Learning and development programs have undergone a great deal of change in the 21st century. The days of purely classroom-based training are long gone, replaced by a diverse landscape of training methodologies that cater to all types of learning styles. More importantly, the way organizations view development has shifted. Where companies may have once considered training purely a matter of teaching employees new skills, today’s learning professionals are also focused on the ways that development can improve engagement and retention.
With that in mind, here are a few of the most noteworthy corporate training trends we’ve seen so far in 2019.
Important Learning and Development Trends in 2019
Employee development is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Given the rapid pace of change facing today’s organizations, employees need to be able to constantly take in new information and build skills that allow them to navigate emerging challenges. Rather than emphasizing only the knowledge and competencies people need in their existing role, companies are finding that taking a more expansive approach to development can improve engagement and innovation. This not only better prepares high-potential employees to advance in the future, but also encourages people who may not have a strong interest in advancing to become more versatile and resilient in their current position. Organizations that emphasize a culture of continuous learning are better able to adapt to change and retain quality talent, both of which have the potential to improve business performance.
Today’s employees often don’t have a lot of time to devote to learning and development. In fact, according to a 2018 LinkedIn study, employees listed a lack of time as their number one reason for not engaging with their workplace’s learning resources. The same study also found that a staggering 94 percent of employees said they would stay longer at a company if it invested in their career. One solution organizations have implemented is microlearning resources, an area that has seen remarkable market growth in recent years. These bite-sized chunks of learning content can be completed in three to five minutes, usually in audio or video format. Breaking larger training materials into easily digestible content can make it easier for employees to absorb valuable content without having to adjust their schedules.
As immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) become more affordable and accessible, many organizations are beginning to incorporate them into their onboarding and training programs. According to some research, as many as a third of small to medium-sized businesses will be using VR by 2021 as a way to train new employees more effectively. Immersive virtual scenarios can be used to help people practice new skills in a controlled environment. The experiential aspect of AR and VR has been shown to improve retention in learners, which makes the technology extremely attractive to organizations in terms of ROI.
Although gamification of learning is hardly a new concept, it has become much more widespread thanks to its ability to improve learner engagement. At its core, gamification builds progressive rewards into the learning experience, usually in the form of badges, points, or leaderboards. The idea is that these rewards incentivize learners to continue working through a program to reach new milestones. Most employees, especially millennials and Gen Z, are already familiar with these incentives thanks to the popularity of social media and mobile apps, so designing training materials around the same concept can make it easier to deliver learning materials without making the learner feel like they’re spending their time training.
Considering that organizations are looking for ways to make learning easier and more accessible, it should come as no surprise that they’re investing heavily in development resources that employees can access from anywhere with their mobile phones. About three-quarters of employees do at least some of their learning on a mobile device, so making more resources available to them in the form of training applications is an easy way to enhance their development. Mobile content can be accessed from anywhere at any time, making it ideal for learners who want the flexibility to engage with learning materials on their own terms.
While a great deal of training and development tends to take a very top-down approach, some organizations are experimenting with peer-to-peer learning that emphasizes mentoring and social learning in addition to more formalized training programs. By encouraging employees to learn from one another and share their accumulated knowledge, peer learning also has the benefit of building relationships and support systems within and across departments. While this nontraditional approach should still be supplemented by more targeted development programs, having a structure in place to facilitate knowledge transfer between employees can strengthen an organization and ensure sustainable growth by boosting retention and helping employees to become more agile and collaborative.
Thanks to new innovations in technology, there are many options to choose from when it comes to implementing a development program at any organization. Adopting the right solutions requires learning professionals to accommodate the learning habits of employees while also addressing the core talent needs facing the company. By investing in a variety of approaches, they can build a program that meets the diverse learning needs of employees and delivers training content in ways that improve retention and boost engagement.