The World Economic Forum had announced in its report that by 2022, 42% of the core skills required to perform existing jobs are bound to change. This is a significant indicator of how businesses need to prioritise workplace learning to keep pace with the changing labour market demands and gain a competitive advantage not simply in terms of attracting talent but also for achieving operational excellence and business targets. Skillsoft’s The Year 2021 For Skilling: A Pulse Survey also reveals that 88% of businesses rated building skills and capabilities as the topmost priority. Having acknowledged across industries the necessity for learning initiatives to impact workplace and workforce transformation, the year 2022 holds immense potential for all stakeholders within the organisation to set about their growth trajectory. Innovation, personalisation, flexibility of learning programs implemented at scale and made increasingly accessible will play a fundamental role in all business and people led strategies moving forward.
In a series of conversations with experts in the field of Learning and Development, People Matters got to the root of the learning trends that are bound to make an impact in the learning strategies to be designed, the challenges that need to be accounted for and what the L&D community can do better to drive growth, employee retention and increase productivity levels in the APAC region.
‘With the prevalent use of disruptive technology to improve products and services, many people may find it challenging to pick up new skills and adapt to the use of new technologies. Adult learning is therefore important, especially in the years ahead, as we try to remain agile and competitive amidst the highly dynamic landscape,’ emphasises Professor Lee Wing On, Executive Director, Institute for Adult Learning.
The potential for growth is always there, what is critical at this juncture is to devise strategies that will leverage that potential and reap benefits for organizations and its people as they plan to drive greater innovation.
Trends L&D Professionals must be on the lookout for:
One interesting trend shared by Soh Hooi Peng, Director of Strategy, Special Projects and Corporate Development, NTUC LearningHub is the enthusiasm among employees to upskill themselves out of the workplace. According to NTUC’s Workforce Learning in Workplace Transformation Report, this number goes upto 55% and includes 59% of employees from industries negatively affected by COVID-19, 63% from SMEs, 53% from MNCs and 51% from private companies. In other words, the willingness to learn is universal across various organizations regardless of size. Furthermore, 86% say that the ‘availability and comprehensiveness of training courses’ are key factors for them to remain loyal to the company.
Building on this, Nate Lovitt, Head of Learning and Development-APAC, Mintel adds, ‘Expect to see the employers who are able to deliver a broad range of L&D programs that upskill employees in their current job function and enable them to develop a holistic skill set that will benefit them across their whole career be the ones who appeal most to new applicants and current employees.These progressive employers will not limit their thinking about L&D to a narrow range of legacy programs (e.g. negotiation, presentation skills, etc.), but will offer programs centered on emotional intelligence and diversity, equality, and inclusion that are designed to promote a sense of belonging and boost morale within the workplace.’
Rosie Cairnes, VP-APAC, Skillsoft believes that employees seek enriching, community-driven learning experiences online which would be similar to what one expects from in-person learning. She also points out how the market for personalised coaching is bound to grow with an increased investment in AI to enhance digital coaching.
‘AI is a maturing technology and is being trained using the rich corpus of information from every industry to augment human intelligence, find patterns and make predictions. If we apply that to learning, we’re able to take the institutional and practical knowledge that still primarily resides in people’s heads and share it systematically. If we merge the predictive nature of AI with blended learning, we have something that looks like an omnipresent digital coach,’ Cairnes adds.
‘In 2022, we expect organisations will double down on evaluating the learning requirements needed to achieve operational excellence. For many, that will mean going beyond skills-based courses and giving employees far greater freedom to navigate their own learning journeys,’ says Rhys Hughes, Vice President, APAC, SumTotal Systems when asked for his take on learning trends. As integral as it would be to create engaging, innovative learning content and platforms, the freedom to design learning journeys will have a serious influence on the creation of a learning culture within the organisation. It is the ultimate indicator of whether learning programs are driving employee engagement and growth.
What can leaders do better in devising impactful learning strategies:
Internal Marketing is the golden rule:
Lovitt emphasises the need for support from executive leadership who will believe in the initiatives at the corporate level, the business unit leaders who help L&D professionals scope needs, and the line managers who will take over the reinforcement of skills after L&D programs are finished with. A core part of this leadership support is also internal marketing, strong relationships have to be built with key stakeholders to truly create a behavioural change and lay the foundation for a learning culture. ‘Having stakeholders amongst your company’s leadership who can help promote a program, workshop, or initiative will not only generate more interest but also show the importance of L&D to the organization and remind employees that their growth is something the company is dedicated to, from the top down,’ he adds.
Learning for innovation, learning through innovation:
‘Leaders must be open to creating meaningful and engaging programs using blended learning methods – which infuse self-paced, team-oriented, and instructor-led training, as well as live courses, hands-on labs, bootcamps, coaching and more, to appeal to multiple training preferences and styles,’ advises Cairnes. She also suggests looking towards the gamer culture for inspiration. It is becoming increasingly evident that gamification is all set to play a major role in the L&D arena, leaders have been found to experiment novel and collaborative learning methods, such as using VR headsets for onboarding and live virtual strategy sessions.
Along with bite-sized learning content with related ‘Amazon’ style recommendations tied to a specific job role or set of skills, microlearning for skills development and on-the-job support will be a key corporate learning practice in 2022 as vouched for by Hughes.
He adds, ‘Ideal for providing video how-tos and best practice video roleplays, microlearning videos are proving a particularly engaging format for learners. As a result, demand for applications like TikTok and Instagram reels that adapt content delivery to what a user is viewing is on the rise. Indeed, learner uptake is such that in 2022 more and more enterprises will actively look to offer a TikTok style enterprise learning experience. So much so that Aragon Research expects that by the close of 2024, 40% of enterprises will have deployed their own version of TikTok for the enterprise.’
What is clear is that in spite of the challenges that remain when it comes to learning at the workplace be it engagement or behavioural impact, L&D programs are initiatives that no organisation can do without. Gearing up for skill formation by acknowledging the talent shortages that remain and the drive people have for learning in spite of the turbulent times is a testament for Executive and HR leadership in collaboration with L&D professionals to set the stage for reinventing the learning agenda. It is a critical time as business goals are yet to be defined and met, talent has to be brought in and upskilled and organisations have to keep up with the unprecedented changes that the ongoing pandemic continues to bring in.
‘There is also no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to workplace learning. As the business environment continues to evolve, enterprises can always learn best practices from each other and use those insights to drive workplace transformation in their respective organisations. From employee professionalism, operational efficiency, to job redesign and digitalisation, there are a multitude of benefits for enterprises as they get engaged with continuous learning and improving performance,’ highlights Professor Lee. This is an important takeaway as L&D professionals gear up to innovate and experiment in the L&D arena through increased collaboration and foresight.