Learning & Development

3 Trends Transforming Training

What happens in a world where skills become obsolete in just a few years?

trainingMobile training often is more practical than classroom training, too. Employees can tap in when they need information and are best positioned to absorb it.

Gamification seems obvious when you consider how many of your employees play electronic games, whether it’s The Sims on a phone or Call of Duty on a huge TV.

Not so long ago, employees learned work skills in school or on the job and applied those same skills for the duration of their careers. But, in today’s rapidly evolving workplace, skills become obsolete at an alarming rate. The so-called “half-life” of learned skills is estimated to have fallen to about 5 years—while employees’ careers can span as long as 5 or 6 decades.

Employers that recognize this gap are moving to address it through “continuous learning.” Some may scoff at that moniker, thinking it an overly fancy term for good old employee training. The latest training trends, though, demonstrate that learning and development are far different animals than they were as recently as 5 years ago.

1. The Changing Landscape

The discrepancy between the half-life of skills and the length of employees’ careers is just one of the reasons for the renewed emphasis on training of late.

Another is the need to cater to the Millennials who have flooded the workplace. Consultant Bersin Deloitte found that Millennials rank training and development as their “most coveted job benefit,” higher than even flexible work schedules and cash bonuses. Data from Glassdoor indicate that 42% of Millennials are likely to leave a job because they aren’t learning fast enough.

Younger workers aren’t the only ones who place a high value on training. A separate Deloitte survey of more than 10,000 respondents worldwide found that “careers and learning” came in second in terms of the most important trends in 2017, up from fifth place the previous year. Eighty-three percent agreed the trend was important or very important.

Deloitte views the learning function “as a highly strategic business area that focuses on innovation and leadership development by delivering a world-class learning experience, promoting lifetime learning for longer careers, and bringing multifunctional teams together to connect and collaborate.” You probably should, too.

To make the most of your training, check out these top trends:

2. Mobile Training

Employee learning has been moving away from the traditional classroom approach for a while now, yet LinkedIn’s 2017 Workplace Learning Report reveals that instructor-led classes in an in-person classroom setting remains the number one way employees are trained. Seventy-eight percent of learning and development professionals surveyed say they use classroom training.

Mobile options are picking up steam, though, with 58% of respondents using online training created in-house and 49% using online training from external providers.

That makes a lot of sense. “By utilizing mobile devices, companies can make training accessible to employees anywhere and anytime and enable employees to flexibly control their learning,” the blog of corporate training platform firm Wibe Academy notes. Employees can download training materials to their devices so they can access learning even when they don’t have an Internet connection.

The accessibility of mobile training is critical. Employees of all ages have come to expect immediate access to everything from books and TV shows to restaurant reviews and cholesterol test results via whichever device happens to be closest. They see no reason why work training should be any different.

As the Wibe Academy blog points out, “21st century employees are digital natives—mobiles, laptops, and social media have always been an important part in their lives. Growing up in the digital world, it’s no surprise that [they] expect access to the same level of technology at work that they are used to in their free time.…” According to Wibe, young workers consider traditional learning methods outdated and rigid: “[Fifty percent] of [M]illennials think they don’t need to be in a classroom to learn.”

Mobile training often is more practical than classroom training, too. Employees can tap in when they need information and are best positioned to absorb it.

“When employees are stuck, they need the answer quickly,” says Britt Andreatta, PhD, a top LinkedIn learning author. “It doesn’t help them to sign up for a class that will happen three weeks from now and sit through a four-hour session to get the answer they need this minute. They are more inclined to engage in learning if they can watch a short video that they have access to 24/7 on any device.”

Tess Taylor predicts on HRDive.com that mobile learning is here to stay. She cites its many benefits, including portability, flexibility of learning methods, and the ability to engage in distraction-free learning activities. In addition, mobile training enables personalizing training content based on an individual’s job requirements, existing knowledge, and learning style.

3. Self-Service Training

The rising interest in mobile training is closely tied to the growing demand for self-service training (also known as on-demand or participant-led training).

“What makes the concept of ‘self serve’ relevant today is that now, more than ever, people want to drive their own employee experience,” writes Jennifer Miller on her The People Equation blog. “From ‘Bring Your Own Device to Work’ plans, to choosing à la carte employee benefits, today’s employees demand to participate more fully in their work experience.”

Surveys show that employees appreciate a sense of autonomy, and self-service training gives it to them. “Participant-led/participant-driven learning is having the ability to take control of what, and how, you learn,” says Chris Douglas, vice president of training for Fierce, Inc., a leadership development and training company.

“When it comes to leadership training, participant-led learning allows personal preferences to influence how these skills are learned and applied. For example, an individual may prefer to learn at their own pace via online resources, while another individual may prefer 1:1 training over the course of a few days.”

The adoption of self-service content puts HR in a different role. With the commodification of training content, HR can shift its focus from in-house learning management systems (LMSs) to curating a wide range of internal and external materials.

“Thanks to tools such as YouTube and innovators such as Khan Academy, Udacity, Udemy, Coursera, NovoEd, edX, and others, a new skill is often only a mouse click away,” says Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report.

“Leading universities offer graduate-level courses online through edX MicroMasters programs for a fraction of the cost of a full master’s degree. Completion of a series of online courses opens the door for learners to then apply for admission to a formal master’s program at one of the many top institutions participating.

Deloitte warns that employers face a stark choice: “[H]arness this trend to their company’s benefit or risk watching their learning programs become obsolete.”


Many employers have already introduced video into their training programs, but the value of such materials remains open to debate. For example, some HR professionals have found that training videos can be too long for employees to maintain attention, undermining the long-term value of this approach.

But the answer isn’t to simply cast aside video training altogether. Rather, consider adapting your video materials for microlearning, where training is delivered in short, bite-size clips ranging from 30 to 120 seconds.

These short, mobile-optimized videos can include charts, graphs, audio files, chat features, and surveys that convey learning materials in a quick, easy-to-absorb format on an employee’s tablet or smartphone. You can push the clips out to your employees through e-mail or messaging apps, giving them nuggets of learning they can consume while commuting, sitting on their couches at home, or anywhere else they can stream video.

“The small screen size and the on-the-go nature of mobile devices make mobile the best distribution method for microlearning,” the Wibe Academy advises. “Learners can, for example, access and complete small training sections that last from 1 to 2 minutes during their commute time.”

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll look at three more trends that are also transforming training.

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