By Jim Bowley
Enterprise organizations are beefing up their learning and development (L&D) budgets to gain significant performance advantages. Here are five trends to keep your eye on—and participate in—as you make your own L&D investments in the months ahead:
1. Tailored training—Organizations will tailor the learning experience to the needs of the enterprise as well as the employee. To sustain the enterprise’s growth, employers will ensure that their L&D strategies are directly aligned with their business strategies. To sustain the growth of their top performers, employers will tailor L&D opportunities to deliver the skills employees need to excel personally in a fast-paced, competitive marketplace. In addition, employers will support more on-demand learning to deliver content that is relevant and contextual to employees’ immediate needs (allowing them to put their new skills and knowledge to use once a training session is over). To support formal learning, employers will need to create customized development plans tailored specifically to employees’ job requirements and personal career goals.
2. Social and informal learning—U.S. companies spent 39% more on social learning in 2012 than they did in 2011, according to Bersin by Deloitte. There is every reason to believe this trend will continue. Organizations that wish to drive employee engagement and performance to meet business goals are becoming increasingly effective at creating and leveraging employee networks, disseminating knowledge across functional areas and throughout the company at large, and effectively creating informal mentoring by linking internal subject matter experts to younger and less experienced employees. Social and informal learning are all about capturing knowledge and expertise from inside and outside of the organization and then sharing it among employees with maximum efficiency. Many experts believe that social and informal learning will become increasingly synonymous and, ultimately, will help to supplant blended training programs. Learning environments, where continuous education and training take place spontaneously, are the wave of the future.
3. SaaS and mobile solutions—Employers will continue to embrace cloud-based solutions and the use of mobile devices. SaaS and mobile are essential for delivering increased amounts of streaming video, digital content and other types of new media that support on-demand learning. Naturally, SaaS and mobile solutions will generate security concerns and challenge employers to manage the suitability and accuracy of the new L&D content streaming in. In addition, Gartner estimates that by 2017 more than half of all companies will require employees to supply their own smart devices to do their jobs, and by 2018 70% of mobile professionals will conduct their work on personal smart devices. Clearly, the need to secure internal data—even as it is being shared over non-protected networks—will be a top concern for L&D and the enterprise at large.
4. Ease of use—To support the rise of on-demand learning, employers and vendors alike will devote greater attention to making learning management tools and resources easier to use. After all, on-demand learning needs to be fast and relevant from employees’ perspective or they simply won’t be engaged by it. And from the employers’ perspective, ease-of-use is critical to quickly solidify user adoption and to convey the knowledge workers need to complete immediate tasks. In light of all this, an enterprise’s learning professionals will be instrumental in determining which L&D tools actually live up to expectations and support learners effectively.
5. Collaborative learning cultures—Employers will work harder to create collaborative learning cultures for one very powerful reason: organizations that have strong learning cultures outperform those that don’t. Results-driven organizations will harness the younger generation’s affinity for online tools and social learning communities. They’ll encourage employees to build strong business networks online. And they’ll create easier access to corporate data, they’ll champion tools that facilitate content and knowledge sharing, and they’ll align training offerings with the skills necessary to achieve specific business goals. All of these initiatives are hallmarks of collaborative learning cultures—and they all support business growth.
Trends don’t mean much unless you take a chance and experiment yourself inside the enterprise. Start where your various talent ecosystems are already learning from one another today: online. Emulate the continuously collaborative informal learning behaviors that continue to proliferate personal and professional networks, which today are really one in the same. This will help with adoption when you start to implement these activities in your organization today.