In the modern, dynamic world of work, the path to opportunity—for both the employee and the employer—is changing faster than ever before. The tightening labor markets, coupled with the short shelf life of skills, are bringing about a multitude of skills gaps while increasing employee turnover rates.
Consequently, on the one hand, organizations are frantically fighting to hold on to top talent and fill key positions. On the other hand, individuals have prioritized upskilling and reskilling to stay ahead of the curve and remain relevant in the era of automation.
In the midst of the volatile labor markets, learning has emerged as a potential remedy to the problems bedeviling many organizations. In fact, companies can keep 94% of their employees, if only they prioritized their career development (Linkedin Learning, 2018). This means offering learning and development opportunities can convince employees to stay longer in an organization.
But not every training cuts it. Organizations have to delicately balance emerging technologies, learner needs, and preferences, and new learning methodologies to deliver training that meets the needs of today’s multigenerational workforce. If not properly addressed, adverse workplace challenges may arise for both the organization and the employee (Caillier, 2016).
In this post, we’ll focus on trends that are currently changing the training industry. By keeping a pulse on these training industry trends, employers can adapt their learning and development strategies to achieve success in today’s and tomorrow’s labor market.
Technology has proven to be a powerful tool for shaping modern learning. It helps strengthen relationships between teachers and learners, transforms learning materials, redefine learning and assessment techniques, and most importantly, shrink the accessibility and equity gaps.
When thoughtfully applied, technology “enables learners to engage actively in the training process, to construct knowledge, to develop problem-solving skills, and to discover alternative solutions” (Özmen, 2008, as cited in Abdullah et al., 2016).
To accelerate, expand, and amplify the impact of technology on effective learning purposes, organizations should endeavor to remain on the heels of the latest technologies. This means they should train their sights on the following training industry trends, deploy assistive employee training technologies (Garg, 2019), and leverage them to adapt and enhance learning experiences.
Learning Experience Platforms
Josh Bersin, a renowned industry analyst, reckons that learning experience platforms (LXP) represent a new horizon for the world of corporate training. LXP has expanded into a $300 million market, and it is growing at a staggering annual rate of 50%+. It has even made massive inroads into the learning management system (LMS) market (Bersin, 2019).
Think of LXP as the Netflix of corporate learning. It combines easy-to-consume digital learning content and insightful analytics and gives learners a host of user-friendly options to consume knowledge anytime, anywhere. With 79% of today’s employees innately craving to learn through web resources, clearly, the evolution of learning experience platforms bodes well for the future of workplace learning (Logicearth, 2018).
How Employees Prefer To Learn in the Workplace
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Source: Center for Learning & Performance Technologies (2018)
LXP is a new technology that seeks to index the world of learning to make content more discoverable. Put simply; it removes the barriers to access, allowing them to find the exact content they need to quench their thirst for knowledge. LXPs are designed to be experienced just like the intuitive apps learners are so accustomed to.
Video is not a new innovation. In fact, enterprises use this type of content for a wide variety of purposes, including internal executive messaging, corporate communication, marketing, sales, and internal and external training. Lately, however, 91% of organizations have doubled down on the use of video for training or learning (Kaltura, 2019) Besides, video’s growing influence on corporate training is backed by 90% of employees who claim to have used video to learn a new skill.
Looking at it from the learner’s perspective, video content, especially when it is designed to be interactive, offers a better understanding of the topic, and enhances knowledge retention. Besides, according to 82% of employees, interactive video is becoming a de facto medium for learning because it holds attention better (Kaltura, 2019).
Even better, the on-demand video offers an excellent way to implement just-in-time learning. It allows organizations to package information in short videos that employees can consume anytime, anywhere. These videos don’t have to be formal; instead, they are created to help employees brush up on a specific skill or learn something new during free time or while on the go.
Besides on-demand video training, the use of live video streaming in employee training is also gathering steam. According to the State of Video in the Enterprise 2019 report, 63.92% of organizations host live classes remotely via video or live webcast (Kaltura, 2019). Unlike video-on-demand training, live video is highly effective in keeping learners connected across varied time zones and geographical locations.
Overall, a majority of employees prefer to learn from video over written content. This data is backed by the increased proclivity towards video learning over written content by more than two-thirds of all generations. (Kaltura, 2019)
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Today, learning is rampaged by a swatch of challenges, including the ineffective one-size-fits-all approach and highly disengaged learners (Brookings Report, 2018). Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping employers confront some of these challenges.
