Management & Mindset

3 Factors That Are Changing Corporate Training in 2020 & How to Adapt

The role of the Learning and Development department is at a critical juncture. Departments have more power and bigger budgets than ever before, but there is also more pressure than ever before to prove their value.

The C-suite is finally recognizing the value of L&D. U.S. companies spent $83 billion on employee training in 2019. That’s a 58% increase from a decade ago. But, with that influx of resources comes much higher expectations. Companies now expect L&D to play a pivotal role in the digital transformation and growth of the organization.

This is happening against the backdrop of a significant change in the way people work and learn driven by digital transformation and a multigenerational workforce. Team members are more physically distant yet more connected than ever. Traditional in-person seminars and all-day training sessions are losing ground to quicker bite-sized content that’s served up within the flow of work. Learning experiences can happen anywhere, and anyone can create them.

3 biggest trends shaping the future of corporate training

Companies are continuously transforming and L&Ds need to adapt their corporate training strategies to become a key enabler of this continuous transformation. We’ve identified three of the biggest work and learning trends that are shaping the future of corporate training. We’ll tell you how the landscape is evolving and what you need to do to ensure your training programs stay useful and relevant.

1. New expectations for L&D to step up

Many companies are undergoing a digital transformation as they adopt new automation and AI technology. But there is a growing knowledge gap between the demands of this new technology and the capabilities of the existing workforce. Companies are increasingly relying on L&D departments to close that gap.

For their 21st annual CEO survey, PWC surveyed over 1,000 CEOs across all industries. They discovered that 80% of CEOs are worried about finding employees with the right skills to stay competitive. Additionally, 76% are concerned about the lack of tech skills in their current workforce.

They’re right to worry. According to the 2018 Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum, by 2022, more than half of all skilled workers will need a competency overhaul.

reskilling needs by WEF

Now, companies are increasingly relying on L&D departments to play an important role in employee attraction, development, and retention. It will be up to L&D departments to develop training to upskill or reskill large numbers of people in a short amount of time. And they will need to keep doing so again and again as technology evolves.

Skilled employees are becoming a bigger competitive advantage, and companies are increasingly relying on L&D to play a significant role in attracting high-value candidates. The opportunity to grow and develop within a position has become a huge selling point for candidates and a reliable retention driver. Employees want jobs where they can learn new skills to further their careers. A staggering 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.

How to adapt

Adapt to these new expectations by identifying, assessing, and closing skill gaps inside your company. The demand for new and evolving skills means that learning needs must be continuously identified and addressed. Employees are eager to learn new skills, particularly around analytics, AI, and automation. Give them the tools they need to do this and build a larger learning culture to appeal to potential candidates.

The average shelf life of most learning content is under five years, and that window keeps shortening. With technology changing quickly, sometimes from month to month, you will need to review and update training materials frequently. A collaborative learning system can take some of the burdens off of L&D departments by allowing anyone in the company to suggest edits on course materials.

2. Acceleration of remote work and learning

As companies increasingly move towards total or partial remote work, online learning programs are becoming more essential. But, making the switch from in-person training means rethinking existing L&D processes and attitudes.

The trend toward remote work has been steadily growing for years, but Covid-19 kicked it into high gear. In 2020, companies were left frantically scrambling to move operations online as cities and countries around the world went into lockdown. L&D departments faced a major dual challenge: helping employees adapt to new routines and technology and doing so remotely.

Some companies will remain fully remote, while others will return to their offices, but Covid-19 drove home the importance of online learning systems for everyone. L&D departments must adjust to an increasingly dispersed workforce and disaster-proof their learning programs by providing online learning solutions that workers can access from anywhere. Companies are allocating more of their budget for online learning, edging out instructor-led training.

Source: Linkedin
Source: Workplace Learning Report 2019, Linkedin

How to adapt

If you haven’t invested in an online training program yet, it’s time to catch up. Online training is cheaper and easier to organize than in-person training sessions. Employees can take courses when it’s convenient for them, learning anywhere, at any time. Learning software makes it much easier to track individual employees' progress, measure course completion rates, and prove ROI on training initiatives. In remote companies, online training makes it easier to develop talent and build company culture.

Look for learning solutions that fit into employees’ daily lives: micro-learning during employee downtime, mobile learning that can be done anywhere, and collaborative learning that lets employees learn together.

Don’t get bogged down by the logistics of online learning or creating perfect course materials. While these things are important, what matters even more is building out the accessibility of learning inside your company. Think critically about what you hope to achieve with your learning initiatives and how you can help people learn together, even at a distance. Creating a strong learning culture doesn’t just help people learn better; it makes your company stronger.

3. Shift away from top-down corporate training

The traditional top-down management and learning model can no longer meet the needs of employees who crave engagement and collaboration above all else. A more democratic learning system is the key to creating an effective learning culture.

In the past, the top of the organization dictated when and what employees learned. L&D sourced needs from managers, created training, and shared them with employees whose only job was to absorb the training. This was a slow, static process and not effective for learner engagement, content quality, or measurable business impact.

Compare that with a bottom-up, collaborative learning approach, where everyone at the company plays a role in course creation. The process is decentralized and democratized. Anyone can create a learning need, volunteer to create a course, or submit feedback on existing content. Training is more relevant and easier to produce. Teams can easily share institutional knowledge, leading to a decrease in brain drain and information silos.

Top-down vs. Bottom-up training approach
Top-down vs. Bottom-up training approach

Demographics play a huge role in this organizational shift. Millennials and Gen Z employees are beginning to dominate the workforce, and they vocally prefer a different learning style than their predecessors. These workers prefer more collaborative work environments and self-directed learning paths. LinkedIn Learning’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report shows that 67% of Gen Z employees want learning experiences that are social and collaborative.

How to adapt

Internally at 360Learning, we’ve fully embraced this model, not just in our learning philosophy but also in our management style. Instead of a top-down management model, we adopted a culture of what we call Convexity, which combines low authority with high individual accountability. We focus on transparency, constant iteration, and accountability via metric tracking. Access to information means everyone has the power to make decisions.

Similarly, bottom-up corporate training allows individuals to play a more proactive role in their training journey. In this model, the role of L&D shifts from executors of content to facilitators. We’ve found that among companies that use our software, non-L&D team members create 85% of the courses.

Instead of creating course materials, L&D members are learning coaches. They map out learning paths for employees, make sure all learning requests are being met, and measure the success of different learning initiatives. Because they aren’t bogged down in creating deliverables, they can have a more significant impact on the organization as a whole.

The ongoing evolution of corporate training

A growing number of companies see the value of corporate training in maintaining a competitive edge. Leading your L&D department to meet these challenges is an excellent opportunity to build a career path that leads to the C-suite.

Think about the role of the customer support lead. What started as a position to manage customer service reps quickly grew in importance, carving out space for the creation of the chief customer success officer position.

We’re now seeing similar growth happen in L&D as more companies promote chief learning officers. Aligning your corporate training strategy with broader company goals might lead to more than just bigger budgets; it could land you an important seat at the table.

We’re currently working on an extensive CLO playbook on how to help L&Ds get a spot in the C-suite, if you’d like to get a preview, comment 'CLO playbook' in the comment section below and we’ll get in touch.