Learning leaders are tasked with addressing numerous challenges to business continuity: Gen Z entering the workforce, accelerating digital transformation, transitions to hybrid and remote operating models, The Great Resignation and social movements that challenge how institutions transmit knowledge and distribute power. So how are learning leaders reimagining corporate learning to meet new ways of work within this evolving landscape of economic life?

A recent survey of 515 learning leaders conducted by NovoEd and Executive Networks uncovered that learning leaders are leveraging three critical strategies to adapt to these changes in the business environment.

Strategy 1: Learning leaders are involving executives from other business units in managing, scoping and defining the role of corporate learning.

Eight in 10 (82%) learning leaders believe business leaders will ramp up their involvement in learning and development (L&D) by 2025, the research found. As a result, learning functions are beginning to borrow tactics from other parts of the business, such as return on investment (ROI) analysis, data-driven analysis and omnichannel communications planning. In addition, as more business leaders view the investment in learning as a business priority, learning leaders are preparing performance dashboards similar to those developed by business leaders.

This is why corporate academies, as a change lever well suited for creating clear ROI and demonstrating impact, are becoming increasingly common. One-third (33%) of corporations currently have corporate academies, defined as virtual or in-person places where employees advance job-related competencies related to their organization’s competitive advantage or unique aspects of their operating model. For example, companies with corporate academies designed to upskill front-line team members and managers in digital literacy and data analysis might report on the results of these efforts through dashboards.

Many organizations are moving towards formal, cross-functional readouts from these dashboards, called learning annual reports. While currently half of corporate learning organizations produce a learning annual report, two-thirds will publish a learning annual report by 2025. An additional 17% have not yet decided whether or not to move towards publishing learning annual reports. These reports go beyond completion and engagement to application, performance improvement and real financial ROI.

It is also becoming increasingly common for chief learning officers to come into learning from functions outside of learning and human resources. At General Electric, for example, the vice president of learning and culture is also the company’s chief marketing officer.

 

Strategy 2: Learning leaders are investing in seamless systems for delivering all forms of training to hybrid and remote workforces.

Even with the reduction in COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and the return of business travel, the percentage of knowledge workers in hybrid working environments keeps rising, from 46% in May 2021 to 58% this year, according to a survey of 10,000 knowledge workers conducted by Future Forum. Moreover, NovoEd’s research found that 83% of learning leaders believe the continuing tailwinds in favor of hybrid and remote work will force companies to redesign corporate learning. The consensus is that additional investment in learning technology and learning experience design will be necessary, above and beyond the stopgap measures put in place during the pandemic, to ensure the continuity of learning operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next generation learning delivery mirrors how employees work and how work happens, both in terms of being integrated into the flow of work and meeting employees where they are in a literal sense. Many learning leaders are moving toward developing event-based learning experiences that encompass both in-person and virtual attendees, including mobile delivery.  Leaders are also looking for solutions that synthesize synchronous online, asynchronous online and instructor-led classes into cohesive experiences.

One of the critical tailwinds in favor of scaling investment in blended, asynchronous and multimodal learning is the success of early attempts to transition critical capability building online. For example, cloud data services and data management company NetApp migrated their marquee sales onboarding program to a six-week blended and cohort-based learning journey. Even though they can return to in-person instruction in the post-pandemic world, they are continuing with this modality because the program continues to deliver on its original mandate through the revised delivery medium. In fact, 59% of learning leaders believe that hybrid learning, and the adoption of social, collaborative and cohort-based learning technologies, will lead to the end of brick-and-mortar training, according to the NovoEd research. CEOs, owners and founders are particularly aligned around the idea that hybrid and remote learning will fully substitute brick-and-mortar training. Learning directors and managers are relatively split on the likelihood that in-person training will disappear.

Strategy 3: Learning leaders are extending their audience beyond full-time employees.

Customers and key stakeholders, such as service providers, customers, contractors, and community members are increasingly part of the L&D conversation. Customers and external stakeholders will increase as an audience for training, rising from 32% to 41% by 2025, NovoEd research found. For example, Visa University recently launched a sophisticated certification program for customers, featuring a suite of digital badges for internal customer-facing roles and client-side professionals that work closely with Visa’s organization. These badges certify proficiency in areas ranging from fraud to dispute resolution and cybersecurity.

The rise in creating training for external audiences comes part and parcel with a declining focus on training full-time employees. As of today, 89% of training organizations primarily target full-time employees, and that audience focus is forecast to drop to 62% in 2025. In that same time interval, learning leaders forecast a rise in audience focus on service providers, contractors and freelancers, and customers and external stakeholders. This also means learning organizations are shifting away from focusing on internal competencies like customer service to extended enterprise needs like cybersecurity, data analytics and measurement, and a specialty in cloud platforms.

Conclusion

A throughline implication of the above strategies is the increasing availability and utilization of next generation learning technology and learning creation tools that can be used to drive increased business impact and learning effectiveness. The synthesis between new technical systems and changing business imperatives is bringing the role of the learning experience designer to the forefront. Learning experience designers will be more important as additional creativity and resources are required to develop compelling learning experiences for all forms of work: in-person, remote and hybrid.

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