One problem that AI is taking head-on is the limitations of online assessments, quizzes, and tests. Today’s training evaluations are mostly standardized and designed to measure a learner’s mastery of the subject matter regardless of their skill level and capability prior to the training. As such, training facilitators are unable to effectively gauge why some participants find the test too easy while others find them too difficult. This is where AI comes in handy. With this, learning systems can perform diagnostic assessments that can pinpoint what a learner currently knows and what they’re ready to learn next (Ferrara, 2019).
One example of this is Irish, a platform developed by technical training provider PluralSight. It helps design adaptive assessments that scale above the static Q&A format. Built with AI at its core, Irish absorbs information about the learners’ skills and abilities. And then, using machine learning and natural language processing, the platform recommends tests that the employee should take to keep pace with the changing labor market.
Another common use of AI in the training industry is the personalization of the learning process through customized content recommendation. LinkedIn Learning has perfected the art of personalizing the learning experience for employees. The platform analyzes user profile details, position, learning history, and skills they are interested in. Then, using AI, it recommends content that helps users understand what skills they need to grow their careers. LinkedIn’s personalized content garners 58% higher engagement compared with generic recommendations. (Polatkan & Rao, 2016)
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality (VR) is another training industry trend that’s causing ripples in the training industry. According to Accenture, the VR training market is projected to generate over $6.3 billion by 2020 (Accenture, 2020). The protracted benefits of this technology and uptake of increased digitization are fueling the rapid growth of the enterprise VR training market.
One thing that sets VR apart from other technologies is its ability to create a virtual world perfect for interpersonal skills training. A good example is how VirtualSpeech integrates VR with traditional online classes to enhance soft skills training. By introducing VR elements, the platform enables trainees to put to practice the knowledge acquired in the course in a realistic simulation, such as speaking in meetings or addressing the media.
Moreover, the safety of the virtual world comes in handy for trainees in high-risk industries. For example, to cushion its trainees from high-stake situations, BP partnered with Igloo Vision to train employees in emergency exit procedures at its Hull oil refinery. Using VR simulations, BP creates more realistic scenarios that mirror risky real-life situations within the facility. This way, employees learn from mistakes in a virtual world to reach greater levels of expertise in less time.
VR is equally helpful in customer experience, inclusion, diversity, and harassment training. It enables organizations to implement active and ongoing approaches to training. In doing so, it empowers trainees to learn through practical experience, which is said to improve knowledge retention by 75-90%. (Pérez-Sabater and Montero-Fleta, 2011). In addition, VR reduces surgeons’ mistakes by 40%, delivers 80% cost savings, and reduces training time by 40%. (Accenture, 2020)
Benefits of Using VR in Corporate Training
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Blockchain is not a technology many would have associated with learning. Popularized by the success of Bitcoin, blockchain technology was only meant to be a digital ledger that powered the virtual currencies. However, its evolution has charted new use cases that transcend its initial purposes in the virtual currency world.
Blockchain technology has crept into various sectors of the economy, and lately, it has been powering various aspects of the online education industry. The adage “necessity is the mother of invention” rings true when it comes to the use of blockchain technology in the training industry.
Here is why.
The rise of the internet has given electronic learning (elearning) and mobile learning (mlearning) enough impetus to thrive. Experts predict that, in 2020, the elearning and mlearning markets will be worth $398.15 billion and $37.6 billion, respectively (Markets and Markets, 2020). As these forms of learning continue to gain traction, another insidious aspect is rising on the sideline—the market for fake degrees and certificates (Clifton et al., 2018). If no proactive action is taken against this vice, the job market will soon be flooded with unqualified “graduates.”
Source: Markets and Markets
To help nip the issue in the bud, EchoLink Foundation has designed a system that offers verified education, work experience, and skill information to recruiters. The platform leverages blockchain technology’s timestamp and immutability functionalities to flag falsified certifications and diplomas. The innovation is still in the inception stage, but when fully operationalized, it will help sew up the fragmented and insecure qualification and award system of elearning.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the force behind automation and control enjoyed in virtually any sector of the economy. While IoT is still considered a nascent field, Inc Academy predicts that in the next five years, $6 trillion will be spent on IoT solutions (Inc Academy, 2020).
