The MIT Sloan Management Review is curating a great set of thought pieces on the "future of workplace learning," which I encourage you to read (I particularly liked Lynda Gratton's post):
But as much as I enjoyed these articles, I was a bit discouraged by the fact that none of them tackled what is THE biggest lever for improving training quality and quantity: building a workplace where learning opportunities are encouraged and made available to everyone.
This claim shouldn't be particularly controversial. A company in which frontline people operate with significant discretion has every incentive to make sure all employees have the skills to make good business decisions, spot opportunities, and manage interpersonal dynamics. This is true at progressive workplaces like Nucor Steel, Southwest Airlines, Handelsbanken, and others.
And the data bears this out. Have a look at how much more formal training happens at companies where frontline people can exercise initiative and discretion.
You can bet that the delta for on-the-job training is just as high, if not higher (at Nucor, for instance, employees who want to double down on new skill development are encouraged to cross-train on their days off, and get paid to do so)
Some of you might have noticed that the chart above is from the last large-scale government survey on training done in the US...back in 1995! (don't get me started). But have a look at this 2016 chart, courtesy of some clever OECD economists and based on large-scale, cross-country employee surveys gauging the use of different skills at work.
The chart clearly shows that the presence of "High Performance Work Practices"-like having discretion on which tasks are pursued and how they are organized, information sharing, and peer-to-peer coordination-is the biggest factor in determining the use of skills like numeracy and problem-solving. Work organization is more important than occupation, firm size, industry, and even the skill proficiency of the individual (the only exception to this is IT skills, for which occupation is a more important driver; but even there, work practices are a close second).
I think this is a highly underrated factor in the current debate about workplace training, which is almost entirely about the supply side (giving people specific training), and not so much on the demand side (creating environments that enable those skills to be exercised and further developed).
Bottom line: if you want to update workplace learning for the 21st century, you need to update your organization as well. Without that, you'll be stuck in the AFTP- Another "Fine" Training Program-mode. As usual.