In his Psalm of Life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Trust no future, however pleasant!” In spite of that admonition, the CLO Business Intelligence Board has some predictions about what the learning industry can expect in the coming year. And overall, things are looking, well, pleasant.
As the learning industry looks back on a year of accomplishments, it also has to keep an eye on the major trends that will shape its environment in 2008. The forecasts of Chief Learning Officer magazine’s Business Intelligence Board are overwhelmingly positive, but there are a few findings that might come as a surprise to learning practitioners.
Most organizations are optimistic regarding employee development for 2008. Generally, people are optimistic about the future, but specifically, the two most common reasons for optimism in 2008 are an increase in support from senior management and a heightened demand for training and development:
• Increase in support from senior management: More companies realize that training can create higher performance and can be an enabler of corporate strategy and transformation. In addition to improving employee skill sets to work more efficiently, training shows employer commitment to employees. Employees then become more engaged and work both smarter and harder, creating a win-win situation for the employer and the employee. Also, an effective learning organization can help position a company as an employer of choice — a critical designation in today’s competitive market for talent.
• Heightened demand for training: The heightened demand is arising from current and anticipated workforce shortage. As competition grows for skilled labor and qualified talent, there is more emphasis on employee development and “train to retain.” In today’s knowledge-worker-led world, talent is a key differentiator among companies, and the ability to train employees effectively is a necessity.
LMS and Knowledge Management Increase Impact on Training
While many of the most impactful activities for 2008 are the same as they were in 2007, there are a couple key differences — learning management systems (LMS) and knowledge management have each become more important.
The LMS is fast becoming the single most important learning technology investment for companies. Nearly 50 percent of companies will in invest in their LMS to upgrade existing systems, consolidate into one LMS or integrate with other talent management solutions.
Knowledge management is used to capture processes, skills and context often lost when experienced employees retire or change jobs. Thus, knowledge management is increasingly important as companies face the challenges presented by aging (and soon-to-retire) baby boomers.
However, the most important activities continue to center around competencies, leadership and instructor-led training (ILT).
• Competencies: Competencies have always been the backbone of training. Today, however, amid the shortage of talent, competencies have taken on greater significance. In order to address current and future vacancies, organizations are looking to competency models to help them identify skill gaps and develop the necessary skills internally.
• Leadership: It is not surprising that leadership training continues to be a big issue, as companies work to ensure that there is talent in the pipeline to support corporate succession planning initiatives. The retirement of the baby boomer generation forces organizations to improve the “candidate pool” from which to select leaders.
• Instructor-Led Training (ILT): Despite the wide range of options available, traditional ILT still represents the primary delivery choice for most companies. The growth of ILT delivery may slow, but it will not disappear due to learner preference and value of instructor/student interaction for certain types of content.
Conversely, emerging training technologies, such as vodcasting, podcasts, wikis and blogs are expected to have minimal impact on training in 2008. The consensus is that while the emerging training technologies might be good as communication tools, they do not do much to help employees attain necessary skills.
A mix of learning solutions can produce results for an organization greater than the sum of its individual parts by blending complementary delivery modalities and promoting the adoption of all related training efforts.
Prediction for 2008
There is a wide range of issues and challenge that will unfold in 2008, but overall training will grow in importance, with even more backing from senior management due to a heightened sense of demand from the war for talent.
However, in an economy fraught with housing woes, rising oil prices and sliding currency values, budgets will be tight and training departments will be held more accountable to align with business imperatives and deliver tangible results.