IoT is all about connecting “things” to the internet. Heating systems, homes, wearables, garage doors, irrigation systems, and more can all be connected to the internet. The technology is, however, not limited to our homes or farms; today’s office buildings built are now connected to the internet too.
This is in a bid to manage energy and track the movement of workers in the entire office. Companies such as Elighted Inc. are pioneering the new era of smart buildings that feature game-changing sensors technology for real-time data collection.
Beyond the intended use, employers can leverage the scalable networks established in these buildings to manage employee training. For example, it can be combined with wearable sensors to book employees who breach safety practices during a refresher on a rig, factory, or power plant.
Podcasting (formerly known as audio blogging) traces its roots to the early 1980s. But, it was not until 2004 that the idea began to gather still thanks, in large part, to the advent of broadband internet. In the last five years, podcasting has grown by 122%, and over that time, the idea has crept into workplace learning. (Edison Research, 2019)
The episodic, audio format of podcasts makes them highly effective tools for employee learning and development. The use of podcasts for corporate learning works especially well for organizations with a large mobile workforce. This is because 65% of employees prefer to listen to favorite episodes via smartphones, tablets, or portable devices.
Source: Edison Research
For example, a logistics company can create podcasts to train drivers on specific skills, say safety driving. This way, the drivers can consume content and continue to learn on their phones anytime, anywhere, even while on the move. Also, podcasts allow employers to deliver personalized training and establish a conversational framework that can enhance the effectiveness of training and knowledge retention.
Better still, podcasts put employees in control of the learning process. It creates a self-directed learning pathway, allowing the learner to pick and choose episodes they are most interested in. Moreover, podcasts represent the best alternative to large training materials of written content.
Emerging Training Methodologies
In today’s society, there is a need to mold all learners and prepare them to be creative, active, ethical, and knowledgeable—not just in a global workforce but also in daily lives. However, the varying and evolving needs of new generation learners have rendered ineffective the traditional training and assessment tactics. Consequently, policymakers and educators have reimagined learning experiences, introducing new pathways that help learners acquire expertise better.
Experiential and Immersive Learning on the Rise
Experiential and immersive learning fosters authentic learning experiences, placing learners in the context of real-world challenges or experiences. It’s a form of training that helps learners acquire key competencies and skills to proactively tackle real-life challenges. Edelman and Tononi define experiential learning simply as “doing precedes understanding” (NAEMSE, 2019).
Experiential learning is the methodology, and VR technology is the enabler. In other words, experiential learning leverages immersive technology to create simulated learning spaces using 3D-generated images. Through these spaces, learners are plunged into a virtual world with situations that mirror the real-life challenges they’ll face while discharging their duties. When integrated, VR and user experience features provide learning tasks, which generate robust representation of experiential learning, collaborative learning, contextual learning, engagement, and spatial knowledge (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010 cited in Bower, 2017).
This form of learning has long been heralded as the most effective training model. In fact, studies have shown that experiential learning enhances learning quality. And when executed meticulously, it can improve retention by up to 75% (Accenture, 2020). It is, therefore, unsurprising that high-risk industries use experiential training to cut risk and help learners gain specific knowledge faster.
For example, Johnson & Johnson is using VR to navigate the complex medical training of surgeons (Arsene, 2018). The institution teamed up with Osso VR to create immersive training that would enable surgeons to acquire fundamentals skills to perform operations more effectively. Since it was first rolled out, the experiential training has improved surgical performance by a startling 230% (Virtualspeech, 2019).
More Personalized and Inclusive Learning
Personalized learning is a strategy in which the instructional approach and pace of learning are adapted for the needs of each learner. It refers to a training approach that is optimized to explicitly address the special learning needs of a specific student group (Daniela, 2018).
Traditionally, organizations provided fit-for-all lectures, textbooks, materials, and assignments, with little to no variation from learner to learner. On the contrary, in personalized learning, the individual needs of each learner take precedence. Put simply; this is a learner-centric method where each employee is accorded the flexibility to “pull” the content they want rather than be compelled towards a mandatory course.
To achieve this, organizations first analyze the learning needs, preferences, aspirations, and prior background of individual learners. Then, using relevant technologies, customize learning objectives, instructional content, and instructional approaches to suit the abilities, skill levels, and work schedule of each learner. This, according to 77% of L&D professionals, helps improve employee engagement.
