Learning & Development, Technology

Learning and Development (L&D) Trends for 2022

It goes without saying that the last 2 years have posed unique challenges for companies in the United States and around the globe. Operations have been upended by constraints brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced businesses to close their doors, shift to widespread remote work, implement robust health and safety measures for those continuing to work on-site, scrap or greatly reduce travel, and deal with tremendous supply chain disruptions.

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Despite the fact that a company’s success with respect to its competitors is largely driven by its workforce, training L&D are often placed on the backburner in the face of such broader disruptions. Nevertheless, many companies are looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities of L&D in 2022. In this feature, we look at how companies are approaching training in the year ahead, supported by input provided by industry experts and practitioners.

A Focus on ‘Soft Skills’

We’ve written frequently about the unfortunate term “soft skills” to describe abilities that aren’t tied directly to job-specific functions. These abilities include things like effective communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, time management, and many more. A historically dynamic couple of years in the global economy have highlighted just how critical these “soft skills” are and will continue to be in the future. It’s therefore unsurprising that companies are placing a priority on them when it comes to their 2022 L&D efforts.

“As we enter another year of pandemic uncertainty, learning and development teams are uniquely posed to create impact with employees,” says Kimberly Newkirk, VP and Chief Talent and Learning Officer at Liberty Mutual Insurance. “By creating programming to build soft skills such as growth mindset, resiliency, teamwork and inclusion, employees are better equipped to manage change during times of stress.”

Newkirk calls out management skills, in particular, as a key focus for Liberty Mutual in 2022. “Management capability training is a critical component of this work, as managers are spread thin. Managers carry the heavy burden of supporting their employees, as well managing their own changing emotions during this often exhausting and turbulent environment,” she says. “Managers need to be extremely fluid in skills such as communication, having difficult conversations and innovative problem solving. It’s imperative that employees feel empowered speak up and challenge the status quo and that requires a skilled manager to create the space for this to happen. Managers need to be equipped to lead with empathy, inclusivity, and resilience to better enable the success of the firm.”

Rethinking How Employees Learn

In addition to what employees are learning, many companies are considering updates to how they learn. This is due in no small part to the constraints of remote work and the impact of greater flexibility on workers’ ability to learn in the kind of collaborative, synchronous format that dominated the prevailing approach in recent years.

“Employees needed to learn new skills and improve on their existing ones to continue contributing meaningfully to their companies due to the innovations brought about by digital transformation,” says Steven McConnell, Director of Exceptional Resumes. McConnell adds, “Companies will likely invest in organization-wide eLearning programs in 2022 since there will be a massive requirement for employees to understand how and when to use the latest technological processes, software, and solutions to achieve optimal performance and efficiency. Furthermore, expect some organizations to incentivize employees to upskill by providing monetary incentives, rewards for completing a course, and extra time off to fulfill training hours.”

Moreover, McConnell says the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote work have brought about much-needed adjustments in how individuals learn. “Employees may now learn asynchronously, giving them a more personalized experience tailored to their specific needs and schedules,” he says. “Employees will have more freedom to learn skills on their timings that best suit their work and personal life.”

Leveraging New Technologies

Technological advances have been a true saving grace for all aspects of business life amid the pandemic, and it’s hard to imagine how American and global businesses would have coped with the disruptions over the last 2-plus years with the technology that was available just a couple of decades prior.

Andrew Barnes, Go1’s CEO and cofounder, argues that, because the Great Resignation, paired with a pandemic, has empowered employees to take their careers into their own hands, employers and their L&D teams need to embrace tools and strategies that allow employees to learn at their own pace and schedule.

Barnes says that L&D professionals will continue to leverage new technologies in the training realm throughout the coming year. “When L&D programs are accompanied by resources like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and more, employees can focus on upskilling/reskilling when it is convenient for them,” Barnes says. “As we continue to navigate hybrid work, learning in the flow will also support an efficient work and learning environment.”

Furthermore, Barnes argues that short-form content can be a great supplement to traditional learning formats within the digital delivery space. “Apps like TikTok gained tremendous popularity during the pandemic and have taken short-form content to the next level by showing people around the world how to up-level their interview skills or deal with burnout,” he says. “This type of short-form content has had a real impact on younger millennials and Gen Z and needs to be recognized by organizations as an effective strategy for workforce learning and development practices.” In 2022, Barnes notes, “Go1 believes experimenting with shorter form, ‘just in time’ content, will improve the accessibility and relevance of workplace learning.”

The last 2 years have created tremendous challenges for organizations across the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation that was exacerbated by the pandemic have both limited the available talent pool and made it more difficult to train those employees who are available for employee development. As companies look toward 2022, it’s important they think carefully and strategically about their L&D strategies and tactics. 

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.