How E-Learning and online training promotes corporate dehumanization

Usually the backstory begins by highlighting the year to establish some relationship and add context, but let’s not start off by aging ourselves, plus I’m sure someone reading this is having a similar experience right this second.

I was still really early in my technology career, a young software engineer, who after only a couple years had assumed the senior role leading a development team. How exciting it was to be only halfway through my twenties spending 12 hours a day sitting in a cubicle staring at my computer and maneuvering through lines of code.  It was a beautiful sight to behold and it repeated from cubicle to cubicle, can you imagine? Like any room filled with developers, it was a kaleidoscope of social butterflies. Ok enough with the sarcasm.

Only 25 and going through a midlife crisis, complete with a few uninvited grey hairs that showed up unexpectedly to celebrate the milestone. I seriously contemplated giving up technology in its entirety and go on a sabbatical, a journey to find new inspiration. I had become a tool, I lost contact with the things that made me human, my personality, my charisma, my charm… but beyond all that I lost myself. Needless to say, I quit, not technology though, just that job in particular. I found something that gave me an opportunity to exercise more of my creative muscle and people skills. I went from being in a cubicle all day, to a stage all over the world. But that’s not what this story is about, I’ll save that for another time.

Corporations have long preached their advocacy of soft skills, so much so that it accounts for a significant part of their interview and employee onboarding process. It’s all about finding the right fit, you know, keeping the organizational culture alive. How nervous you were with anxiety filled clicks hoping your personality shines through that online assessment. Then, when you finally made it through those corporate doors and inside the building, you realized that the same skills they made sure you had they now make sure you lose.

Corporate life is a numbers game, it’s not about people it’s about profit. It’s about more time spent doing work and less time spent doing you. It’s never been about human interactions it’s about human overproduction. You yourself have bought into it as well, unknowingly maybe, but I read somewhere once that if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.  Which makes you just as guilty. I’ve seen your “I survived another meeting that should’ve been an email” mug you got from Etsy. You wasted your time interacting with people when you could’ve been at your desk, alone, working.  But shouldn’t employment also come with personal growth?

Even when we’re offered internal employee learning and development training it’s handed to us in a way that prevents human contact and also made to not take time away from us doing our job, it’s online, no specific time or location, you can do it whenever you’re free. Which more than likely is during off the clock hours, i.e. your personal time. Perfect!  You again sarcasm?

I’m sure you’ve at some point come across a statement similar to “Online training is one of the greatest paths to career advancement, increased sales, and enhanced productivity.” Even without sufficient proof, corporations believe in it, it speaks directly to their initiatives,statements like these have caused an overwhelming shift and belief in the idea that online training is the most effective form of employee and talent learning mechanism. Granted, if I ignore my bias, I can admit to at least one of the benefits being true. As with anything online, it’s available at your fingertips. But pardon me if I don’t jump at another opportunity to stare at my computer when given an opportunity to not have to stare at my computer.

Did we become automatons? Have we forgotten how to be humans? A research conducted by Matthew Lieberman at UCLA showed that being social and connections with others is a fundamental a human need as food, shelter and water. It was also discovered that we feel social pain, similar to the loss of a relationship, in the same area of the brain that we feel physical pain. So I’ll ask again, have our corporations transformed us into moving mechanical devices made in imitation of a human being? There’s nothing like a dictionary definition to help you better understand.

Recently I flew out to Silicon Valley for an onsite training workshop at the offices of one of your local tech giants. 50 of the brightest technical minds in a room, imagine the conversations, the innovation potential and the opportunity that our interactions would produce. But nope, we used this once in a lifetime moment to do exactly as the creative genius (damn you sarcasm) that organized it instructed us to do pull out our laptops and log into an online training portal. Being on our computers is where we’re most comfortable, so we happily obliged.

I remember sitting next to a colleague of mine that breezed through the E-Learning exercise. He and maybe a few other individuals in the room aced it.  How did I know? Well, when called upon to be recognized and subsequently speak to his in-depth knowledge of whatever the topic was and how easily he was able to grasp, he admitted to not even remembering much of the content details immediately after.  But he was forthright with his confession that he’s just really good at online test taking and test taking in general.

I mean if we’re honest it doesn’t take a lot to pass an online course, because the ultimate goal is neither to learn nor retain the content but just do as stated, pass. Don’t believe me ask any college student who miraculously completed a full semester of coursework work a week into the semester. Which brings be back to the workplace synonymous with cubicle living that champion these E-Learning courses complete with a quiz at the end. Because nothing says you’ve grasped the content of online training material more than a mandatory quiz where you have to score over 80% to get your completion certificate.

Hey person responsible for providing learning programs within the organization, I’ll let you in on a little secret, only a few employees actually find E-Learning to be anything more than a hinderance, especially the mandatory ones.  I can almost guarantee, somewhere along those cubicle aisles, the same ones that transport the inter office mail, travels the online course’s cheat sheet.  If nothing else, you’ll get the completions.

I get it though, it is a business and the employees are there to do a job, true. But those same employees are humans before they are what their job titles dictate. Our roles can sometimes transform us into automatons, which we are not, we are humans driven by feelings, inspiration and a sense of possibility. We want to learn, we want to make connections, we want to share our experiences to remind us how human we are and how we relate to other humans just like ourselves. Being human allows us to leverage as much of our 5 senses as we possibly can at any given moment. Even as a technologist myself, I understand that no simulated environment, experience or E Learning solution will ever be able to re-create with precision, that level of interaction or possibility.

That’s why Enoem, the creative conduit, is all about onsite and in person training. What makes the design and creativity workshops offered so revolutionary is that the avant-garde learning techniques are entirely human focused. They are interactive and engaging and requires those participating to reconnect with themselves and in doing so, help them to better connect with those they interact with. The Workshops are structured to start off with self-awareness as its focal point, then takes the participants on a journey that stimulates creativity, hones in on their design skills and ultimately demonstrates their ability to innovate.

Sir Ken Robinson said, "Creativity is the essence of humanity, it's not an incidental part of being human, it is distinctively human". Let’s get back to being humans again.

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