Since launching JPL’s learning solutions video blog over a year ago, learning and development leaders from prominent organizations across many industries have shared insights into current learning trends.  Here are their top 10 insights to help you prepare for a successful 2016.

  1. Business strategy alignment: In the past, learning and development was structured more like an academic endeavor. As Training Industry CEO Doug Harwood explains, “learning leaders today must think from a business perspective.  C-Suite executives are much more focused on the value of learning.” At The Hershey Company, Leanna Meiser has answered her CEO’s call to “win with insights, knowledge and talent” by building a curriculum that helps marketers build world-class brands.   At Aflac, Deidre Williams develops training programs that align with their business strategy to “transform how Aflac’s salesforce engages with customers.”
  2. Making learning a competitive advantage: Many L&D leaders want to give their organizations a competitive advantage to win customers and attract talent. At the retail convenience store, Sheetz, Sherry Hancock prepares store employees to provide customers with a myriad of food items that are essential to the store’s competitive position. For Lynn Wonsick at Select Medical, educational offerings are a way to attract and retain clinical staff in the highly competitive health care industry.
  3. Trainers as mentors: Many L&D leaders today are taking a 70-20-10 approach, with 70 percent being on the job learning, 20 percent coming from a mentor or manager and 10 percent being formal training. Beyond formal training, L&D leaders support the 20 percent that comes from mentors. At T-Mobile call centers, David Unruh says they have reduced classroom training by having trainers support new hires as they take calls from customers.  At Sheetz, training programs help in-store mentors train, coach and lead store employees.
  4. Process innovation: Training innovation has often been associated with technology. However, many in the industry innovate with process to provide greater ROI for their organizations.“We have to get more efficient and effective at what we do and throwing in a new technology is not always the answer,” said Harwood. T-Mobile has also changed its training process with an innovative “flipped classroom” approach that puts new hires on-the-job sooner.
  5. Collaboration across departments: Today’s L&D departments must connect with other business areas.  Beyond human resources, L&D connects with information technology, finance, sales and marketing. For Sheetz, this means “partnering with business leaders across the organization to pursue strategic goals for the company with common purpose.” At Aflac, Williams works in “lock step” with Aflac marketing to create training that builds on marketing concepts.
  6. Content strategy: Organizations today develop massive amounts of content on an ongoing basis. At IBM, there are more than 20 domains developing content including technical support, sales, marketing and training. The goal is to “write once and deliver many” making content development more efficient and consistent, said Meg Petersen, who represents a training function as part of IBM’s enterprise content management initiative.
  7. The value of analytics: Today’s L&D organizations need to capture and analyze data to demonstrate ROI. Beyond tracking course utilization, executives want to see correlations between training and improved performance. At Pitney-Bowes, Janet Lockhart-Jones measures changes in behavior and proficiency at defined intervals after training. To accomplish this, they have a team within the L&D function dedicated to analytics.
  8. Diversity and inclusion: As organizations seek to operate seamlessly across the globe, they need to address diversity and inclusion as barriers to collaboration. According to Shantelle Williams, business leader and senior director at MasterCard, the organization has established a culture of inclusion to empower employees to use diversity of thought, experience and background to advance innovation.
  9. Training that reflects the brand: Whether an employee or an external stakeholder, their learning experience forms an impression of the organization behind it. Williams knows that Aflac’s sales force training must be “world class” to represent the brand. Thanks to the Aflac duck, 96 percent of the domestic market recognizes the Aflac brand and sets high expectations for every brand experience.  At Sheetz, training that supports new food products matches the marketing to create a cohesive brand experience for the store customer.
  10. Being both global and local:  A common challenge for global corporations is to provide consistent training across the organization that also meets the needs of local cultures. For IBM, Petersen tries to provide “clients with what they need, when they need it, in the way they want it.”

There are many common and unique opportunities and challenges facing L&D leaders in 2016. By proving innovative solutions, organizations can use training to gain a competitive advantage.