Imagine:

It’s your first day of work at a popular cellular retailer. After making the standard introductions, your supervisor sends you to a dimly-lit back room to watch a series of 10 outdated training videos. After completing the training, you take a brief quiz on a laptop that continues to lose internet connection and then print your results to give to your manager. The next thing you know, you’re on the sales floor helping customers select products you have never seen before, let alone used. You do your best to provide exceptional customer service but lack the tools and resources you need to do so. You’re left feeling lost and defeated … and it’s only been a few hours since you clocked in.

While this situation may seem incomprehensible in today’s business environment, many people lacked the resources they needed to perform in their roles in years past. And, while some companies are still modernizing, the learning and development (L&D) industry has come a long way from stale, check-the-box compliance videos. In honor of Training Industry’s 15-year anniversary, let’s reflect on some of the trends taking today’s L&D market by storm.

Remote Learning Is Here to Stay

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a stark rise in remote learning. Training Industry research found that before the pandemic, 41% of training was delivered in person, and 52% was delivered virtually. Now, only 22% of training is in person, and 72% is virtual.

The demand for remote learning has forced training suppliers to move their in-person training programs online and adopt various virtual delivery modalities. Many suppliers have stepped up to the plate during the crisis, offering free virtual training programs and resources on topics such as COVID-19 prevention and how to safely bring employees back into the workplace.

Ken Taylor, Training Industry’s president and editor-in-chief, says the shift to remote learning is one of the biggest trends in today’s corporate training market — and it’s not going away any time soon. Many employees will find they prefer remote learning over in-person training, as it gives them greater control over how and when they learn, he says. Plus, virtual training delivery is “substantially less expensive” than delivering a course in person. As organizations strive to keep employees’ skills sharp during a time of constant change, many will look to remote learning for a faster, more efficient, course roll out, Taylor says.

Kelly Rider, chief learning officer at technology company PTC, agrees, noting, “Once costly and high-touch in-person programs are being replaced by more digital solutions that can scale and provide consistent (and faster) feedback to learners.” In the future, Rider says that L&D will have “much more of a say” in how training programs are designed and delivered.

Julian Malnak, a senior talent development professional, says COVID-19 has caused organizations across industries to “accelerate digital transformation.” While remote learning has required L&D leaders to “move faster” and keep pace with evolving virtual delivery modalities, he says that it also creates higher-quality learning experiences. After all, shifting to remote learning doesn’t simply mean “taking an existing in-person course and making it virtual,” Taylor says. In many cases, it means creating an entirely new, transformative learning experience.

Ultimately, Rider says that the global crisis has led business leaders and employees alike to recognize what L&D has known for years: You don’t have to be in a classroom to learn.

Agile Solutions Gain Momentum

Agile solutions are taking the corporate training market by storm. In recent months, training suppliers have announced everything from Agile sales training solutions to Agile leadership and change management support tools as companies look to operate at the speed of change. “The pandemic [has] affected every single business and our way of life,” Rider says. Within the corporate environment, she says, “L&D has had to shift strategies in real time to maintain continuity on workforce development.”

Agile solutions have gained traction in the L&D market for some time now, as organizations across industries look to keep pace with industry advancements and a fast-paced business climate. Part of the reason Agile solutions are gaining momentum, Malnak says, is because they “allow us to change things faster and to mix and match solutions.” The days of one-size-fits-all training is over, he says. Today’s training organizations are being asked to “do more with less,” and Agile solutions can help them deliver quality learning solutions quickly.

Agile organizations will have an invaluable competitive edge both now and in the future of work. McKinsey reports that, while traditional organizations are built around a “static, siloed, structural hierarchy … agile organizations are characterized as a “network of teams operating in rapid learning and decision-making cycles.”

As organizations across industries face continued disruption, the demand for workforce agility will prevail. As Malnak put it, “Today, we may be making frying pans … but tomorrow we may be making ovens.” Agile training solutions can help organizations make a metaphorical switch from creating frying pans to creating best-in-class ovens.

Learning in the Flow of Work

Innovative technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have made knowledge accessible on demand, in the flow of work. From virtual coaches to mobile apps and online collaboration tools, the corporate training market continues to see solutions that offer leaners the knowledge they need, when they need it.

This ability to learn in the flow of work especially benefits frontline employees, who need to stay connected and informed on the job. For example, Praveen Kanyadi, co-founder and vice president of products at Group.io, says that frontline health care workers need to be able to “connect and collaborate directly with one another” — no matter where their co-workers are. Virtual collaboration tools make it easy to reach and collaborate with others in real time during scenarios like coordinating room changes or assigning additional testing, he says.

Today’s employees are expected to accomplish business goals amid constant uncertainty. On-demand learning gives them the support they need to continue performing at their best.

It’s safe to say that L&D has evolved significantly over the past 15 (or even five) years. COVID-19 has accelerated market trends that were already rising, from remote learning to Agile solutions to learning in the flow of work. Over the next 15 years, organizations can expect L&D to continue supporting their people — and their bottom lines — through the business of learning.

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