What’s in a name? Unfortunately, quite a lot, if you’re the HR department, or so says Shaun Bailey.

A much-welcome cultural shift in the working world today is that businesses are slowly ceasing to refer to people as resources. In the corporate sphere, this practice was particularly rife across the 20th century. Despite their important role, our HR departments are emblems of a time when people weren’t people; at least not to their employers. They were capital assets, capabilities, skillsets built around specific projects.

Many corporations are making a concerted effort to turn things around, such as by installing new leadership roles like Chief Talent Officer, making the recruitment process more personable, and reassessing legacy structures. If people are less pigeonholed, a more human culture will surely ensue.

It is a very good thing that businesses are changing how they talk about the people who work for them. For any business, no matter their size, people are irreplaceable. Even at a time when automation and artificial intelligence (AI) dominate headlines, throwing question marks over jobs in every sector, businesses will still need people. According to Gartner, AI will eliminate 1.2 million jobs by 2020, but it will create 2.3 million of them in the same timeframe. People will still be important, even if we don’t know what they will be doing yet.

I’m glad we are seeing the back of certain corporate vernacular. It is a sign of businesses evolving with the times. But while they are more confidently talking the talk, they aren’t yet walking the walk to fully humanise the experience that people have at work. And a lot of it boils down to training.

The problem with training

Hiring the right talent in the first place is one of the biggest challenges facing business leaders today, particularly as businesses become increasingly digitised and their functions, diversified. But perhaps more importantly, they need to create a culture that treats their employees as people at all times, and encourages them to grow and excel, within and outside of their day-to-day role.

Training has never been more vital than in the digital world; yet there is a gap between the way people want to learn and how it is approached at work. Yes, training has graduated from the traditional classroom format. Most businesses seem to understand e-learning and its benefits as a modern method. However, all-too-often it simply involves sitting in front of a computer for up to hours at a time, answering some questions and hopefully claiming a digital certificate at the end.

Why are people forced to endure such a boring routine when digital technology could allow e-learning to better represent how people are interacting with each other and discovering in their lives outside work? People’s lives are busier and their attention spans are shorter. They’re increasingly confident with cutting-edge technology like augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR). Certainly, training has become digitised, but the experience people are having is far from dynamic.

The impact on businesses is that people will draw negative messages from poor training experiences. Whatever the reality, a bad digital experience will make employees feel like their organisation does not understand where technology is headed. It will seem like top-quality training isn’t a priority. Worse still, people might feel like their employer doesn’t take their development seriously.

Next-generation training solutions

To get with the programme, training needs to reflect not just the real world as it is now, but where it is headed.

For instance, Gartner found that the average mobile user will own more than three personal devices by 2018. Cisco predicts that by 2019, video will be responsible for 80% of Internet traffic in the world. Deloitte estimates that millennials (the first digital natives) will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025.

Training needs to exist where users are. It should be mobile, using social and app-based learning, alongside tapping into trends for video and gamification. Some training brands are starting to set the standard. offers video-based training in business, software, technology and creative skills, giving users access to thousands of courses via different personal devices. The Open University uses animation and storytelling to help students learn about forensic evidence, workplace accidents and sentencing through the UK criminal justice system. Micro-learning is another way to improve online training. Just like brands use micro-targeting to better communicate with consumers, training programmes can leverage people’s data and demographics to identify very specific needs.

Great training also needs to track, measure and reward, just like the kind of apps that succeed in people’s personal lives. In this sense, training needs to be viewed from a behavioural learning perspective, ensuring platforms are tailoring, tracking, flexing and adapting based on interactions and how well people are doing. Only then will it maintain relevance and attention, and deliver the right level and speed of learning.

Training starts within

When businesses think about any kind of user experience, it can be broken down into three key components: data, technology and creativity. Technology is the enabler, allowing businesses to achieve more and to a higher standard. Data is its lifeblood, allowing the experience to be tailored to individual people’s needs; while creativity is about the aesthetic and the content that people engage with. Workplace training should be no different.

This is where businesses can really take ownership of training, designing their own unique approach that fits with their company ethos and brand. The good news is, it doesn’t all need to be outsourced. In fact, external services should be blended with permanent internal training programmes. After all, the skills and intelligences lies within. While it is easy to push training and learning outside the business, if business leaders are really dedicated to creating an inclusive culture and a “way of doing things”, then they need to listen to their team and diversify central thinking. At Jacob Bailey Group, we are about to launch lunchtime discussions sessions to support our Intelligent Approaches programme, which helps our team create brilliant experiences for our clients. We also have our Brilliant Experiences Board, which involves a wider array of people in board-level decision making.

These initiatives are all designed to help our people grow with our agency, and they are underpinned by frequent surveys to identify where we need to improve. We are focused on formal training, too; working towards our status as a Qualified Agency (recognising the importance of our industry and the skills required to succeed within it to the benefit of our clients). But it is about striking a balance.

Businesses are certainly starting to rethink how they talk about people, but the proof is in the pudding. People only need to look at the approach to training to understand top-level thinking in any organisation. By focusing on dynamic, personalised experiences that put the user – and therefore people – first, businesses are demonstrating that they are investing in their futures.

Shaun Bailey, founder and CEO, Jacob Bailey Group