Learning Trends to Watch in 2018

AT SIMITRI, we strive to stay on top of the latest trends impacting our clients. In this post we outline some of the top trends that we have seen in 2017 and that we expect will have a big impact throughout 2018. Our list includes five general observations on learning approaches and also five popular training topics.  


Five Learning and Development trends


1. From workshops to programmes Using learning to drive cultural changes

Corporations are shifting their training focus away from simply filling skill gaps towards using L&D to drive broader cultural change. Most often this is driven by an urgent need to help the business respond to new challenges caused by technology advancements or changes in market dynamics.

To make this happen, learning teams are increasing the engagement of line managers with 180 or 360 assessments, coaching sessions, manager check-in conversations, action planning conversations, and feedback sessions.

Teams are also drawing on multi-channel learning, methodology with multiple points of engagement, and the blending face-to-face with virtual and online portals over an extended period of time.


2. Shorter, over an extended period of time Webinar series and online extended learning

Repetition and application are essential to developing a new skill. Learning and development teams are finding that one way to apply learnings is to break up content in a way that it is easy to consume and then quickly apply in the workplace.

This may mean downplaying the use of multi-day in-class workshops in favour of a series of 1–3-hour webinars supported by online portals accessible over several weeks or months. This not only allows teams to join remotely without major disruption to their workday, but also saves costs for the programme sponsors who would otherwise book venues and fly participants to an offsite. Most importantly, it helps to extend the learning so that learners are more likely to retain and apply new skills to the workplace.


3. Microlearning on mobile Rapid learning and application

By now, most employees are using smartphones as the primary device to access almost all of their content (apart from work-related applications that require a desktop), and are consuming content more often and in shorter bursts. As a result, corporates are moving more of their learning into a mobile-first format. One way to do this is to supplement a programme with rapid “microlearning” content, such as articles and videos, delivered to a mobile app to be consumed on the go.

The learning content is often accompanied by quick self-directed exercises or assignments so that content can be applied during the workday and then progress reported to a manager. Companies may create mobile responsive versions of their LMS or use third party apps, such as Cerego, to deliver content in unique and engaging ways.


4. Social and Collaboration Tools Learning through extended interaction

Group discussion and team collaboration are key elements of powerful training interventions. More organisations are looking for ways to extend this sort of group collaboration beyond the classroom, especially when learning programmes are delivered remotely or extend over a period of time.

Learning cohorts can keep up the interaction using tools such as Spark, Totara, and Yammer. These tools keep channels open for ongoing conversation, in which participants respond to question prompts by the facilitator, plan next steps on an action learning project, discuss pre-work, or develop case studies.

Teams have relied on online tools for project collaboration for quite some time. Learning is now a natural outgrowth of this trend.


5. A Space for MOOCs Balancing ownership with accountability

The key challenge of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is keeping engagement up over time. Many participants will start off strong, only to trail off after a few weeks, sometimes never finishing the coursework.

MOOCs are most likely to succeed if the learner can select a topic that he/she already finds engaging and that clearly furthers their professional development. With this in mind, companies are subscribing to MOOC platforms as libraries of supplemental learning content – beyond their core learning curriculum – and putting the learning into the hands of their employees.

During a development conversation, a manager may ask their team member to select a course that he/she is interested in and that supports their own development plan. Progress is then tracked through follow-up visits, often as part of a broader performance management process and professional development initiative.

Two important factors when working with MOOCs:

  1. The learner takes ownership of their development plan and selects the online courses that fit.
  2. The learner anticipates a follow-up while executing their plan and completing the coursework, through regular check-in meetings with their manager.


Five Trending Learning Topics


1. Applying Big data Using data to make decisions and influence others

Organisations are often overwhelmed with data. One key issue is the belief that big data is primarily a technical problem to be addressed by data scientists and IT teams. In reality, the core challenge is one of leadership, in which leaders and managers at all levels are able to understand data and how it can be used to inform their business decisions.

This goes beyond setting Hadoop clusters and working with specialised AI. Managers, including those with “non-quant” backgrounds, need to understand the meaning behind the data, separate “good” from “bad” assumptions, and turn complex quantitative analysis into something that can influence others.

Key developmental areas include:

  • Understanding Big Data
  • Preparing business experiments
  • Managing assumptions
  • Using data to make decisions
  • Using data in an influential presentation: - Understanding the audience - Structuring the presentation - Presenting the data points effectively


2. Performance Management Giving managers the tools to drive change

More and more companies are scrapping the annual performance review cycle, in which employees receive a score and meet with their managers to discuss accomplishments for the year, in favour of an ongoing conversation with goal setting, development planning, and regular “check-ins” with the manager.

Under the new model, managers must be able to give instant feedback, be able to lead formal and informal development conversations, and may go so far as to become a “career coach” to each member of their team. As part of their roll-out plans, companies are training their managers to re-think their performance management and build up the skills that support more regular performance conversations.

Key developmental areas include:

  • Giving feedback
  • Structuring a check-in conversation
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Motivating and engaging team members


3. HR as a Business Partner Shifting from transactional to value-based relationships

Companies are expecting more from their support teams and, in some cases, this means putting resources into unlocking the human capital expertise that HR managers have accumulated over the years.

Too often, HR interacts with the business in a transactional way, such as when a business manager requests a compensation data report, support in filling a job opening, or organising a team building activity. Companies are realising the value of helping HR approach the relationship as more of a business partner who can draw on specialised expertise to help the business unit create value. This approach not only uplifts and motivates the HR team to stretch themselves, but it also helps the business units find solutions that drive the company forward.

Key developmental areas include:

  • Being a trusted advisor
  • Business acumen
  • Delivering value for the business
  • Asking probing questions
  • Managing stakeholders
  • Handling difficult people


4. Diversity and Inclusion Recognising that a diverse team is more successful

Whether building awareness of LGBT issues or helping managers to work more effectively with Gen Y, companies are using training to engage leaders on issues of diversity and inclusion. And while diversity training has long been a staple in the West, local companies in other parts of the world are now engaging these topics with more regularity than in the past.

The benefits go far beyond warm feelings and checking compliance boxes. Senior leaders know very well how an inclusive team environment leads to enhanced performance every time, and how this in turn leads to real-world business results for the company.

Training can range from diversity awareness to practical skills for teams with diverse backgrounds.

Key developmental areas include:

  • Managing unconscious bias
  • Leading multi-generational teams
  • Cross-cultural collaboration
  • Preventing sexual harassment
  • Developing a more diverse workplace


5. Mindfulness and Resilience Helping employees to find their best selves

Employees at all levels are expected to do more with less. Increasingly heavy workloads can lead to overwhelming negative pressure, which in turn leads to burn-out, high turnover, and reduced team performance.

This reality is not changing anytime soon. As a result, companies are giving employees new tools for coping with pressure, as well as for taking command of their work, their health, and their careers.

Mindfulness and resilience can mean different things to different organisations. For some, this includes meditation and relaxation techniques. For others, the focus is more on positive mindset, productivity tips, and practical time management skills. Most often it is a combination of several skills and approaches.

Key developmental areas include:

  • Personal resilience
  • Managing pressure
  • Stress reduction techniques
  • Mindfulness
  • Developing good personal habits
  • Time management
  • Growth mindset
  • Overall personal effectiveness