5 Learning Trends You Should Adopt in 2019

January 16, 2019 Mervyn Dinnen

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The way a business approaches learning is fast becoming its key differentiator in attracting, hiring, and retaining the best talent. Employees and jobseekers want to know they have the opportunity to grow and learn new skills when deciding whether to join or stay with an organization. In fact, a recent survey of 14,000 jobseekers at all levels found that learning new skills was the number one expectation from an employer over the next two years, ranking higher than salary increases, bonuses, or promotions.

It’s not hard to see why. Senior executives see retention and development of talent, with up-to-date and relevant skills and knowledge, as key to achieving successful business outcomes. In a 2018 joint study of digital transformation by MIT and Deloitte, researchers found that in fastest growing companies 73% of employees are updating their skills every six months and 44% are updating them continuously. Employees know this and are restless to learn more. Most industry analysts see learning as one of the key areas for investment, and the sector is evolving fast.

So, what are the trends I expect to see developing through 2019?

Learning is Integral to Employer Brand

If the opportunity to grow and learn is becoming so crucial to hiring and retaining the talent a business needs, then it has to be hardwired into the employer brand and a part of the employee value proposition communicated to candidates. It is a fundamental part of the employee experience. I expect to see those who have progressed within the organization increasingly become leading advocates and ambassadors for the business, whether through online reviews and case studies, or by sharing their learning experiences with their wider networks. Businesses who don’t promote their successful learning outcomes may find recruiting more difficult.

The Link Between Learning and Business Outcomes is Stronger

I’m usually surprised when I hear someone in an HR or learning and development (L&D) team admit that while they know the cost of their learning programs, they don’t have any real evaluation of the outcomes. I also often hear the common complaint that senior management sees learning as a cost rather than an investment, making budget approval more difficult. This mindset will begin to change. Many business leaders see the key to improved business performance is developing the skills and knowledge of employees. With issues around recruitment, retention, and performance all high on their agenda, this creates the perfect opportunity for HR to properly evaluate the impact of learning on performance and subsequent achievement of commercial targets. Some ways to achieve this could be through monitoring changes in employee engagement, quantifying enhanced performance, or by measuring improvements in productivity and increased revenue or team profitability.

Employees Want to Learn at Their Own Direction

Josh Bersin regularly talks about “learning in the flow of work,” which is a great illustration of how learning is changing from company-organized, classroom-style sessions to something that happens in real time. Many employees say they prefer to learn during work time, but at their own direction and using digital resources, particularly when they are faced with a situation or problem on which they need guidance. This trend will increase sharply over the next couple of years.

With processes and technology evolving quickly, individuals want to keep up with change as it is happening, so they will expect similar access to learning. Recent research from LinkedIn found 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace, 68% want to learn at work, and around half want to learn at the point of need. As employees take more control over how, when, and what they learn, they will be increasingly involved in their own personal and career development. Rather than HR or L&D setting career plans and reviewing performance, the conversations are increasingly between the employee and their line manager – or even their colleagues.

Microlearning and the Need for Evolving Content

If employees want to learn at their own pace and direction, they need access to content that will help them in real time – content that is relevant and easily digestible. The growing preference is for small modules that help with a particular part of a task, a key skill enhancement, or a broader understanding of a concept.

This is known as microlearning and more closely reflects the way individuals learn in their private lives, particularly when completing tasks in which they are not fully competent. For example, many of us turn to instructional videos that help us learn how to cook a specific recipe, build furniture, or master a particular skill. We also sign up for regular emails and updates that share nuggets of information. This type of real-time learning, in short bursts or on an as-needed basis, that is being replicated in the workplace.

The content that delivers microlearning needs to be multiformat and engaging, constantly updating and changing. Rather than creating, or buying specific content, the growing trend is to use a subscription-style service, in which a third-party content creator provides relevant, tailored content on an ongoing basis.

Creating a Learning Culture

Perhaps the most important trend, and also the biggest challenge for HR teams, is to enable and facilitate a learning culture. With individual employees hungry to learn and acquire new skills, and also take responsibility for career development in conjunction with their managers, organizations need to adopt a learning framework that uses the best digital resources and empowers their employees to optimize their productivity and performance. This will require technology that is user-friendly and intuitive to support employees rather than complicate their working experiences, while also engaging those who might prefer a classroom-style approach.

HR has a pivotal role to play in driving hiring, retention, performance, and successful business outcomes. I predict 2019 will offer further advances in L&D technology and capability, and more transformation of business processes and transactions. It will be the HR teams who stay ahead of these trends that will help deliver the most value to their businesses.

About the Author

Mervyn Dinnen

Mervyn is an HR and talent analyst, researching the emerging trends that impact hiring, development, and retention. He is author of the books "Exceptional Talent" and "Digital Talent."

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