The Top 5 L&D Trends in the New Normal

2020 was no ordinary year. The pandemic has brought about a sea change in every aspect of how we interact, work, and do business. Grappling with the challenges of working remotely, organizations have had to adapt their processes and functions across verticals. L&D has been no exception.

This post is the first blog in a series to explore the challenges of the ‘new normal’. Here, we explore the top 5 L&D trends that have gained traction in 2020 and will continue to accrue momentum in 2021.

  1. Sustainable Learning:

    The most crucial aspect of learning underlined by the pandemic has been its need for sustainability. So, what is this sustainable learning? And why has it pushed its way to the forefront of L&D trends in 2021? Let’s take a moment to understand.

    In today’s constantly changing, challenging times, the need for upskilling is more pronounced than ever before. In this ever-shifting scenario, it is vitally important to ensure relevance of the content and keep it updated through its lifecycle. Even the most thoughtfully planned training program is rendered obsolete unless it is kept updated to serve changed learning environments, policies and processes, and even the demographic and psychographic of the average learner.

    Unfortunately, organizations don’t do this enough. For years, L&D organizations have been operated as cost centres that invest a large part of their budgets in generating learning content and not enough in governing them. Over time, this has led to a lot of content duplication, orphaned content, or content that has simply gone out of control for the lack of a nurturing plan. When attempting to transform existing L&D into leaner machines today, one of the major challenges is that organizations have to tackle massive, unwieldy learning content ecosystems. Sustainable learning is the key to addressing this challenge.

    For this, creating and nurturing the right kind of content is only the first step. It is crucial to manage it well throughout its lifecycle to achieve optimum results and extract the most value from it. Proactive, ongoing, and responsive learning, especially within a well-managed framework of a just-in-time access model, helps employees take their learned and retained knowledge to the next level when applying them at work. This is Sustainable Learning, also known as Learning Content Lifecycle Management. It is about extracting the most value out of every learning content asset which you have invested in. You can realize that value in terms of employee engagement, improvement in overall performance, and the number of years and the overall amount you invest in making that content deliver that value over a sustained period.

    Want to know more about Sustainable Learning? Check out this article published by Training Industry:
    https://trainingindustry.com/articles/learning-technologies/is-it-time-to-take-another-look-at-how-companies-manage-learning-content/

  2. Strategic Planning:

    The Coronavirus pandemic and the downturn of the economy has had a profound impact on budgets, priorities, and methodologies. Training that was designed for a classroom experience has had to be rapidly adapted to an online environment. Investments have had to be made into upgrading Learning Technology Ecosystems to new systems and platforms with organizations not having the opportunity to carry out adequate market research. Extraordinary demands were made in terms of both money and human capital. But they were done. A Learning Guild survey revealed that it took about 80% of their respondents approximately three months (one quarter) to digitize their critical learning assets and make them ready for online delivery.

    That first response to the unprecedented situation has been as fast and as tactical as possible. But now that the initial wave of transformation has hit a short-term plateau, it is time to think strategically. Consider the bigger picture. What happens if another pandemic hits? Or some other unknown disruption takes place? Are we going to rely on tactical responses again? Keep in mind, tactical responses put a huge strain on our budget and personnel capacities. Or should we take this one experience as a lesson learnt and plan our next steps for the longer term with controls and measures built into our strategies? These strategic plans could include careful curation of digital content, creation of a vibrant learning culture, and increase in flexibility, adaptability, and problem-solving skills of employees. All of these are poised to yield far-reaching results for any organization.

    Have you started planning your L&D organization’s long-term strategy yet? What are some of the things you are doing? Let us know. We’d love to learn. Do you need a hand? We’d love to help.

  3. Diverse Digitization:

    In today’s world, technology is a key driver of change. Organizations around the world have embraced technology to make their processes and operations more effective, productive, and accurate. They have adapted themselves to change and grow in tandem with technology.

