Trends in Learning and Development

Training through Teams, Apps and experience platforms. Personalized learning, self-directed learning and life-long learning. These are all developments that were getting there, but came about years earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lead consultant and trainer Amber Lingmont and VP Customized Solutions Anke Baak share five of the newest trends and insights which they identify in the field of learning and development worldwide. How do we learn nowadays? What is different than before? And is, besides the form, the content of our trainings also changing?

1. From event-based to technology-based

Before Covid made its appearance, many people took off to a conference center to follow a training course. Zoom conferences were possible at the time but were not often used. Because of the impediment of not being able to physically gather, technology plays a more central role nowadays. “We experience that not only knowledge can be taught online – long live all apps, platforms and short videos. Training skills and coaching also appears to work well digitally”, says Anke.

“Within many learning organizations and customers, the pandemic has caused a mind shift, and I am convinced that we will not go back to pure face-to-face learning. The hybrid combination of virtual and physical sessions will remain. This comes with all the associated benefits, such as less travel time and international flights. There are also numerous technological possibilities that have yet to (and will) be discovered by many organizations, such as gamification and virtual reality. At Relevance, for example, we work with PQ, which is a learning program in which participants receive a short assignment via the app four times a day. Micro learning is also becoming increasingly important within learning solutions. Watching a short video of a professor is often much more efficient than listening to someone for half a day. A blended learning trajectory? I am all for it. Nevertheless, I would like to emphasize that the customization remains. Some organizations are more ready for this change than others.”

"A blended learning trajectory? I am all for it."

2. From independent practice to integrated learning

Back in the day, trainings were physically separated from practice. The boss had to miss you at work and accept your ‘lack of productivity’. Today, learning is becoming a permanent part of the job and even is integrated into it. The same goes for asking for and receiving feedback. “You used to take a separate, complicated course to improve these skills. Now, we prefer executives who give feedback in the moment and not merely elaborate on what can be improved, but also on what is going well,” explains Amber. “The younger generation is already learning this at school in work groups; real-life practice and direct feedback have become increasingly common. Working is a part of learning and vice versa. It is no longer separated from each other.”

Professions are also changing faster, resulting in reskilling and upskilling. “For example, take one of our large international customers in the automotive industry”, Anke continues. “They have 70,000 employees who are experts in the field of petrol engines, but suddenly need to know everything about hydrogen. How are they going to deal with this? How do they guide the development of their people? These kinds of issues will soon no longer be solved by sending people to school en masse but will be tackled on the job. A mechanic puts on their glasses and uses augmented reality to learn how to handle new engines. Companies that might still had doubts about the importance of learning, are rapidly persuaded.”


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3. From one size fits all to personalized

“Admittedly, it was a nice business model for us when all the sales managers of a chain store used to go through the same process to learn skills,” says Anke. “Yet, I greatly applaud the development towards personalized training. As HR, we are increasingly moving away from fixed job descriptions and career paths. Moreover, nowadays individuals are facilitated in their development by organizations. What do they want to learn? What is needed for that? After all, everyone learns differently.”

“This trend means that we, as trainers, have to let go more rather than keeping control, which results in freer sessions,” Amber adds. “No more collective, but personal objectives apply. This, combined with individual coaching and own casuistry, causes that what has been learned is memorized better. Of course, with larger learning trajectories, a certain part remains generic, but the personal section of trainings is getting bigger and bigger. The more you let people discover their own path, the more they learn. Although it is a larger investment, companies increasingly feel that it leads to more happiness at work and additional bonding with the organization.”

"The more you let people discover their own path, the more they learn."

4. From pre-programmed to self-directed learning

“In the past, people were told what and how to learn. Nowadays, we have more freedom and responsibility, so in a way, we determine our own learning process”, says Amber. “But the fact remains that completely letting go doesn't work. After all, we can find all the knowledge in the world on the Internet, yet I am not a mathematician or rocket scientist. Therefore, some guidance is necessary, whether it is a kick in the pants, a joint start-up meeting or personal instruction. After that, we will implement the follow-up exercises ourselves.”

So, Amber does not believe in either-or but in both-and. “So learning remains partially controlled, the residual part depends on your own commitment, in order to take root.” Anke adds. “Just look at the primary schools that have abandoned their entire curriculum. This example shows that it is not effective for a large group of students and thus some structure is essential. It is all about balance.”

5. Today's topics: vitality, diversity, agile working & talent development

Besides the form of the trainings, the topics of training change over time as well. “Nowadays, when we look at our training and leadership programs, we see that trainings in the field of vitality and engagement are the most popular. Questions addressed here are; how mindful am I? How do I stay mentally healthy? How do I stay involved with my team?”

Anke also sees other subjects that are gaining popularity. “Diversity and inclusion, for example. And agile working. We want move from a fixed growth mindset to an agile mindset, in which everyone adapts continuously and becomes sustainably employable. And finally, talent development is hot topic as well. We all strive to be an attractive employer that offers people something in their development that makes them stay.”

New role for the trainer

The above developments in the training field have all changed the role of educators and trainers in the last year and a half. “We are getting the hang of Zoom and Teams, we understand the technology and we have now learned how to keep people involved online”, Amber concludes. “Training becomes facilitating and we are no longer the expert, but the coach instead. For us at Relevance, developing learning trajectories is more important than executing them. Because learning is something people do best with a little help, but in their own way.”

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