This post was originally published in The Cloud and SaaS Awards, on September 17, 2020.
As someone with firsthand experience in training and education, I’ve come to believe that learning is a reflection of your organization. Formal training is more important in the corporate world. There’s also compliance training that is essential to businesses that work in high-risk circumstances. Across industries, you see flexible training in companies that value independence and creativity.
What we know now about training might as well be entirely turned upside down. As recent events have shown us, companies have had to deal not only with significant upheavals but also they’ve had to reconsider their practices entirely. The most obvious example is allowing employees to work full time from home. Remote working is nothing new — by 2028, 73 percent of all teams will have remote workers.
The pandemic undoubtedly hastened this process. I wouldn't be surprised if employees see the benefits of remote working and choose to ditch the office partially. Additionally, Millennials, a significant part of the workforce, see training as the number one job perk. It’s not surprising in the least, as investing in your skills to compete in an ever-changing market is a great strategy and a win-win for employers and employees alike.
What’s in store for the future of training?
As soon as one major shift occurs, others are due to follow suit, much like a domino effect. Training is certainly an area that is bound to transform rapidly as more pieces fall.
Companies that are comfortable digitizing most operations tend to do better at adapting to the new realities of disruption. I’d go as far as saying that tech-savvy companies will be the ones to survive across industries, but that’s not the whole story. Businesses can catch-up and adapt most operations, including training, thanks to the currently available technology.
Sure, technology helps us deliver and manage change. However, the major change that we have to make is being more flexible. For example, companies that have relied on formal, face to face training have to transition into e-learning.
As trends show us, Software as a service (SaaS) models for training services are already the norm, as companies need to implement training programs and no-hassle maintenance quickly. Not to mention the costs you’ll need to budget for if you want to deliver training to employees and partners. Most importantly, SaaS is the most flexible option available. It’ll come as no surprise that on-premises will soon be a thing of the past.
Given the unique situation that we find ourselves in, SaaS products for learning will have to evolve to keep pace with various company needs. Fortunately, we can already see trends that point us in the right direction. That is, SaaS training services at the forefront, flexibility, and more choice offered to trainees, building more scalable models for training, infrastructure for company sustainability during crises.
Plus, this is only the beginning. Training platform providers will have to build the capacity to sustain many clients while providing innovative solutions. That is the balance that must be achieved for learning management systems, authoring tools, e-learning providers, and so on, to stay relevant.
The rise of the intelligent learning platform
My prediction is that there’s the rise of a new product in the making, as we’re moving into a learning management system (LMS) plus a learning experience platform (LXP) hybrid. While LMSs provide a way for companies to deliver onboarding and compliance training, LXPs are more learner-oriented. When combined, they turn into an intelligent learning platform.
Read more: Why LMSs will soon have LXP functionality
I invite you to go with me through a few more ideas about this significant shift in training practices and how it’ll look like in the years to come. In other words, what makes these platforms so smart, and why should you care?
First, this brings us to the core aspect of the future of training: automation. Automation is a part of learning platforms already, but it’s just the beginning of what’s to come. No platform can be considered intelligent without automation, which will be the main driving force behind modern training.
A critical aspect that you’ll notice is that a more intelligent platform doesn’t rely on content from a dedicated internal L&D team or instructor. Instead, we’ll have a mix of two variants: some courses are internal, while most content comes from third-party providers. This hybrid content strategy will mean that any company will access more quality training content, curate it, and deliver it to learners. The on-demand learning experience becomes more appealing when you learn that the platform will be able to tell you which content aligns with your business learning goals. A specific example of a learning goal is achieving all the competencies associated with a user’s current position within the company.
This path is also the least restrictive option for employees who’ll like the freedom to decide what to learn next, based on recommendations. If this sounds like it’s similar to Netflix, that’s because it is.
Automation will take over some decision making, with course suggestions based on job title, skills, and learning performance. While there’s the option to personalize courses based on progress, this is still a feature in its infancy and will continue to predict learner needs and future progress better in the future.
In the absence of any required training, any employee can say, "Hey, I'm very interested in becoming a digital marketing manager.” Then the learning platform already knows what courses or learning paths to suggest. It’ll also connect them with other people that do a similar job, for example. That's the kind of self-directed learning that you're never going to be able to do with synchronous training because live training is not for adapting to a person’s unique needs.
I think that there is a very strong direction in the industry towards using asynchronous learning, not just for compliance but also for allowing employees to do their self-directed learning for career reasons.
Automatic recommendations are also good news since one of the most challenging aspects of training is doing a needs assessment, a complicated process that takes time, resources, and a specialized person to do. The platform can tell you straight away what learners need and convert those needs into learning goals.
Another thought-provoking idea is that the most prominent commodity will be the learners’ attention. In other words, you need learner engagement for this to function correctly. People grow tired of a lack of interaction, so I wouldn’t be surprised if an L&D job requirement would involve training engagement.
An intelligent learning platform can allow learners to share their emotions about a particular course (happy, frustrated, bored, etc.) so that instructors can take this into account. It will also be able to know your employees’ strengths and weaknesses to use this to their advantage. If it can recognize trends such as learners at risk of failing their training, it’s much easier to intervene and guide them — in other words, to fix training — than having the learner make up for it later.
Still part of this trend, but a little different, is the ability to build a community inside a platform. A sense of community is crucial when you’re training remote employees who might not know each other in real life and thus might have no idea how to connect with others to learn from them. If classic company training was all about consuming content, this is a way of breaking all of those “rules” and moving towards interactivity.
Aside from dynamic courses with a social aspect, there’s also the option to include mentoring and coaching done at a distance, including pairing people with similar interests. As an L&D person, you can have a better overview and understanding of overall progress and match people based on job interests, titles, tasks, etc.
That is just the tip of the iceberg — the hidden part consists mostly of analytics, complex enough that you’ll have objective and precise data, but also intuitive so that HR professionals, L&D people, or even managers can use them without having to crunch numbers all day. Most importantly, you’re not relying on flawed analytics, estimations, or guesswork.
An intelligent platform offers reliable data about your learners, your courses, and your website, informing future decisions. If you want your training to be more effective, you’ll have a look at reports first. If you need to know how engaged learners are, you’ll know where to find that information. Even better, the platform will predict and recommend changes to make and areas that could be problematic. Some courses or sections might not get much attention from learners, or they don’t teach what they’re supposed to.
MATRIX Guide: Analytics and reporting tools
The rise of the intelligent platform marks the beginning of a new era of modern training. Access to content, on-demand learning, AI-based recommendations, and sophisticated analytics are just a few of the main features that companies will be on the lookout for as they’re re-thinking their internal processes. I’m excited to see this unfold, especially as all of these trends point towards a better, more sophisticated future for business training in general.