A version of this post was published in Training Magazine on January 13, 2022.
Predicting the future is often associated with the image of a crystal ball. However, a data scientist crunching numbers might make for a better option. That's because numbers don't lie — patterns may be hard to identify and interpret, but the numbers behind them will always be clear.
While a crystal ball is not required to predict that post-pandemic professional training will be different, pinpointing exactly how things will evolve requires some level of pattern recognition. Therefore, HR and L&D trends are based on recognizing where things are headed so companies will know where to concentrate their efforts and how to get the best training ROI in 2022.
The HR and L&D trends all companies should know about
Below are four HR and L&D trends that will be gaining traction in the near future, based on important patterns and trends:
Remote work was on the rise even before the pandemic, and it will be part of the “new normal” moving forward. Employees are willing to give up some of their raises in exchange for this flexibility, and some even consider looking for another job if they can’t work remotely, at least partially. Managers and HR and L&D departments should take note and adapt their policies to meet the needs of a hybrid workforce.
A hybrid workplace can take more than one form, including:
- Some employees could work from the office, while others work remotely;
- All employees could work from the office three or four days a week, and from home the other days;
- All employees from a department could work from the office on certain days, while other departments on the others;
- Each employee could work either from the office or from home on any given day.
Management may need to implement some structure at first and build strong internal communication. But while it may be challenging to set up a well-functioning hybrid workplace, it will help attract and retain the best talent in the near future.
Read more: Top 4 challenges of training a hybrid team
A skilled workforce characterizes any functioning organization. Employees know how important it is to keep their professional skills sharp, and companies offer skill-building programs to meet these demands. However, determining which employees need to focus on which skills can be tricky. Companies that will stand the test of time will have clear strategies for right-skilling their workforce.
For instance, the move to remote work required many employees and managers to adapt to new technologies while managing their time and tasks in a different work environment. Companies that provided training modules on cybersecurity best practices, time management, using certain tools, and communicating in the virtual environment helped employees overcome these challenges faster and avoided productivity losses. Likewise, training courses on how to conduct meetings online, build rapport with employees, customers and partners through web conferencing tools and manage conflict virtually were useful to managers.
Any training program needs to adapt to new business realities constantly. Future success will be dependent on how well businesses and employees identify pressing skills gaps and how quickly training departments can design and deploy programs that bridge them.
Even though more people will return to the workplace, most training will continue to happen online, at least partially. Instructors and trainees don't have to be in the same place at the same time because learning is not tied to a certain place. In addition, retention rates tend to be better when training occurs at a time that’s most convenient for each learner (instead of one instructor).
Asynchronous training can happen on a spectrum, with L&D professionals setting the level of synchronization to fit specific needs for the company/department and employees. For example, some compliance courses can be done completely asynchronously, while shadowing sessions where a new hire “learns the ropes” can happen synchronously, even on short notice. However, for more complex training courses, it’s often beneficial to take a blended approach, where learners can go through the course content at their own pace while also attending regular, live Q&A sessions with the instructor.
This trend is here to stay because asynchronous training bypasses time and location barriers, which benefits all employees.
Intelligent learning platforms
Lastly, we're now seeing accelerated progress in terms of learning tools and platforms. The most common type of learning platform — the learning management system (LMS) — has transformed immensely over the years. While at first, it simply allowed instructors to create online training courses and keep track of learner progress, it is now a comprehensive solution that meets various learner needs, collects more learner data, and provides more analytics so that instructors can create better courses.
An intelligent learning platform takes things further:
- It includes more learning experience platform (LXP) functionality, which focuses even more deeply on learner needs;
- It integrates with more complex tools, such as smart speakers or virtual reality;
- It could even measure previously unmeasurable components, such as learners’ emotions when progressing through a training module.
Automation plays an important role in this development too. Larning recommendations can help each employee learn and perform better, making the entire learning experience more personal and interactive.
Since the pandemic has fast-tracked technological advancements, intelligent learning platforms will be more widely used in the near future.
Keeping an eye on the horizon
HR and L&D professionals need to continue to optimize working and training processes. Hybrid workplaces, right-skilling programs, asynchronous training and intelligent learning platforms are the beginning of the new workplace, with technology and data-driven insights at the center.