Put a dent in the universe,” said Steve Jobs circa 1985. This quote has many interpretations. For me, it speaks about touching the lives of the people in our sphere of influence. That circle includes my children, colleagues, and the learners I meet in training.
It’s no surprise that I would admire Steve Jobs. As a child, I loved to disassemble any electronic device and create something different out of it. I got a computer in 1991, a few years after Steve Jobs made his comment. My first teacher was a younger brother—he used to crush the computer system, and I would have to rebuild it. Although it was not his intention, he provided the opportunity to learn perseverance, creativity, logic, and problem solving.
My love for technology continued into college, where I studied computers and communication engineering. After graduation, I worked in a training center as a technician, then an IT administrator, before becoming a manager. Then one day, one of the trainers got sick. The learning manager asked if anyone could deliver the course. I was speechless but somehow nodded my head yes. After that, my life changed. I became a trainer and discovered a new passion: developing people.
During this career journey, I was exposed to different cultures, meeting with people from all around the globe, from East Asia to Central America. Still influenced by Steve Job’s passion for doing what you love, my purpose in life became to nurture future generations and discover tools and technology to help them. It is amazing to have a passion for people and an addiction to systems at the same time. With this competency combination, there is no better time to be in the talent development field.
This chapter is about the future of talent development. What we see through research and surveys is a strange mix of people and systems, education and technology, emotions and logic, and the reality of how it is affecting organizations. Today’s organizations face a business environment characterized by increasingly complex and rapid changes. Different industries face different challenges, but all conclude that change is becoming a must for companies to survive. The learning paradigm is no exception and has to go through its set of changes to support businesses’ bottom lines and retain talent.
Everything around us seems interconnected now; all that used to be disconnected is now wired and intelligent. Cities, transportation, and technology increasingly influence every aspect of our world, and the workplace is no different. Fueled by digitization, mobilization, augmentation, and automation, the skills we need will be dramatically different, and our way of work will never be the same.
According to ATD’s 2016 State of the Industry report, in 2015, 41 percent of learning hours used technology-based methods, compared with 38 percent of hours used in 2013, an upward trend in average learning hours. Moreover, the ongoing evolution of mobile technologies is driving continuous changes in the ways organizations do business, nurture talent, and communicate with customers and employees.
Independent research firm eMarketer (2017) estimates that “in 2017, 2.73 billion people worldwide will use a mobile phone to access the Internet.” The firm also estimates that tablet users will top 1.4 billion by 2018 (eMarketer 2015). The widespread popularity of smartphones and tablets has powered extensive interest among learning professionals about the use of mobile devices for training delivery.
By looking at key metrics, this chapter will help talent development professionals benchmark practices against those of regional peers. It offers assistance to evaluate what could be applied and how to apply it based on the readiness of their audience. It suggests tailored learning offerings to each unique learning environment, offering comparisons across the global regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North and Latin America.
Face-to-face classrooms are still the most used learning method worldwide. According to ATD (2016), the classroom was still the delivery mechanism for 49 percent of learning hours used (and available) in 2015, but this number is down from 51 percent in 2014 and 55 percent the year before. This figure has dropped over time: In 2009, 60 percent of hours used were delivered in a classroom. For the first time, in 2015, less than half of available learning hours at the average organization were offered in a classroom setting.
Instructor-led online training programs, or synchronous learning systems—such as WebEx, Centra, and Adobe Connect—are real-time, online learning events. All participants are logged in at the same time and work together as the instructor leads the class. According to ATD (2016), 10 percent of learning hours at an average organization were delivered using the instructor-led online method in 2015.
Instructor-led remote (satellite, video) is a method where a live instructor delivers the course from another location using videoconferencing software, such as Skype or Cisco. This approach was used about 6 percent of the time in 2015 (ATD 2016).
Asynchronous learning systems, such as e-learning, videos, and on-demand modules, allow the instructor to provide course materials that learners can access at any time within defined limits. This method does not require trainers and learners to participate at the same time. Some examples include online and self-paced courses, online discussion groups, and email. Asynchronous learning systems averaged 18 percent of learning methods in 2015 (ATD 2016).
Blended learning is a planned combination of training delivery options such as coaching, participation in class, reading, reference material, and involvement in workshops or online communities. It is worth noting that technology capabilities can drive some portion of a blended learning solution.
Self-paced online, such as platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and EDX, allows participants to take web-based courses at their pace. This method does not require the trainer and the learner to participate at the same time or to follow a strict structure. Self-paced online delivery continued to be the most widely available and used technology-based method in 2015, accounting for 19 percent of learning hours available and used, up from 16 percent in 2013 (ATD 2016).
