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HR Dive asked the experts for their views on what’s to come in a new decade of learning potential. As the year comes to a close, L&D professionals are taking time to assess what worked well in 2019, what didn’t and what to look for in 2020.

What will be the top learning modalities for the coming year? HR Dive asked the experts for their views on what’s to come in a new decade of learning potential.

Learning in the flow of work rises

Kristen Fyfe-Mills, director of marketing and strategic communications at ATD, predicts an increasing need for L&D to hone the ability to leverage data that’s meaningful and deliver relevant, just-in-time learning to employees. “The future of work,” she told HR Dive in an email, “demands a near constant cycle of upskilling and reskilling to keep employee knowledge and capabilities current and organizations competitive.”

To achieve this goal, employers are focusing on accessibility and personalization of the learning experience. While misconceptions persist, true personalization helps every employee learn to the best of their abilities, whether enabling them to learn at their own pace and cadence or across devices such as desktop and mobile, Paul Mumma, CEO of Cerego, told HR Dive. “Teaching people based on their individual needs will certainly be a trend in L&D in the upcoming year, as it’s a win-win for both business and employee development,” Mumma said.

Remote work also complicates the learning tableau. Falguni Bhuta, head of partnerships and communications at Kahoot, noted the learning industry will likely invest more time and budget into remote training initiatives in 2020.  “Be it investing in video conferencing capabilities, ways to get teams to interact and engage with each other online or invest in tools that allow smooth communications between a distributed workforce,” Bhuta said.

Manager training gains traction

Tania Luna, Co-CEO of LifeLabs Learning, told HR Dive that the company is seeing growth in demand for manager training, especially as companies become flatter and more agile. “Not only are companies asking for it,” she said in an email, “managers are hungry for it as well. The most popular learning focus, from our experience, is definitely manager development.”  Managers are the hotspots for engagement, productivity and culture, she added, and when managers are prepared for their jobs, they help their teams adopt healthy communication and productivity habits.

Soft skills remain in demand

“Up until the last few years,” Mumma said, “workplace training has focused on teaching a very tangible set of skills, usually related to a person’s title.” Now, soft skills training will be in high demand, especially as the demands of the workplace require employees to have skills that cross departments. “Employees will need to become more fluid learners, knowledgeable on topics both inside and outside of their specific fields,” Mumma added.

He predicts that with the shift towards more cross-departmental, continuous learning, companies will move away from relying solely on large systems, like an LMS. “Corporations will augment or replace their LMS,” he suggested, “instead developing a constellation of different products and tools to best serve their L&D programs.”

The science of learning informs a communal approach

The behavioral science theory informing current corporate learning and development is social cognitive theory, or the idea that people learn by observing others, Kiara Graham, learning strategy consultant for D2L, told HR Dive. Social cognitive theory has played a role in corporate learning for decades, she noted, but today’s tech advancements allow L&D teams to take social learning to the next level by incorporating social technologies like Slack and Microsoft Teams into their learning ecosystem. “This trend will only grow as tools like video coaching and instant messaging allow us to learn as easily from an expert on another continent as we do from a person the next desk over,” Graham added.

Such an approach — and use of technology — can better enable collaborative learning, which may help engagement, Bhuta said. Learners can use the collective wisdom of their colleagues to get ahead; passive learners can also benefit as they can freely ask questions or give answers virtually which they may have been afraid to express in person. “Through different apps and tools, learners are also able to review the content covered during the training at their own pace and time against other trainees,” Bhuta said. “This allows for continuous training which results in better knowledge retention.”

Employer-educator collaborations grow

Employee-educator partnerships are increasing in number, Graham said, and that will likely continue. “More than ever we’re seeing educators reaching out to workforce partners to identify the skills that employers need and then working in collaboration to develop and deliver programs that create a reliable stream of qualified candidates,” Graham said. The same type of employer collaboration is being leveraged to train existing staff through custom continuing education programs.

There is a need for a stronger education/workforce alignment, Fyfe-Mills said; “Partnerships exist, especially at the community college level, but more should be developed. Opportunities exist for employers to take a proactive approach with secondary and post-secondary education institutions to meet to discuss the skills needed so that programs can be created to provide a skilled workforce.”

Graham noted that these collaborations are the wave of the present and the future. “Workforce and education partnership and collaborations in the form of continuing education, apprenticeships, internships, and so on is much more than a growing trend. These partnerships are a must-have in the face of widespread technological disruption and change.” Educators and employers both benefit; educators are able to adapt to the rapidly changing skills that employers need in their workforce, and employers gain by having rapidly trained staff and a reliable source of qualified candidates, Graham said.

AI continues to make strides

While AI is intended to make jobs more efficient and easier, L&D programs can in turn upskill their workforce using the same AI that replaced these jobs, Mumma predicts. “In the next year, we’ll continue to implement AI that increases human potential through L&D programs.” He suggested this can most prominently be seen in AI’s impact on learning methods. “For example, AI enables people to learn at the best of their capacity. It’s easier for a computer to implement practices like precisely spaces repetitions, or frequent testing, than it would be for a human to self-implement these reminders.”

Artificial intelligence is creeping into talent development, Paula Ketter, ATD content strategist​, told HR Dive; it’s helping with class enrollment, training delivery, retention, follow-up and assessment. In safety training, for example, “[y]ou are seeing AI used in situational role play to present active shooter situations and other crisis management scenarios,” she said in an email. Some companies are using the tech to curate the most relevant content for each learner, provide real-time support to learners, and read, classify, organize, and respond to learner feedback and comments on courses.​