It’s been a tumultuous second quarter for organizations around the world due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every business has been impacted on some level and has had to pivot to meet employee and customer needs — including training organizations.

In a recent Training Industry report, we shared our observations on the information and solutions training professionals are currently seeking and offered recommendations on how training companies can meet their needs. That report continues to attract attention, with a 17% increase in page views in May, prompting us to continue the conversation.

This article will provide an update on resources training professionals are currently looking for, including confidence levels in learning and development (L&D) plans, areas of training investment, and planning for current and future programs.

Searching for Solutions continues to attract new visitors and has seen a 23% increase in web traffic over February (prior to the pandemic). Training professionals are searching for solutions to their training problems, particularly the challenges exposed during the pandemic. In response to those needs, Training Industry launched a dedicated webpage sharing free products and services from our training community, which has received more than 20,000 page views.

As we reported previously, there remains an elevated interest in topics related to remote learning, eLearning and converting instructor-led training to a virtual format. As organizations settle into their remote work environments, L&D professionals are focused on setting employees up for success — both professionally and personally.

Our most-read articles in May reflect the challenges of transitioning to remote work, with visitors showing a strong interest in learning how to fix common mistakes on conference calls, upskilling facilitators to thrive in the virtual classroom and training sales professionals to successfully sell in a remote environment. Visitors are also interested in using self-care strategies to combat the increase in anxiety, depression and fear during this crisis.

Training Industry has been conducting an ongoing pulse survey over the past seven weeks to better understand the effects of the pandemic on the L&D industry. The study has revealed some of the top challenges facing L&D professionals, which include transitioning to remote learning, maintaining employee motivation, increasing cybersecurity due to conducting more business online, and adhering to new compliance regulations and restrictions.

These challenges are mirrored in our website traffic, with a 10% increase in traffic to our compliance topic area and 19% increase to our remote learning topic during May. Additionally, we’ve seen a 36% increase in traffic to our outsourcing topic area and our Top 20 Training Outsourcing Companies list, which signals that training managers are looking for training partners.

Confidence in L&D Plans

Businesses have been in a state of uncertainty during the pandemic. Organizations have needed to regroup and reassess their priorities — including what training they need to roll out to their workforce. We’ve seen an elevated interest in content related to conducting a needs analysis, which makes sense with the high level of change organizations are currently experiencing.

As of June 7, our pulse survey revealed that 34% of respondents are confident in their current L&D plan. However, 58% of respondents are still in flux — either in the process of developing or revising their L&D plan or just not confident in their ability to execute it.

The education, health care and government segments of the industry are showing the lowest levels of confidence in their current L&D plans, according to our research. These industries saw immediate impacts of the pandemic and needed to adjust business processes and procedures more quickly. In comparison, the technology and retail industries are showing the most confidence in their ability to execute their existing L&D plans.

Every company and industry is experiencing the effects of the pandemic differently. While we’re certainly all in this together, we are not experiencing the same challenges or level of impact.

Areas of Training Investment

The pandemic has forced many organizations to rethink how they spend their time and budget. In our pulse survey, 58% of respondents reported that their training budget has been affected, with 61% of those companies spending more than they did before the pandemic. L&D professionals are increasing their spend across many areas, including learning technologies, courses, learning services and customer education.

The highest level of spending is on learning technologies, with 43% of respondents reporting an increase in spend on authoring tools, delivery, gaming platforms or learning management systems. Additionally, 37% of respondents are spending more on learning services, which includes delivery, administration, content development, technology integration, and strategy.

Customer education, which includes technical end user training, certification or channel training, is seeing a 34% increase in spending. Furthermore, 29% of respondents are increasing their spend on courses, kits or eLearning libraries.

Planning for Current and Future Programs

While the pandemic has exposed areas of weakness for many organizations, it’s also opening opportunities to eliminate what isn’t producing value — and reinvent the future of learning. This sentiment was shared in a recent roundtable attended by Certified Professionals in Training Management (CPTMs).

The attendees also emphasized that while it’s important to have a plan in place, L&D must also be willing to adjust as necessary. This ability to adapt and remain flexible is an asset for training organizations as they retool or repurpose existing programs, as 60% of respondents to our pulse survey reported doing. Only 8% of respondents are canceling some or all of their current programs.

L&D plays an important role in helping organizations run efficiently and must be responsive to changes in the business and roll out new programs when necessary. According to our research, 32% of respondents are planning to roll out new programs, while 42% of respondents are delaying new programs altogether. Respondents also shared that they are developing programs that address returning to work and alleviating employee anxiety and stress, while also working to integrate more engagement exercises into eLearning programs to boost employee motivation.

Moving Forward

We are just starting to see the full effects of the pandemic on the L&D industry, but we won’t know the true impact of this crisis until much later. Now is the time to reflect on current business practices and processes and reassess whether they make sense for the future of work — and learning.