Benefits of Personalized Learning
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Personalized learning is a novel concept, and modern technologies are making it easy to achieve. The inception of AI technologies has made it easier to create chatbots that can help learners sort through a library of content to find relevant learning materials. Moreover, the use of LXPs is increasingly influencing the personalization of corporate learning.
Increased Use of Adaptive Learning
Leaning systems spew out millions of terabytes of data that can be used to adjust learning. As digital technologies permeate the education systems, organizations are tapping into the potential of this data. The use of data to enhance the learning experience for employees on an individual scale has given birth to adaptive learning.
Like personalized learning, adaptive learning is the modification of training to suit the needs of a specific student(s). However, adaptive learning takes the customization a notch higher by using analytical technologies to monitor learner progress and adjust the pathways to concept mastery. The organization collates performance data, analyzes it to unearth valuable insights, and uses these insights to modify instruction in real-time.
Adaptive learning solutions are particularly ideal for time-starved professionals, such as doctors. A good example of adaptive learning is the NEJM Knowledge+, an offering for physicians administered by Area9 in partnership with the NEJM Group. For this program, Area9 utilizes smart technology to adapt learning to specific clinician’s needs and pace of learning while pinpointing their knowledge gap to provide specific instruction.
In a recent study, it was found that clinicians that used NEJM Knowledge+ had a 95% passing rate on the American Board of Internal Medicine Certificate Examination (ABIM-CE) on their first attempt. (Healy et al., 2018).
Online Assessment Techniques Continue to Grow
Recently, partakers in the National Research Council (NRC) highlighted the importance of expanding the focus of today’s assessment to measure non-cognitive competencies (Office of Education Technology, 2017). While the convening was offering guidelines with regard to assessments in learning institutions, corporate learning can borrow a leaf from the same book.
Using technology, organizations can power the next-generation digital assessment beyond traditional exams, which were limited and often relied on fixed pathways. Today, some of the most commonly used assessment types include knowledge/skill assessment (67%), personality assessment (60%), cognitive ability test (55%), job fit assessment (44%, and situational judgment test (41%) (SHL, 2018). Modern innovations allow for more responsiveness, contextualization, flexibility, and measurement of complex competencies.
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The Most Commonly Used Assessment Types
The Most Commonly Used Assessment Types Skills/knowledge assessment: 67%
The Most Commonly Used Assessment Types Personality assessment: 60%
The Most Commonly Used Assessment Types Cognitive ability test: 55%
Cognitive ability test
The Most Commonly Used Assessment Types Job fit assessment: 44%
Job fit assessment
The Most Commonly Used Assessment Types Situational judgment test: 41%
Situational judgment test
The Most Commonly Used Assessment Types Culture fit test: 32%
Culture fit test
In addition, they enable organizations to surface real-time feedback and make it easy to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each learner. Ultimately, this empowers instructors to make valid and actionable interpretations of the performance reports and adapt learning to meet the desired training goals. Even better, with the faster turnaround of results, organizations can implement gamified learning to keep all learners engaged and motivated.
Self-Paced Learning Triumphs
Self-paced learning is an innovative approach to curriculum learning where the course of study is informed by the model’s abilities rather than being fixed through external human supervision (Ferrari et al., 2018). The content can be corporate training or technical tutorials that don’t demand the immediate response of an instructor.
In keeping with this training industry trend, Userlane blends self-paced learning and elearning via the implementation of interactive walkthroughs. The onscreen guides simplify employee training significantly, hence boosting employee productivity. Also, by automating and scaling employee training through contextual support, Userlane claims to lower training costs by up to 90%.
Userlane’s constant onscreen guidance is a perfect example of how self-paced learning can be used to make sense to the modern workforce. It places virtual assistants right inside the apps the employees use to guide them through processes and enables them to use the software at an organization. Employees learn at their own pace, at their desk, and no human guidance is required during the process.
Ultimately, this expedites digital transformation, increases software adoption, and reduces resilience to change.
Trends on Learner Preferences and Expectations
Soft Skill Training
Unlike hard skills, soft skills do not represent acquired knowledge, skills, and abilities. Instead, they are innate and born-with skills that are learned by the trial-and-error method in response to an evolving environment (Vallabhaneni, 2020). Soft skills are more about thinking and behavior, cognitive skills, and personal traits. They are more difficult to measure, but they help employees thrive in a wide range of roles and industries. (Anderson, 2020)
To keep a pulse on the changing workforce, organizations should weave 21st-century expertise and competencies through their learning experience. This means, beyond the industry-specific competencies, employers should also be mindful of employee soft skills. According to SHRM, employees miss the following soft skills problem solving (37%), the ability to deal with complexity (32%), and communication (31%). (SHRM, 2018).
