We were hoping that 2021 would bring us back to normal, but that didn’t quite work out as expected.
Instead, as the effects of the pandemic linger on and a due date for the complete return to the office is anyone’s guess, L&D teams continue to figure out how to enable their organizations to thrive in times of uncertainty.
Indeed, it’s the L&D team who has largely been responsible for helping usher in the rapid, wide-scale digitization and mobilization of processes — upskilling and training staff to get their jobs done, regardless of how the current “workplace” is defined.
In 2021, L&D has become more data-driven, operations-focused, and strategic-minded, and will continue to do so in 2022 and beyond.
And with that, below are seven learning and development trends for 2022 that you can capitalize on for a more impactful and efficient training program.
1. Design and deliver training for a hybrid workforce
Long before the pandemic led to a remote workforce, organizations had increasingly offered remote or hybrid workplaces. However, conditions have accelerated, and the percentage of remote and hybrid employees is much larger than it was pre-pandemic.
As of June 2021, according to Quantum Workplace, 30% of employees considered themselves hybrid employees and 35% of employees reported working remotely.
These numbers will most likely continue or even increase as uncertainty of a full return from remote work to the office lingers. This trend presents itself as a challenge in delivering training due to a range of issues, including platform/device compatibility, Internet connectivity, and employee distraction/focus.
2. The continuation of classroom-based training
According to Training magazine’s 2020 Training Industry Report—published in November 2020, while the pandemic was still underway—the majority (54%) of respondents indicated that they plan to return to some classroom training post-pandemic while maintaining some of the remote learning instituted during the crisis. Another 12% said they plan to return to classroom training as usual once the pandemic is over.
As illogical as this might sound, classroom-based training—or perhaps, a modified, hybrid version of it—is here to stay. With higher participation rates and fewer distractions, classroom-based training can actually cost much less to develop than interactive eLearning content. As a likely scenario, companies will record live instructor-led training in a real classroom or conference room, then repurpose the video, audio, or text for use in additional training content or support materials.
3. Train the entire talent pool, regardless of location or employment status
The make-up of the workforce is changing drastically. Further accelerated by a labor market in which the power lies with the employee, many people are choosing to work as freelancers, consultants, or contractors instead. Many organizations also have a talent pool that includes a high proportion of part-time employees. As the ongoing labor and skills shortages continue into 2022, it’s even more likely that businesses will need to lean on contractors to fill the gaps.
So, with that in mind, should L&D professionals devote resources for employees who are just part-time contractors or consultants?
The answer is “Yes,” because these employees or contractors might be handling sensitive data, and so they need compliance and project-specific training to protect the organization against issues down the road. Additionally, these “outsiders” could also serve as subject matter experts for other training, thereby reducing L&D’s need to source SMEs externally and speeding up the course development process.
As this diversification of the workforce between FTEs and contractors gains pace, L&D will need to figure out the “what, when, and how” of delivering training to team members who fall outside of the traditional “full time employee” category.
4. Credentialing and accreditation for corporate learning
Companies have worked hard for years honing their “employer brand”: advertising, marketing, and social media promoting the organization as an employer of choice. As a sought-after employer, hiring managers attract stronger candidates and the organization enjoys higher productivity and morale.
As an emerging trend and a growing component of employer branding, some training and development teams are strengthening their courses by partnering with industry associations or institutions of higher education for accreditation or credentialing. Such partnerships can advise on course content or assessments, or provide endorsement. Additionally, the co-branding will make the learning even more in demand because employees will now have a recognized credential they can use should they need to depart for another employment opportunity.
5. AI, but this time for real
AI and related automation technologies will be needed more than ever to streamline, organize, advise, and facilitate online learning. With so much training needed by employees—training that might be developed internally or obtained from off-the-shelf resources—and with employees at different experience, knowledge, and skills levels, personalization is needed.
While there are course authoring platforms that leverage AI technology to develop content, L&D teams can get started with AI to create personalized learning programs. Based on profiles and previous skills assessments, the AI tool can deliver recommendations and entire curriculums so that employees can focus on learning.
In the year ahead, it appears likely that AI will become more practically and deeply embedded into many different forms of learning technology. In his HR Predictions for 2022 Report, Josh Bersin also highlights the emerging metaverse technology and how innovations such as these will continue to revolutionize virtual learning experiences.
6. Operations before experiences
L&D leaders have many stakeholders and priorities to juggle. For a long time, the balance has been tipped towards learning experiences and learning design practices. But as the focus has shifted towards learning measurement and L&D have cemented their seat at the strategic table, they are starting to turn the lens inwards.
The demands being placed on learning and development teams, from strategic alignment with the organization to measuring learning outcomes against business performance, require a robust and mature learning ecosystem. Many L&D teams are now finding that, from an operational perspective, there are holes and gaps through which precious resources are leaking.
In a recent update to her research on “How long does it take to create one hour of training?’, published by ATD, Robyn Defelice asked respondents about the barriers to creating training faster. The top answer, given by 67% of respondents, was limited resources. This included budget, staff, and time. So it’s no surprise that, along with seeking budget increases, learning and development are trying to find ways to use the resources they do have as efficiently as possible.
By focusing on their operations, including people, structures, processes, and technology, L&D can ensure they’re positioned to respond to demand, place their resources in the right place at the right time, and ensure learning outcomes are aligned with business success.
Which brings us to our next L&D trend for 2022…
7. New kid on the block: LearnOps
First, there was DevOps, then there was RevOps, and now we have LearnOps.
LearnOps aims to optimize the way the L&D department functions, ensuring that the right team members are in place to create more effective training materials faster. It’s about breaking down silos and operational inefficiencies across people, processes, and technology to produce better outcomes.
LearnOps leans heavily on data, analytics, and technology to manage learning operations and measure success. By breaking down silos — LearnOps understands that not everyone on a learning project team works within the L&D department — value is created throughout the entire learning development lifecycle.
Some benefits of LearnOps include:
- Reducing friction among project stakeholders
- Clearer visibility into resource leaks — time and budget — to reduce strain
- Ensuring that L&D strategy is more closely aligned with that of the organization
- Improved learner experiences and more demonstrable ROI throughout the business
Learn more about LearnOps here.
L&D is doing all it can to support organizations through a continued period of uncertainty. The initial shock and requirements to get employees up to speed on new digitized processes has now given way to a deeper analysis.
L&D now asks itself, “How can we keep doing what we’re doing, but better — and faster?”
Whether it’s through tech-related trends, further adaptation to hybrid work environments, or a focus on operational efficiency, L&D trends in 2022 are set to elevate teams straight into the strategically important position they have been striving toward.