Emerald Group was founded in 1967 as a publishing company whose goal was to “champion new ideas that would advance the research and practice of business and management,” according to Emerald Publishing’s website. Since then, it has expanded, finding a natural fit for learning and development (L&D) products and services as part of its mission to “help [people] make decisions that count based on research that matters.” It acquired GoodPractice, an e-learning and LMS company, in 2015; Towards Maturity, an L&D research firm, in 2017; and Mind Tools, a digital learning and performance support company, this spring.

“Our two businesses have grown around a shared ethos of delivering research-led learning solutions supported by a firm evidence base,” says Peter Casebow, CEO of Emerald’s corporate learning division, says of Emerald and Mind Tools. “Bringing together two leaders in this space [in GoodPractice and Mind Tools] will allow Emerald to strengthen our offerings and the service we provide to our clients, while supporting a greater number of learners worldwide.”

Recent Training Industry research pointed to a widespread belief among executives that training is important to business results – but also that training is not as effective as it needs to be to provide a source of competitive advantage. These findings indicate that learning leaders should connect L&D to long-term business strategy; “take risks with the form and function of the L&D practices”; and find ways to integrate talent management, acquisition and development. Similarly, according to the press release announcing the acquisition, Emerald Group’s “ambition is to unlock the talent and potential in people to help make decisions that lead to real change and positively impact performance.”

“We started Mind Tools because, as managers ourselves, we struggled to find resources to help us develop our own careers,” said Mind Tools co-founder James Manktelow in the press release. Providing training in topics from leadership and team management to stress and time management, in formats from templates and worksheets to microlearning and infographics, as well as an app, Mind Tools is aimed at managers wanting to develop their personal and professional skills.

However, it also has a corporate arm and boasts customers such as Mastercard, AstraZeneca and Randstad, according to its website. It offers online content as well as a learning management system (LMS) and reporting, and while its website says its services are aimed at all levels, Mind Tools is a member of the leadership training market, one of the fastest-growing segments of the training industry. Indeed, Training Industry’s 2019 report on the leadership training market found that self-paced learning, whether online or offline, has been growing in popularity over the last few years, partially due to the rise of dispersed teams and the virtual workforce.

While Emerald Group’s focus right now is on integrating the businesses successfully, Casebow says, “We are ambitious to grow and will continue to explore the market for suitable opportunities that meet our strategic vision. Emerald Group is growing faster than the industry average and facing the disruption we see coming to the academic publishing market,” (learning leaders know well the impact of disruption). “Our ability to be agile in the market is really helping us respond quickly as the client needs evolve. From a learning perspective, the demand for tools to support workers at the point of need continues to grow, and we’re seeing global growth in all areas.”

Casebow believes that the interest in “how data, analytics and AI can improve the quality of solutions for learners” is well deserved, but he doesn’t anticipate any significant breakthroughs this year. “There are some very interesting experiments going on, some of which we’re involved in and others, we are watching with interest. I suspect the main breakthroughs in this area will come in 2020 and beyond.”

So, stay tuned for updates from Emerald Group and Mind Tools – and other companies across the leadership training market – as they continue to innovate in the way they deliver leadership development programs online, in person … and whatever comes next.