Each year, Simitri compiles a list of the most requested topics and themes based on conversations with our clients about the up coming year.
For 2019, one common thread among all the trends is about upskilling teams to take advantage of rapid technological changes that are impacting business and society.
Here are our seven trends for 2019:
1. A Greater Focus on Sustained Learning
Learning requires follow-up in order to retain and apply skills, knowledge, and behaviour.
Humans do not retain theories, facts, and figures very well, especially only after an initial exposure to them. Instead, we learn through repetition, social reinforcement, and application.
Research shows that a period of extended review and follow-up, with supplemental learning content, can improve knowledge retention and transfer of skills into the workplace.
Increasingly L&D teams are asking a central question: How do we turn this programme into a broader learning journey? Approaches include manager involvement, online tools, follow-up sessions, and coaching.
For more information, including tips and hints, have a look at our earlier Simitri Insights post on sustaining learning and development initiatives.
Learning journeys work best when they are multi-modular - with each module containing a workshop or webinar, embed learning, coaching sessions, burst learnings (2-3 hour group sessions to follow-up on workshop topics and application to the workplace), and a tie-in to an action learning project that is directly related to the business.
Throughout the programme, participants may also access online content libraries, review goals and progress with their supervisors and business mentors, and participate in various other activities delivered either by internal subject matter experts or external consultants. An online learning portal or app may act as a centralised “go-to” site to refer to pre- post- work assignments, next steps in the journey, and retrieve programme logistics.
The journey may then conclude with a wrap up session in which each group presents their action learning project.
2. Mobile Learning is Growing
More companies are moving portions of their learning online.
By now, most employees see smartphones as the primary device to complete tasks and access most of their content – with the exception of professional “work” software that requires a desktop. As a result, people are consuming content more often and in shorter bursts. Companies have been responding by moving more of their learning into a “mobile-first” format.
Learning from past experience, companies are now more likely to forgo e-Learning in favour of rapid, extended “microlearning”, such as articles and videos, as a way to supplement an in-class workshop or webinar.
The learning content works best when accompanied by self-directed exercises and assignments that bring the learning into practice. Learning content need not come from a company’s LMS. Many teams are using third-party libraries such as Degreed, Harvard ManageMentor, LinkedIn Learning, or Simitri’s own Simitri Direct.
3. More Social & Experiential Learning
More teams are engaged in remote group learning over the long term.
Companies are trying new ways to extend group collaboration outside of the classroom.
In an ideal world, participants would have the time to fully invest in their post-workshop learning group, regularly checking their app for updates in the group discussion thread. Often, this is not the case. Learning apps compete for attention with all sorts of work and entertainment content and are quickly forgotten.
While we are quite fond of third-party learning and collaboration apps, we’ve found that social learning works best when integrated into existing tools. If employees are already heavy users of Slack or Cisco Spark for their daily work, then programme sponsors see more engagement when they set up their groups on those apps or drop learning content into existing streams. Simitri has supported social learning for clients using the platform of their choice, as well as on our own Simitri Direct.
When it comes to chancing mindset and behaviour, adults learn best through direct application. More companies are approaching each programme with the goal of creating experiences that are memorable, insightful, and impactful.
Some stakeholders remain sceptical of “gamification” however, paired with the right training topic and audience, a well-designed game can be effective. Rote knowledge-based topics targeting younger learners may work well in an app-based single player game. For more strategic content, such as business management and leaders, a robust business simulation would be a better choice.
Experiential learning can include a facilitated debrief which ties the experiences back to the broader learning journey and future applications in the workplace.
4. Using Big Data to Drive Value
Business leaders are investing in new ways to use data to influence others and make decisions.
Many leaders struggle to get a grip on the massive amount of data they encounter. One key issue is the belief that data is primarily a technical problem to be addressed by data scientists and IT teams. In reality, the core challenge is one of leadership. Leaders and managers at all levels need to be able to comprehend the opportunities and challenges of data and how they can use it to inform decisions and create value.
Our clients are increasingly aware of this fact and are investing time and resources into understanding how “big data” can give them a competitive edge.
This goes beyond basic analytical skills and IT. Managers need to know how to work with their analytical teams to ask the right questions from the start, reduce bias as they work through the process, come to an informed decision, and then present the data to tell a compelling story.
Commonly requested topics:
Business Opportunities in Big Data
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Latest Analytical Tools and Techniques
Data-Driven Decision Making Process
Telling a Story with the Data
5. New Roles for Agile
Long a staple of techies, agile has been making its way into other parts of the business.
Bringing agile out of software development and into the executive suite is not a new idea. However, as teams feel pressure to constantly adapt, the roll-out of agile (and its related disciplines of customer focus, rapid iteration, collaboration, and feedback) has taken on a greater sense of urgency this past year.
At Simitri, we have seen more L&D teams use agile as they work with us on new projects. This approach favours rapid prototyping to test ideas with live teams rather than investing large amounts of time and money for a “perfect” solution that may only miss the mark on its hyped-up launch date.
As a training topic, agile is making the jump from project management settings into broader company culture in leadership, team management, cross-functional collaboration, and managing day-to-day workflow.
6. Creating a Culture of Innovation
Innovation is not about chasing the latest fad. It is rooted in culture.
Driving innovation means much more than reading the latest bestseller or adopting a new app. It’s about establishing a company culture supported by people who have the skills and mindset to take ownership. For effective leaders, this comes to no surprise.
Effective recruiting and leadership from the top lay the foundation, but training is the frame that lifts a culture up and gives it shape.
Training objectives include building digital awareness among teams and leaders, driving digital transformation, and building skills, processes, and tools that support ongoing innovation. Companies are upskilling technical managers around the softer side of innovation, while also building up the analytical skills of managers who oversee the softer side of the business, such as marketing and human resources.
Commonly requested topics:
Innovative Business Models
Leading Cultural Change
Analytical Skills and Problem Solving
Creativity and Innovation
Strategic Thinking and Planning
Business Acumen for HR and IT Teams
7. Retooling Sales Teams
Anticipating changes in the market, companies are investing in their best salespeople.
Faced with massive technological changes and threats from new competition, companies are restructuring and retooling sales teams. This year we’ve seen more urgency in the shift from salespeople selling products to experts thinking strategically about their clients. This newer mindset is about advising clients on how they can deliver value though integrated solutions.
Sales teams must also become more comfortable with technology – whether in the increasingly complex solutions they are offering or in the tools they are using to find and develop new clients.
Sales teams are ideal targets for piloting online and mobile learning programmes. Learners may consume core content in articles and videos as pre-work in an extended learning journey and then meet in groups to role-play, share successes, and discuss challenging situations.
Commonly requested topics:
Becoming a Trusted Advisor
Leading a Perfect Sales Meeting
Finding and Prospecting
Leadership and Management for Sales Teams
Handing Customer Complaints