I returned from ASTD 2013 last week full of energy about the future of learning and leadership development, about advances in learning technologies, and about the integration of neuroscience into the process of learning new skills and becoming better leaders in all phases of our careers. It was energizing to be among 10,000 learning and development professionals, and to hear about some of the latest learning trends and thinking from large companies like UPS, thought leaders like Ken Blanchard and Sir Ken Robinson, and see new products and services from vendors at the Expo. Having never been to an ASTD ICE before, I wasn’t prepared for the scale and scope of the conference, and it was a bit overwhelming to try to take it all in. What I did notice were several trends that are impacting how organizations tackle learning and development:
1. How We Learn. Gone are the days of lecture in the classroom learning. The field has moved on to more experiences, more dialogue, and better use of the field of neuroscience. Movement, humor, reflection, challenge and low stakes competition are all being incorporated into learning and development design. A well-designed development experience is more than a cool employee reward, but now makes greater impact on work long after the training event is over, by incorporating ongoing coaching, regular refreshers or other ways to lock that learning into long-term memory and new habits.
2. Short and Sweet. While there is still value in 5-day or even 3-week training courses, leaders pressed for time and resources are increasingly looking for 1-day, 1/2 day or even shorter formats for training and development. The response has been the growth of more sophisticated online learning management systems, webinar formats that allow interactive training across distances, and 5-10 minute training units that deliver “just in time” relevant learning via computer or smartphone.
3. Core Skills. While technical training remains important for many jobs and functions, the critical competitive advantage in many organization is driven by core skills for leading, managing, communicating and motivating yourself and others. Leadership skills, conflict management skills, and flexible communication skills are gaining more emphasis at all levels in organizations. Assessment providers are adding more practical application guidance and products to go from “nice to know” to truly critical developmental tools. Coaching is more relevant than ever to create engagement, self-awareness and big improvements in this area.
4. Mobile. With a smartphone in every hand, learning platforms are taking advantage of that device to provide learning-on-the-go. Access to content and exercises for core and technical skills in that airport security line, on lunch break, or anywhere away from the desk provides more ability to learn in more places, and enables access to the right skill at the right moment.
5. Online. Face to face training takes time and frequently travel – whether across the building or around the world, and time is a precious commodity in today’s organizations. Learning management systems have long made content available online, and now the world of interactive training is improving that online experience with the ability to include breakouts, share whiteboards, polling, video, chat questions and slides all in one platform.
6. ROI. I’m sure you’re aware that money is tight in most places, and the training and development budget is often the target of budget cuts and has been resistant to accurate measurement. Return on Investment (ROI) has been a growing trend in learning and development, as organizations look to optimize their learning experiences and get more bang for the buck. Going beyond the traditional exit survey (did you like this training?), ROI looks at which skills learning transferred to daily work, and what impact that had on results. The challenge remains the cost of all that measurement, and more organizations are tackling this to decide which content and formats truly create value, and which do not. Expect to see more measurement and better training as a result.
Overall, it’s an exciting time to be in the business of developing stronger leaders and organizations, and here at Transcend, we are happy to see that the industry is thriving and rising to meet the challenge of a rapidly changing environment. We are working on 5 of the 6 trends right here, and mobile will no doubt be on our project list in the coming year or so!
Which of these learning trends are you seeing in your organization? What opportunities do you see?