Training Company Executives Weigh in on L&D in 2019
This article was first published and featured on TrainingIndustry.com December 27, 2018 , Taryn Oesch, CPTM
At the end of the year, it’s a good idea to reflect on where you’ve come and where you’re going. This practice is good in your personal life – but it’s also good for business. To that end, Training Industry spoke with several executives from corporate training companies to gain their insights on 2018 and their predictions for 2019. Here’s what they had to say.
First of all, a wakeup call from Kristy McCann Flynn, founder and CEO of GoCoach: “The headlines this year read ‘war on talent’ and ‘American skills shortage.’ It is time for companies to awaken to invest in their talent, because technology and our workforce evolution [are] moving at light speed, and the only thing that will balance this is constant learning.”
Additionally, according to Valerio Torda, CEO of eXact learning solutions, “The last year has been one of consolidation amongst training providers and vendors. We have seen that from the amount of acquisitions in the industry, as well as acquisitions among the owners of the large specialist learning industry events.”
Content Development and Delivery
Multiple executives offered their perspectives on trends in developing and delivering training programs. Torda says organizations are realizing “that digital transformation of content is a strategic part of increasing their organizational knowledge, and reputational expertise.”
Similarly, “I’ve noticed a movement away from traditional maturity models where instructor-led training is the first offering in a training program,” says Sandi Lin, co-founder and CEO of Skilljar. “We’re seeing that most training teams are charged with getting scalable, on-demand solutions up and running first. Only half of Skilljar customers are even offering instructor-led training or VILT.”
José Garcia, founder and CEO of Virtway, cautions, “Companies with comprehensive online trainings are detecting a growing dissatisfaction among their employees regarding online training tools. The contents are improving year by year, but the interactivity and participation they get online is very limited, which affects employee motivation.”
Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, believes that the use of microlearning for reinforcement “is coming of age.” While ValueSelling Associates has always included microlearning as part of its reinforcement strategy, Thomas feels that until this year, clients weren’t really ready for it. “In 2018, we had a number of clients ask to license our microlearning and embed into their own LMS and/or sales enablement portals. The concept that making learning available just in time and just in case and available with a single click is critical for ease of use and ease of access.”
“Although  looked like it was going to be a year where mobile phones would disrupt the training industry, mobile-delivered learning continued to remain a very small part of the overall training process,” says Amit Gautam, founder of UpsideLMS and co-founder of Upside Learning Solutions. And Elodie Primo, CEO of MindOnSite, adds that mobile learning is continuously expanding to train employees, subcontractors, consumers, and direct and indirect sales forces.
“The cost of online training reduced (and continues to reduce) steadily, while SaaS, cloud LMSs and other tools continue to bring more value for money without impacting the overall training budget,” adds Gautam. “Likewise, video as a training tool gained traction.” Unlike ValueSelling, however, Upside saw “a relatively smaller share” of spending on microlearning.
Zvi Guterman, founder and CEO of CloudShare, says that this year “saw a range of multi-format training modalities come into wider use to support evolving workforce populations and remote teams.”
“As a community,” says Maria Melfa, president and CEO of TTA, “we have been learning ‘how’ for lots of new technologies and strategies – how to facilitate learner experience, how to best leverage open talent and how to curate everything from content to technologies. The spirt of this how-to momentum has been energizing and incredibly valuable. Now, it’s time to realize the value of these efforts, [which] will require both strategy and executional discipline.”
Viren Kapadia, president and CEO of Gyrus Systems, believes that 2019 will see the “next level of adoption for mobile and social learning,” along with the “seamless integration” of tools like HR, CRM and operation systems.
“In 2019, I believe business leaders will view the digitization of training as commonplace, but not as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ remedy,” says Debby Rizzo, CEO of Revenue Storm. “They will accept that advancing employee development requires group training and peer learning, not just staring at a computer screen.” However, “while some company cultures will prefer face-to-face events … most will prefer a fully-engaged virtual experience to reduce travel time and costs. This will put more importance on innovative instructional design, proactive employee engagement strategies, greater expectations on training production, and elevated facilitator/coaching skills.”
Next year, says Primo, training will be “more and more learner-centric! Experience, engagement [and] ecosystem are the key words, and design is the fundamental issue.” Along those lines, says Mike Alcock, managing director of gomo learning, “We have to improve the learner experience by giving users better content. Systems that allow subject matter experts to easily do this will come to the fore.”
Guterman emphasizes the importance of “hands-on learning that uses the same tools and environments that people will employ in their day-to-day work.” He points to virtual IT training labs as one method of providing that training. “We anticipate those novel applications for virtual IT labs will become expectations in 2019. We also expect to see massive, hands-on training become the norm … at events like sales kickoffs, partner conferences and product launches,” thanks to innovations like the cloud.
Garcia believes that in 2019, we’ll “see a growing trend in the use of high-quality video as a medium for transmitting content.”
“On-demand, digital training subscriptions are going to continue to gain traction, as learning evolves and learners seek out on-demand resources,” says Lin. In addition, “businesses will invest more in consolidating knowledge, through technologies that make sure that customers and employees alike can find exactly what they need. Clunky, old-fashioned learning management systems will be replaced by more user-friendly, flexible learning technologies, complete with federated search.”
Similarly, says Jussi Hurskainen, CEO of Valamis, “Content repositories will become more and more ingrained in the learning and development ecosystem … When corporations accurately combine internal SME knowledge with outside expert knowledge, the subsequent result will be a learning environment that gives users access to a diverse range of quality learning content and perspective.”
In our 2019 trends report, the Training Industry team predicted a growing focus on blended experiences rather than just content, and other industry leaders agreed. “Coming up with the right cocktail of formal, social, and in-flow performance solutions will be critical,” Melfa says, and Todd Turner, CEO of Hemsley Fraser, believes that in 2019, “blended multi-modal experiences will become the norm.”