    In the mid-2010s, this conscious stance had resulted in several redundancies and scares in the global skill space and triggered a global employment crisis. The technology ecosystem, in its rapid evolution mode, had rendered many old systems and technologies obsolete. Those caught unawares had faced the brunt of this change. Since then, elaborate plans have been crafted to upskill and cross-skill existing human capital, so that they can ride easily along on the organizations’ transformation journey aboard the technology train.

    As talent development stakeholders of these organizations, L&D teams have owned the design and implementation of these roads-to-competencies. But digitization has never been a high strategic priority for them. Primarily a soft-skill focused vertical, they have been slow to respond to this shift themselves.

    But 2020 changed that. With the advent of the ‘new normal’, the way learning is delivered to the end-user has changed forever. A 2020 Fosway Group report that studied how COVID-19 has changed learning, indicated a major swing to digital learning. While only 5% of the respondents believed that L&D will go back to being the way it was pre-pandemic, approximately 82% indicated that their organizational leadership has demanded an increase in digital learning while 71% reported that their end-users now prefer digital learning over traditional learning modes.

    Among the most popular digital technology adoptions by L&D teams are:

    1. Moving learning content to video, micro learning, curated content, and mobile learning
    2. Increased use of LXPs, virtual classrooms, and collaborative learning platforms
    3. Increased dependence on social and corporate collaboration and productivity platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Trello, and so on

    And this is the driver of our third trend for 2021.
    Diverse digitization involves the building of an extensible and connected learning technology ecosystem with platforms and services that will not just last and grow over time, but will also not break down with sudden, massive disruptions.

  4. Soft Skills Training:

    The pandemic has pushed work almost entirely online and almost too fast. As a result, workplace relationships too have had to quickly adapt to remote working conditions. With decreasing chances of in-person connect, organizations and their employees are having to adapt to and rely completely on some new methods of communication for daily work-related activities.

    To survive and prosper in such a scenario, a change of attitude is a must. There will be an increasing need for people with a growth mindset, who are adept at moving out of their comfort zones, overcoming unforeseen adversities, and tackling change as an innovation opportunity. Employees will need to be self-aware, be able to identify skill gaps arising out of sudden changes, and then be ever-ready to upskill to keep up with the demand.

    As the willingness of an employee to learn will go hand in hand with the preparedness of a company and its capability to stay afloat and prosper, L&D teams will now focus on soft skills training to finetune mindsets such that employees can use any period of uncertainty to prepare themselves for the demands that lie beyond the change.

    This learning needs to be successfully communicated as well. How well you can adapt to the new rules of the hybrid workplace (some on-site and some remotely placed), how comfortably you can speak to your colleagues and stakeholders on virtual conferences and video calls, how succinctly you can write emails or make presentations, how intelligently you can resolve conflicts—will be parameters that L&D will consider worth recognizing, since communication methods have undergone a considerable transformation and new terrain needs to be covered every day.

    As a lack of these new soft skills might lead to employee mistakes, depletion of individual and team confidence, and loss of business even, building strong interpersonal communication skills will help employees help organizations as they try to get the best out of virtual relationship building and maintenance and digital collaboration for sustained productivity.

  5. Social Learning:

    Diverse, inclusive programs demand collaborative methods. Creating groups in Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn, Twitter, or the company learning portal can go a long way in motivating learners and adding further nuances to training. It is essential to create social media profiles and leverage them effectively. Frequently posting of learning resources on social media platforms encourages discussions and interactions. This interaction can be further leveraged by hosting of discussions and Q&A sessions with an instructor or an SME to encourage learners to get clarity on their queries.

    The ‘new normal’ is woven deeply into our zeitgeist. Last year saw a seismic shift in what we do and how we do it. Leaning into it is going to be a large part of thriving in this ever-changing, ever-evolving scenario. Adopting new media, adapting learning content to it, and ensuring it stays relevant through its lifecycle will go a long way in surfing the crest of this tidal wave.

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