New Trends in Corporate Training [Part 1]
Successful trainers know the importance of being able to adapt to change. The business training market is in a time of transition, with COVID an obvious driver of many of them. However, in many ways, the pandemic has accelerated or intensified trends that were already developing.
Most notable among these is the shift to online delivery of services - the #1 trend discussed below. Two other trends worth noting are increased emphasis on “microlearning” - delivering training in bite-size chunks instead of long-form training programs - and increased emphasis on “soft skills” as opposed to purely technical knowledge or how-tos.
In this article we will examine the impact of these three trends as well as what experts predict that the future will hold as the pandemic (hopefully) winds down and people and organizations seek in-person interactions.
#1 The Online Platform Is Here To Stay
The pandemic had clearly accelerated global trends toward working from home and online delivery of services. One of the key implications, as founder of Onsite.fun Jaume Alavedra points out, is everyone’s market - and competition - has significantly increased:
The corporate trainer market will benefit from the dislocation of many companies and their headquarters. Many companies’ current tech stack already allows for engaging and interactive sessions where external facilitators and trainers can provide insightful content from anywhere.
The shift to online has had some second-order implications. Operations Manager Neeraj Arya, for example, explains that online delivery of training services has led trainers to shift their marketing and technology spend accordingly, as PMExperto “invested in learning new things like SEO, social media promotions, online course creation, webinars, etc.”
The online trend is also putting a premium on trainers who are able to deliver effective programs over virtual media. Allison Chaney, Chief Digital Training Officer of Boot Camp Digital has found that investing on these capabilities has had a significant payoff: “as word gets out about how we are different and making the virtual experience fun and interesting, we're seeing an increase in clients asking for virtual training.”
Finally, CEO of The Bottom Line Group Michael Hammelburge emphasizes the increasing importance of a high-quality training management platform, noting that “the main benefit of using training software is streamlining the turnover planning through a more cost-effective and reliable process. We are able to discover learning gaps and act on them immediately.”
An important question for the corporate training industry lies in the extent to which the end of the pandemic will shift programs back toward in-person delivery. However, this may be a false dichotomy to some extent as communications expert Roseann Galvan explains, as online and in-person training can also complement each other:
Now that we have all become more comfortable with offering online training and engaging groups via videoconferencing, I think that will stay in a support capacity. Instead of having to do a week-long onsite, for example, I can see a full day or two of onsite training followed by a series of both group and individualized videoconferences to reinforce and practice the skills. It will be a huge money saver for clients, and time and travel saver for the trainers. As long as we can continue to provide the results, I do not anticipate it impacting our fees, so I think everyone will come out better due to this industry re-set.
#2 The Growth of Microlearning
Microlearning is the process by which small learning items are taught in short bursts, in contrast to traditional longer-form training programs. It very much aligns with the shift to online learning noted above. Uplearnit cofounder Helena Alvarez notes the benefits, recounting that “people are busy and want quick bites of learning they can consume while having lunch or commuting to the office. Microlearning can come in the form of short videos, short pieces of written content, or visual infographics. This trend is already seen with social media learning. Informational carousels are trending on Instagram and slowly coming to LinkedIn.”
Indeed, this structure has already been growing in popularity, and, as co-founder of coaching company Twiz Christian Velitchkov predicts, “the adoption of the bite-size learning model will fuel market growth in the coming future.”
Another sub-trend to watch for is training interactivity. At this point, employees aren’t learning as much as they used to from just passively consuming hours of training videos or other educational materials. What matters to successful training course completion and actual learnings and skills gaining is practice and active participation.
We at Profi see more corporate trainers massively adopting technologies that allow them to create blended learning experiences for their employees. They like adding interactive elements to their programs such as 1:1, group training sessions, or generating active discussions around certain module topics. And employees love when they get to share their thoughts and questions and get those addressed in real-time as they go through a program curriculum.
It’s a win-win scenario for both trainers and learners as this also results in much higher training efficiency.
#3 Soft Skills Are Increasing In Importance
Another trend accelerated by the pandemic and associated lockdowns is the growth of importance of soft skills, especially in helping people interact more effectively with colleagues, managers, and direct reports. This is not only driven by the challenges of building and maintaining relationships without the benefit of regular in-person interaction, but also by the increasingly role played in many organized by software engineers and developers: professions where soft skills have historically not been a source of emphasis.
To this point, Teresa Hopke, CEO of global coaching firm Talking Talent, notes that “people are struggling. They need understanding, compassion, support, and empathy. Work is no longer a place where people go to separate from their life. It is an intertwined part of their lives as they work from home, manage kids/pets/parents, and try to find ways not to blur the lines between work and life. What they need in 2021 isn’t another meditation app or fitness tracker. What they need is an empathetic manager.”
As we enter the corporate marketplace in the 2020s, three trends have become apparent - a move toward online (or at least hybrid) delivery of services, a shift toward microlearning, and increasing emphasis on softer skills. Savvy trainers will adjust to and get in front of these trends, while remaining alert for new ones, as “unknown unknowns” (such as the pandemic, not widely-predicted before it happened) always have the potential to further disrupt the market.