Self-paced, nonnetworked computer is a methodology that only requires the availability of the training content on an offline storage, like CDs or DVDs. This kind of learning averages around 4 percent of learning hours used (ATD 2016). Self-paced print, such as books and written articles, took 5 percent of learning hours used in 2015. Noncomputer technology (DVD players, overhead projectors, TVs) is slowly decreasing, comprising 1.4 percent of learning hours (ATD 2016).
Mobile learning (including gamification and business simulations) is showing a slow increase in popularity over the past few years, garnering around 3 percent of learning hours used in 2015. Although this figure remains small, it represents an increase from 2013, when mobile learning averaged 1.2 percent of hours used (ATD 2016). A third of organizations have mobile learning programs (ATD and i4cp 2015).
Other methods, like assessment centers, in-person coaching and mentoring, and structured on-the-job training, are currently growing in popularity, from almost nothing a few years ago to 4 percent of learning hours used, according to ATD and i4cp (2015).
Learning Content Areas
Although the number of annual learning hours is not notably different across regions, with a worldwide average of approximately 34 hours annually, some regional differences emerge when looking at expenditures, outsourcing activity, content, and delivery methods (ATD 2015). These variances may reflect cultural factors of desired knowledge and skills. As in previous years, managerial and supervisory content made up the largest share of the total courses offered in 2015: 12 percent on average across all organizations (ATD 2016). Table 16-1 shows it by region (ATD 2015).
The contributors to this book ran a small, practical survey with trainers in 25 countries and territories, divided into five training regions: North America, Central and South America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
The survey asked professionals to consider the current methodology usage in each country or territory where they delivered training. Then, it asked them to use their network, experience, connections, and other data science to give a rough estimation on its anticipated usage in 2020.
The results indicate that there will be a significant decrease in the use of traditional delivery learning—from 73 percent in 2017 to 53 percent in 2020—in contrast with an increase in learning using technology, from 16 percent to 32 percent (Figure 16-1).
Figure 16-2 shows this trend broken down by region.
North America leads the regions in integrating technology with learning, and is predicted to remain at the top for the next three years. Asia is second, with a promising use of technology in 2020, even though only Japan and India were surveyed. Central and South America, Africa, and the Middle East are almost the same. Learning continues to rely on traditional methods, such as instructor-led classrooms; however, this does not eliminate the fact that technology will be playing a bigger role in 2020. The figures also show an interesting point about how the use of technology is related to how developed the country is, which could be because of the broad availability and length of time technologies have been available.
Another means of learning delivery involves one-on-one learning. Although this technique was not among the leading tools and approaches noted in the research, the survey found that it will be used more in the future, especially in emerging countries.
Self-Paced Learning and MOOCs
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have experienced varying levels of attention over the last few years. Recently, interest increased for several reasons. The ability to access MOOCs whenever and wherever encourages companies to shift more toward online learning, giving learners autonomy. For many employers and employees, their cost effectiveness is also attractive. And now Coursera, EDX, Lynda.com, and many other MOOCs offer learners an array of options accredited by well-known universities, so you have greater choices while meeting needs and expectations.
Furthermore, according to our survey, self-paced learning shows a promising growth worldwide, moving from 4 to 6 percent in 2020, with all regions on the rise. Here are some best MOOC practices gathered from the master trainers who conducted the survey:
• Identify employees’ desired learning outcomes. Create a list of learning objectives and outcomes desired by the organization and its employees. If possible, define which competencies to improve and the success measures.
• Identify and screen appropriate MOOCs. Look for providers that offer single sign-on options, a defined and on-demand catalog, and an administrative dashboard for monitoring. It will limit the vast choices of courses to only 40 or 50. Involve staff in the selection to gain their ownership.
• Define the pool of employees who are eligible for self-paced learning. Each learner has a different learning style; some will benefit from self-paced learning and others will prefer traditional methods. Make it worthwhile for the intended audience. If the provider is offering a package encompassing X number of hours for X number of employees, try to decrease the number of hours per employee and widen the number of staff.
• Use employee development plans and performance appraisals to determine the skills and competencies each employee needs, enabling a match with a particular program.
• Assess the course. Employees should report course completion and submit any certificate they receive for their personnel file. Course completion should trigger a survey that asks learners to assess their satisfaction with the course based on meeting their learning goals. Compile these data to create more robust information and analysis.
