The Facilitator's Journey: The Evolution of Training Trends

The Facilitator’s Journey: The Evolution of Training Trends

I was assessing the training world this morning over coffee. Walk down memory lane with me for a moment, won’t you?

How training has changed! Ten to 20 years ago, offerings were limited. A handful of well-known companies promoted certain courses on communication, time management and leadership, and if those didn’t “fit the bill,” someone in Human Resources was tasked to create and take a group through a Microsoft PowerPoint® presentation.

Larger organizations began to hire training professionals as a subgroup in HR, and content got a little better. Executive retreats came into fashion and mentoring programs sprung up to handle the need for leadership development. “Adult learning” gained attention and a growing number of training companies promoted courses based on best-selling books as professional development solutions, almost exclusively for people leaders. Online courses populated the burgeoning internet, and subscriptions to libraries of just-in-time courses on a wide range of topics were sold, then housed, on new Learning Management Systems (LMSs).

In the last five to 10 years, organizations began to embrace talent and organizational development professionals who created strategic curricula and learning paths to support succession planning, readying mid-level and emerging leaders to step up as boomers began to retire. One-on-ones rose in importance and annual performance reviews shifted to more frequent, even quarterly reports, creating more digital paperwork for overworked managers in new monstrous Human Resource Information System (HRIS) platforms, I might add. Rating systems fell out of favor as HR taught us that every employee is valuable to the organization in their own way.

Today, learning and development is a booming business replete with invaluable content designers, talent consultants, executive coaches, change management strategists, speakers and facilitators, all with essential topics in their catalog. Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) are replacing the LMS and limited, in-house libraries are being exchanged for fluid digital volumes. Teams and Zoom are the new Webex and Skype, and more platforms are vying for prominence every day.

Whew! As I near the bottom of my coffee cup, I wonder: Has this evolution brought us to a better place?

My mind leapt to say, “Yes!” This journey that started as a narrow dirt path through the woods evolved to a wider, rocky path, then to a paved two-lane road, into a four-lane highway and now holds the promise of a multilane, high-speed conduit across a truly global learning space:

  • We have unlimited resources and guided learning on limitless topics at our fingertips (24/7, 365) in a plethora of languages and reaching innumerable industries
  • In versatile digital platforms, content is refreshed weekly with relative ease
  • Learners of all sorts—visual, auditory or kinesthetic; color blind, visually impaired or hearing impaired; learning in a second language; neurodiverse; via virtual or in the classroom; polysynchronous or asynchronous—from all parts of the globe, can participate together in the same course in compliance with Web Accessibility Initiative standards (W3C: WCAG AA compliant)
  • Excellence at virtual instruction—design and delivery—has superseded the “ILT modifications” made rapidly by many to accommodate remote learning three years ago
  • In places where learning decreased to a trickle, it was missed, resulting in deeper appreciation, dedicated resources and executive-level support for much needed amelioration
  • New digital and digital blended platforms provide more choices than ever so we can learn whatever, wherever, whenever we want

What has not changed about training, however, is the inescapable need of it and the required consistency of it for best impact. Notably, a learning mindset is an essential value many organizations desire of employees at all levels:

  • Entry-level workers wrestle with learning but benefit from the trust, patience and relationship built with coaches and seasoned co-workers
  • Mid-level workers must upskill and reskill, as well as adopt effective leadership practices, as they assume greater responsibility in shifting change-charged environments
  • Upper-level leaders cannot rely on past experience as they once did since the speed and rate of change has left very few pages in the playbook they inherited from predecessors

This is never a “one and done,” but a continuous cycle of development that one must pursue today to be successful, let alone to stay ahead of the curve.

I am glad to have participated in and even contributed to the trailblazing of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s thus far. We’ve arrived at a spacious place ripe with opportunity and inclusivity that holds great promise for the learning of another generation.

Maybe they will take that multilane highway to the skies in Jetson fashion next?


  1. What do you do on a consistent basis to remain sharp and ready to perform at new levels and to rising expectations? What will you do in the year ahead to both challenge and equip yourself for greater things?
  2. Check out CLS’ new flagship program, Situational Leadership® Essentials! This is a cutting-edge course that checks all those boxes above to best meet every leader where they are to drive more effective leadership.