It’s worth mentioning that, as hard skills evolve lickety-split powered by the relentless technological transformation, the soft skills tend to change gradually. For any type of skills, investing in employee training help a lot in boosting working efficiencies since these skills positively contribute to organizational performance (Hendarman & Cantner, 2018). Staying in sync with this ever-changing mix of soft and hard skills gives an organization a leg up on the competition.
Decreasing Student Attention Span
The explosion of communication channels and information sources has stirred a spike in the availability of content. In fact, with the acceleration of the internet, social media, and ebooks, users are spoilt for choice when it comes to the consumption of information.
This, as reckoned by a study of the nature of communication, increasingly narrows the collective attention span (EurekAlert, 2019). The same study claims that as content increases in volume, it causes shorter bursts of collective attention. Besides, it sparks an inherent urge for “newness,” compelling users to constantly switch between topics or courses more regularly.
In this sense, the overabundance of content and the urge to multitask has further compounded the attention struggles employees face. Today, 45% of Millennials, 36% of Gen Xers, and 33% of baby boomers claim they have problems retaining material they have consumed (Prezi, 2018)
Employees Who Struggle to Retain Content They Consumed
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The dwindling attention spans have put organizations in a conundrum, especially with the growing need to train on an ever-changing mix of skills. As employers seek to disseminate information on a wide range of topics, they ought to do it in a way that doesn’t overrun employee attention span. To do it right, they should borrow to methodologies such as experiential and immersive learning to keep learners engaged.
Accessibility is the New Theme
As aforementioned, technology helps bridge accessibility and equity gaps in learning and development. In particular, with the advent of high-speed internet, employees and employers alike have access to comprehensive and robust infrastructure when and where they need it for learning. In addition to ubiquitous connectivity, the availability of quality digital learning content and resources has further simplified accessibility, creating an effective learning and development environment (Office of Education Technology, 2017).
Lifelong Learning has Taken Center Stage
As technology redefines the nature of work, it has also had a tremendous impact on how people learn and prepare for their careers. The rapid and continuous shifts caused by automation require employees who want to stay relevant to commit to lifelong learning (Forbes Coaches Council, 2020). It argues that to achieve prolonged career success, today’s employees should possess learning agility and a self-development mindset.
There is enough evidence to support those sentiments. According to the Future of Jobs Report, across all industries, a cluster of emerging professions is set to increase by 27% by 2022. As this happens, 21% of current job profiles in large multinational companies are set to become increasingly redundant (World Economic Forum, 2018).
Source: World Economic Forum
For example, recently, Microsoft revealed its plans to replace dozens of journalists on its MSN websites with AI robots (Baker, 2020). Microsoft is one of the many companies that are experimenting with automation and AI to cut costs. As other multinationals follow suit, more and more employees will be laid off, and this further underscores the need to prioritize lifelong learning.
The current events in the job market have served as a warning that competencies and skills acquired early in a professional career can’t sustain employees for their entire working lives. As such, there is a growing need to back academic credentials with ongoing learning. This way, employees can keep up with the workplace changes and position themselves for prolonged professional success.
Powering the Training of the Next-Generation Workforce
By making well-planned forays into emerging technologies, today’s organizations can significantly improve learning, boost employee retention rates, and reduce training costs. Some technologies like the flashy VR enables employers to realize increased ROI with respect to safety, retention of training, and engagement, compared to traditional methods, which often don’t scale well.
The same can be said about new training methodologies. The aforementioned learning techniques can help deliver content and insights in a way that aligns with the preferences of today’s employees. Organizations that are early to adopt these methodologies will have a huge advantage over their competitors.
That being said, using emerging technologies and training methods is easier said than done. Organizations ought to know that technology doesn’t position learning into the flow of work, but it powers the training methods and practices necessary to do so. This means, to reap the said benefits, employers have to pick the right technology to support the right learning methodology for each use case. This, in itself, is not an easy thing to do.
To make it work, we recommend that organizations read or research more training industry trends, particularly emerging training technologies for practical application. Moreover, policymakers and researchers should dive deeper into these trends and surface more information about the use of technologies, such as blockchain technology and IoT in today’s corporate learning.
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