Also Read Key Trends for 2012: New Era of Personal Learning is Transforming the Training Industry

The training industry may have experienced more change in 2010 than any year in recent memory. We saw a slight resurgence in the market where companies increased spending for training, but clearly not to levels they were at several years ago. We all remember 2009 as one of the lowest years in quite some time as many jobs for training professionals were slashed by companies looking to reduce discretionary spend. This ultimately resulted in lost revenues and jobs for training suppliers.

Some would say the resurgence is being led by a new era in learning technologies. It hasn’t been long since the mainstream learning technology was an LMS. These platforms have become commoditized as the new generation of learning technologies are organized into integrated learning portals developed as an access vehicle for managing business intelligence. These portals include virtual and informal learning tools, collaboration environments, market research, articles, case studies and more.

To help in understanding how the training industry is evolving, the team at annually creates our Top 10 Predictions for the ensuing year, based on key market trends we’ve found from speaking with buyers and suppliers of training services. Our intent is to provide you with some level of visibility to assist you in your strategic planning process.

So here are our predictions for 2011:

1.  Total spending for training services will increase by an estimated 7-9%.

2010 saw a positive gain for the year after a horrendous 2009. Some of the training leaders we spoke with told us that 2011 could see increases in spend by as much as 10% in a select group of market verticals, such as Automotives, IT, Retail, Hospitality, and Transportation.  Our concern is these markets remain vulnerable and dependent on how the the global economy continues to improve. We also expect to see strong growth in products and services spend related to learning technologies for virtual delivery and online access to content and information.
Spending for content development was strong in the past year and expected to remain strong for the foreseeable future; sales training and leadership training are expected to continue to rise, as well as IT training. Markets expecting to underperform in the near future are Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare. With all the uncertainty about the future of these segments, expect cost containment to keep training spend from reaching double digit gains.
The simple reality is that with an increase of 7-9% across the market, we are still not at levels from several years ago. We expect to see the larger, more established training suppliers to be big winners in the next year, with smaller independent consultancies continuing to struggle.

2.  Training department staffing will grow by a modest 2%.

The job market for training professionals is still being scrutinized for those who perform variable activity. The supply of contract trainers and instructional designers are high and it’s easy for companies to contract for these services with temp agencies and training suppliers. Expect to see job growth within corporate training organizations to be more focused on bringing experienced training management professionals back in to restructure and align training to the new corporate way. We expect there to be more job opportunities with training suppliers as companies continue to source more services than ever before.

3.   Selective outsourcing continues to grow while comprehensive outsourcing will become less popular.

Comprehensive outsourcing deals are becoming less popular as companies choose to minimize the risks of committing to long-term, broad training process engagements. What we are seeing more of is selective outsourcing engagements around specific training processes, topics and technologies. We expect to see continued deal growth for the outsourced delivery of training, as well as for custom content development of online and virtual training. The common denominator for all outsourcing is the use of external partners is alive and well, while the complexity of the engagements must provide for flexibility and minimum risk.

4.  The role of the learning leader is shifting from being a program manager to a solution architect.

One of the most important trends in the training industry relates to the role of the leader of the training organization. For many years, the role of training managers has focused on how to effectively manage the logistics of training programs. This has been a very pragmatic approach to running a training organization: Develop curriculums, schedule events, measure the effectiveness, and report on attendance and performance after the event.

Learning is becoming much more about access to information – meaning that the leader’s role must become more of a Solutions Architect, someone who designs innovative approaches for employees to access knowledge, when they need it, in relevant chunks, no matter where they are. The Learning Architect is becoming more of a consultant, designing solutions not in event form, but in the form of knowledge objects. For many learners, attending a course is a barrier to knowledge. They don’t have time to take an eight-hour course when they only need a small amount of information. Learning architects must find ways to make information available in ways they never have before.

5.  Learning technologies are becoming social, collaborative, and virtual.

The traditional LMS/LCMS was created for the purpose of tracking, scheduling and reporting on the activities of training organizations and learners. They lack differentiation in features and functionality. The future of learning technologies has arrived: Learning portals elegantly integrate social and collaborative tools for access to knowledge. They are virtual worlds of intelligence where learners get information that is not organized or delivered as an event. The ratio of information learners get from courses as opposed to searching the internet/intranet is unbelievably low. Let’s face it – people like to learn from people, and they want to collaborate and share intelligence through virtual tools.

6.  Speed will become the new mantra for training.

Success in the training profession and the training marketplace is about how fast you get things done. Time is money. People want knowledge fast. Companies want employees who are at peak performance faster than their competitors. Speed-to-market is critical to the success of any company. So speed-to-knowledge must be our mantra. How fast can you get relevant content developed and available to the learners? How fast can the learner access new content? How fast can you get the learner to the performance level expected? These are all examples of what is expected of us as learning leaders. Our performance plans for next year should have at least one speed objective. If a supplier is not talking about their capabilities related to speed, then challenge them to evaluate their processes because speed to competency is a success factor.

7.  Convergence of educational institutions to the supply chain of corporate training will change the supplier landscape.

Universities, community colleges and for-profit educational institutions are all converging on the corporate training market. Their objective is to generate new revenues through the delivery of programs and services. What will make this market interesting is they all bring a different value proposition than the independent training companies. They all have different price models, different approaches to delivery (classroom verses virtual), and varying geographic limitations. We will also learn whether the educational institutions can successfully shift from an academic approach to learning to a corporate mindset. The winner will be the corporate learning leader who will have more choices when building learning solutions.

8.  Learning content will be transformed for easier consumption.

It’s not new to say that the demand for access to learning content is higher than ever. But the increased demand is having an effect on what content looks like. Learners want content that is easier to consume, read and interpret. They don’t want to take a course to get an answer to a single question. Creating learning content will be less about putting a wrapper around it and calling it a course. It will be more about smaller knowledge objects, even repurposing information that comes from articles, press releases, white papers, competitive research reports and the like, all related to solving business problems. This is why search engines have ruled the internet. People want information in smaller, consumable chunks that answer their questions when they need answers.
9.   Success metrics for learning will be based on content access, views, involvement and downloads.

The learning leader’s measure of success has shifted from being about how many students attended a program to how much content has been accessed, viewed, used and downloaded. Even involvement and participation in social and collaborative worlds will be measured as an indicator of how relevant and effective the content is for the learner. The learner will vote on quality and effectiveness through activity, i.e., how much they use and participate.

10.  Learning leaders will be more focused on relevancy of information.

With the expansion of different approaches and modalities for creating learning solutions, the learning architect will need to shift the focus to maintaining freshness and relevancy when the learner consumes the content. Finding more stuff will actually slow down the learning unless the learning architect introduces ways to increase the likelihood of the  right content being found at the right time. Much like managing a website, this will require new skills related to usability, tagging and search – just to name a few.