and the introduction of technology just about always means eating someone's revenue. It hurts the most if you’re eating your own revenue. I was recently asked if introducing online tools like LearningStone in a training practice doesn’t simply mean you will be cannibalizing your own revenue. My answer is simple: yes, it is, get used to it and move on.
Blended or hybrid learning is here to stay and you might as well become good at it. You will indeed be cannibalizing your current business model but if done right, it will lead to new business and if you start now, you’ll come out stronger than before.
Why choose for a blended learning business?
So why choose for a training business based on blended learning anyway? My answer is a mixed bag of competitive advantages (your product is better and your cost is lower) and new ways of earning money.
1. Lower your cost and add value for you clients: introducing online components to training saves time after initial investments, lowers your cost and should lower the bill for your client. If your client doesn’t care about the price, you should be adding value in the form of better learning and/or easier access to the learning materials.
2. Provide online content: Blended learning means you need to add some form of online content to your bag of services. This could be as easy as curating existing content or you might need to develop your own. Contextualizing and timing delivery is at least as valuable as the content itself.
3. Add online services: If you’re traveling down the road of blended training, you’ll find that - just like ‘traditional training’ - it takes a lot of experience to do everything right. Your experience adds value, so charge for it!
Time to scale
Now comes the fun part. You might have realized it before, but face-to-face training is hard to scale. You need good trainers for every hour of learning provided and overhead costs like training spaces, training actors and travel costs don’t drop much when you provide more training (while large clients will often negotiate lower bills).
Online content and services scale much better! You can manage multiple learning environments at the same time, you can re-use content and in general the cost of online environments drop as you use them more.
So, blended trainers… you are indeed cannibals eating away at your own business, but you might as well be innovators too and provide better and cheaper services while you’re at it. The good thing is: you are humans too, and we need you. You might sell less face-to-face training but while an exciting new world filled with opportunities is emerging, I strongly believe humans will remain an important component in most learning. When the cannibals have finished their meal, a new generation of trainers will stand up and conquer the world.
Michiel Klønhammer is Chief of Things at LearningStone , an online platform for trainers and coaches used in 7 different countries. Michiel developed his first eLearning applications straight out of University and now has more than 25 years of experience with education and corporate (blended) training. More about LearningStone.