Both Thomas and McCann Flynn predict that next year, “coaching will continue to gain traction,” as Thomas says. All of ValueSelling’s clients have been trying to improve their managers’ coaching skills and “building out rubrics for evaluation, leveraging tools and platforms to measure and report, and correlating the impact of coaching to sales performance.”
“The organizations that are embracing change seem to be performing best,” Turner says. Training Industry’s first virtual conference in 2019 will focus on emerging technologies – and it seems that there is no better time. For example, Gautam says that in 2018, chatbots “have gained popularity as artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to better understand learning data and enhance overall learner experience and training effectiveness.” Furthermore, says Guterman, organizations have been training their employees on emerging technologies like AI and machine learning – not just using them for training itself.
“I expect 2019 to see further technology innovations,” says Torda. “As reflected in industry demand and trends in the market, in the coming 12 months we will continue our R&D focus on AI and biometrics” (Torda). Kapadia also predicts that we will see AI have more of an impact on “continuous employee development.”
“Next year,” Gautam says, “we are certain to see a rise in mobile-based learning solutions, driven by AR/VR and personalized microlearning. AI is set to gain a larger foothold by making new analytics and learner experience possible.”
“Technology should allow customization and integration,” says Primo: “Artificial intelligence for bots (live/chat) and for personalized content; virtual and augmented reality for immersive, on-the-job learning; and, thanks to xAPI, the possibility [of tracking] any learning experience in the learning record store to extend reporting capabilities.”
Garcia also brought up virtual reality as a 2019 trend, “for the most complex jobs where it’s necessary to simulate the working environment.” Additionally, he says virtual 3D environments “will be a growing technology. They allow gamification, collaboration and communication as close to reality as possible.”
“I would look for even more just-in-time and just-enough approaches using the next generation tech stack already available to many organizations,” says Melfa. “We want curated, proximate and flexible solutions that are grounded in data.”
Turner offers a cautionary note on emerging technologies. He anticipates “an increased focus on future-proofed flexible digital solutions. While it’s important to think about the benefits of the latest digital innovations, it’s more important to look past the potential fads and choose a solution that can flex and keep pace with the ever-changing rhythms of business and learner needs.”
L&D Buyer Expectations
Kapadia emphasizes the importance of “personalized customer service … given the history of frustrated training administrators with products and vendors.”
Hurskainen says that the market this year saw “a rapidly growing demand” for learner experience platforms, “driven by the corporate need for personalized learning.” In addition, Torda says, “There appears to be an increasing need to use one knowledge transfer tool across business, functions and global locations, to see an increasingly positive return on ROI, as opposed to using a number of different tools with different functionalities where implementation efficiencies may be lost.”
“In 2018,” says Stephanie Morgan, managing director of Bray Leino Learning, “we have started to recognize that learners are acting more and more like consumers and it has become apparent that offering fantastic learning solutions is often no longer enough to engage our learners. In this consumer-driven landscape, learning professionals have two choices: they can either cross their fingers and hope the quality of their learning will be enough, or L&D can leverage the learning by exploiting marketing tactics. Whilst the evidence shows that learning professionals are already starting to realize this is the case, they often lack the confidence in their own skill set.”
“I’m hopeful that 2019 will be the year this changes,” Morgan continues, “as learning professionals start to deep dive into engaging the consumer mindset of our learners. L&D needs to harness marketing strategies and techniques if they want to capture and retain the attention of their learners. It starts with realizing that learning and marketing professionals have a huge crossover of transferable skills … It’s not necessarily about learning new skills, it’s about adopting the mindset of a marketer.”
Like Hurskainen, Alcock says that learner experience and engagement platforms (LEPs) “will start to dominate … and seize budget from learning management systems (LMSs). We’ll see a shift from closed systems with dull course catalogs to engaging, open systems with search, discovery, recommendations, curation, social and more.”
“Video is one the hottest things in the learning space now,” he adds. “Seventy percent of new jobs being offered in the corporate learning space are now geared towards video. Much more self-produced learning video content will emerge within organizations as people become comfortable with sharing knowledge in a more social way.”
The Importance of Training and Demonstrating ROI
Several executives, including Rizzo, Kapadia and Guterman, commented on the growing recognition by business executives of the importance of training. “Reflecting on 2018,” says Rizzo, “I think the most exciting change is the new, widely-accepted belief by global business leaders that they can no longer cut spending on employee training to improve the bottom line without creating dramatic negative impact.”
“Given low unemployment and a tighter job market,” points out Kapadia, “the expenditure for training and development continues to rise for an employer trying to retain top talent, increase productivity and stay compliant.” Executives are increasingly seeing the benefits of reskilling rather than “traditional firing and hiring practices,” adds Hurskainen.
The recognition of the importance of training doesn’t just apply to employee training but extends to customer training, says Lin. “With our technology and financial services customers, we’re seeing customer training get prioritized earlier as a mission-critical business priority.”
Kapadia anticipates that this trend will continue in 2019, and Guterman agrees: “Especially in today’s tight labor market, training is critical for retaining talent, filling organizational skill gaps and managing a multi-generational workforce.”
With that in mind, “companies are going to double down on their demands for visibility into training data and work to improve the way they demonstrate value and ROI,” says Lin. “Basic and traditional measures of training success, like completion rate and attendance, will be cast aside for better indicators of business impact.”
To conclude, McCann Flynn says, “Learning is wellness, learning is evolution and learning is our salvation … Companies do not exist without people, so start investing in their future, and they will invest in yours.”
To see Training Industry’s perspectives on L&D trends, download our 2019 trends report here.