From traditional to online to VR: communication training changed a lot faster in this decade than in the dozens of years before. But will it still be important as chatbots take over our communication? We take a look at the rise, and potential fall, of communication training.
Communication skills, or soft skills, are very important in many jobs. These skills influence factors like customer experience, working atmosphere, sales results, employee satisfaction and sick leave in a big way. It’s simple: if you don’t communicate well, a lot will go wrong. However, this vision has not always been accepted. Through time, technical skills (‘craft’) and knowledge were always seen as important, and - for those who could afford it - also as developable. Communication skills were seen as less important and not developable.
The rise of communication
However, jobs change and with the societal and scientific developments of the 20th century soft skills started to rise. Communicating became part of more jobs and with effective communication people started to make a difference. Communication skills started to show up in vacancies and selection interviews. For specific jobs, industries, organizations and individual needs, a new phenomenon emerged: group-oriented communication training. While this highlighted the importance of soft skills, the training goals and measuring of results generally stayed ‘soft’. Furthermore, the training programs were more aimed at creating awareness and talking about communication instead of really practicing speaking and listening.
The communication training sector is young, it only started to develop after WWII, but for a long time not much changed in the industry. Traditionally, budgets are very sensitive to economic context. Because of this, there was little budget available for communication training in 2012, during the aftermath of the economic crisis. Training agencies started to search for alternative service provision, while at the same time, more became possible due to technical developments. This resulted in clients becoming somewhat confused: should we train more, or less? What is the new sustainable way?
What is clear, is that more and more people are moving away from traditional classroom training. Some companies don’t replace classroom training, others choose to deploy innovative companies. The thinning of the number of training agencies that started during the economic crisis, persisted in its aftermath. Nowadays, alternatives to classical training are often seen as the better fitting solution. In the last couple of years training has become more personal, while skill measurement and individual exercise became available.
Four big developments guide the current change in communication training, which mainly shows that communication training for big groups is becoming increasingly popular:
- Approachable supply of knowledge (in research and literature) of conversation models and techniques
- The percentage of jobs in which presence or absence of soft skills is crucial, is higher than ever before
- The economic crisis enlarged the critical note on ‘classical’ communication training
- Digitization makes a lot possible: more information, new learning methods, and last but not least emancipation, communication training becomes available to everyone with an internet connection.
Communication training will not disappear, but it will keep changing. In the future we see soft skills getting blended by (chat)bots that will standardize communication. As a result new forms of human interaction will emerge, partly influenced by data. In 20 years communication won’t be the same in any way as it is now.
Curious about communication training in the academic world? Download the Utrecht University case study!