Disruption, change and uncertainty are all great arguments as to why training and development should be at the top of the list of priorities in an organisation. The terms ‘training’, ‘development’ or ‘education’ can be used interchangeably and all focus on one main thing: Learning. Organisational learning is one of the leading ways in which organisations can assess, understand, and adapt to change. Advancements in technology have seen a significant shift from in-person, in-classroom learning to learning that can happen anywhere and at any time using online platforms and other asynchronous methods. The flexibility and mobility of learning mean that organisations can focus on upskilling and training their employees without having to worry about the logistics of time and place.
So, what does the future of training and development look like?
Companies must focus on workforce enablement (Tratar, 2022). Aligning talent and development with overall business strategy will be crucial to business success, developing critical skills and retaining top talent. Situating learning within business units as opposed to a separate department on its own will be a major feature in the future.
Bite-size learning: Microlearning
LinkedIn Learning’s “2020 Workplace Learning Report” highlights the employee’s need for a more tailor-made, engaging and intuitive learning experience based on their skills gaps and career goals. Demiraj (2021) uses the term microlearning to describe the employee’s need to fill skills gaps using short learning modules that can be consumed anywhere, at any time and on any device. Employees want learning to be easily accessible and use technology that they already use in their daily lives such as mobile-friendly platforms. They want streamlined, organised and simple digital libraries and video content that can be accessed without difficulty (Tratar, 2022).
The demise of instruction-led training (ILT)
The days of gathering in a training room are over. The new hybrid way of working has meant that employers must consider the variety of workplace contexts when designing and implementing a training programme. Digital platforms are most definitely the best solution to providing training to employees who work from home or any other location other than their traditional office space. Online platforms will also take care of the employee’s need to stay connected, and to collaborate and brainstorm from multiple locations.
The rise of digital learning
All roads to the future of learning in organisations lead to digital learning. Digital learning involves real-time learning that uses gamification, augmented and virtual reality to engage with learners (Tratar, 2022). Digital learning works best for operational learning, refresher training and reinforcing existing knowledge.
An organisation must consider the return on investment (ROI) of its training programmes and its digital learning platforms. Since COVID-19, companies have been forced to consider their spending, and so the success of their training programmes has come under the microscope. It is important that when designing a digital learning platform, tools to measure and track an employee’s progress are built in so that it can provide valuable analytics to top management.
Just-in-time learning or learning in the moment of need
According to Demiraj (2021), just-in-time learning strategies can be used effectively in a sales scenario where a salesperson needs a quick refresher on some details of the product before pitching to a client. Organisations need to make sure that product information or product guides are easily accessible to their employees in their moment of need.
Learning should be fun and relatable
Chunks of information delivered in an unimaginative way are most certainly staying in the past (Demiraj, 2021). Employees want information that is easily digestible and engaging. Humour, graphics and real-industry case studies and scenarios will be features of the future. Gamification, video content and interactive tools stave off boredom and make learning more effective and memorable. Demiraj (2021) believes that learning should enable employees to make the connection between what they are learning and the tasks they will or currently are performing.
Lifelong learning is the future
According to Ates and Alsal (2012), lifelong learning is “the lifewide, voluntary and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for not only personal but professional reasons as well”
(p. 4092). The World Economic Forum (WEF, 2020) has listed active learning and resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility as some of the critical skills needed for success in the future world of work. Cultivating a habit of lifelong learning will be essential in developing these critical skills. Becoming a lifelong learner will also ensure that one thrives in the future world of work (Lau, 2021). Organisations have an important role to play in fostering a culture of lifelong learning in their employees (Yokoi, 2020). This can be done by finding learning opportunities ‘on the job’ and ‘in the job’. This type of learning encourages learning as a continuous part of an employee’s workday.
Steps to ensure that your training and development department is future-fit
Instead of trying to prove the efficacy of your training programme, focus on the ROI of your training. It is more impactful when learning is explained in terms of business performance. Training objectives should be linked to employee performance which in turn impacts the bottom line. Data on how effective training is can be measured against sales quotas and the overall growth rate.
- Focus on resilience and agility
Although technical skills are important to getting the job done, future learning programmes should put resilience and agility skilling at the top of the list. Having a workforce that is prepared for change and unpredictable situations will help your organisation endure uncertainty and unexpected events.
- Training should be available to all
Training should not only be reserved for leaders and managers. All levels of employees should be encouraged to partake in the organisation’s training offerings. It is also recommended to train different people from various departments and who belong to different levels in the hierarchy together.
- The future is technologically driven
Digital learning platforms, gamification, microlearning and learning in the moment of need is the future of training and development. Employees want to be in control of their future. Learning and development professionals must be awake to the needs of employees who want learning to be engaging, accessed with ease and related to their current or future tasks.
A lot has changed in the last few years. What has not changed is employees’ need to grow and develop their careers (Demiraj, 2021). It has become clear that CEOs, CLOs and CIOs should all be encouraging and emphasizing learning as a core part of their organisation’s culture, now more than ever. The focus should be on lifelong learning and equipping the workforce with skills such as resilience and agility so that events such as the COVID-19 pandemic will be managed effectively and with minimal physical and psychological cost in the future.
University of Johannesburg