• Recognize employee activity and reward employees who have completed a course. Awards will differentiate a company that has a keen eye on people development.
• Share the employees’ experience and organize knowledge-sharing sessions to benefit others. Research shows that courses completed in teams have higher completion rates. Therefore, if possible, let the team who attended the course lead these knowledge-sharing sessions.
Gamification is the process of using game thinking and dynamics to engage audiences in learning a subject in an innovative way. With its ease of use, flexibility, and low cost, it is gaining popularity in the learning industry and allows learners to have fun while attaining information and building skills.
My company introduced gamification to its markets. The gamification elements were an instant hit and drove employee engagement. The idea that participants are building competencies or changing a habit while having fun is proving to be effective, and it is increasing participants’ acceptance of innovative learning solutions. Most important, managers have witnessed behavioral and habit change.
Yet according to our survey, use of gamification is growing slowly, comprising only 2 percent of overall learning usage currently; it’s projected to increase to 3 percent in 2020. North America is at the top, but use in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East is growing fast.
When using gamification, consider these suggestions:
• Look for providers that offer an administrative dashboard for follow-up and monitoring, full-time support, and thorough reports on participant results. The latter should include the strengths and the weaknesses of each.
• If the game needs a certain amount of time to be completed, insist that participants finish in less time, and grant them an extension as a “special exception.” Many will wait until the last minute if given an extended period to complete the games.
• Be careful about candidate selection and use a pilot group to test the solution. If an employee is interested in or has been suggested for this course, forward contact details, if possible, to the provider alumni so they can exchange info and evaluate whether this approach will fit or not.
• Clearly communicate objectives before the training program. Run an introductory session for participants to orient them to the game.
• Again, be careful with the selection. Trainers cannot, for example, engage people for a time management course who usually can’t commit due to their busy schedule. It is better to engage them in traditional face-to-face sessions.
• Reinforce learning by sending refresher emails at regular intervals after the training course.
• For participants who complete the game, offer a prize that is related to the topic as an encouragement for their efforts and to use what they learned. As an example, for a time management course, offer an agenda with their name engraved on it or a one-year subscription to a productivity tool.
Mobile learning is the ability to provide educational content on personal pocket devices, such as smartphones, which accommodates people on the move. Not included in this category are tablets, laptops, or mini PCs. Another important aspect of mobile learning is it encourages social interactions by promoting and fostering collaboration and communication.
The primary objective of mobile learning is to encourage anywhere, anytime learning, allowing participants to gather, access, and process information outside of a traditional context. My CEO uses mobile learning during airport layovers, and other colleagues use it while they are in the field.
Our informal survey confirms that mobile learning usage is on the rise, even though it is minimal. Now it accounts for 1 percent of the current education usage, mainly coming from North America with 60 percent share, but the outlook shows that it will reach 3 percent usage in 2020, with Asia topping the list.
Based on the experience with mobile learning implementation of the surveyed regions, there are several issues to note:
• Consider how to integrate mobile learning into your formal training programs. Is it for homework usage only? Is it going to be controlled in the classroom? Is it going to be used for mentoring purposes? For the latter, there are several smartphone apps in the market. I used one called Mentor, and it proved highly effective. It is a web and mobile application that gives participants the ability to upload videos to designated experts for evaluation, coaching, and feedback. The expert reviews the videos and can annotate or record audio comments. This would be ideal for salespeople, who could take videos of their product pitches, upload them, and ask for advice.
• Determine user readiness. With the increasing use of mobile devices for social networking, it seems evident that employees would welcome mobile learning opportunities, but not necessarily. Some employees know only the basics. Conduct orientation sessions before each new release.
• Begin by launching pilot programs to verify technologies and delivery methods and to get buy-in.
• Keep content fresh. Users will immediately drop out when the info becomes outdated.
• Provide support, either internally or from the provider.
Business simulations are applications used mainly on tablets or smartphones for training or assessment. Most simulations are scenario based, with learning objectives that include strategic thinking, entrepreneurship, leadership, decision making, problem solving, financial analysis, market analysis, operations, teamwork, and time management. It provides interactivity and collaboration, as opposed to similar on-paper methods. Business simulations’ current usage is limited, with only a few organizations benefiting from them. The methodology is new and the cost is not competitive. However, our survey predicts a fast growth rate for business simulations in 2020, reaching almost 2 percent of learning hours used, with North America, the Middle East, and Africa topping the list.
Before deciding to implement business simulations, consider these points:
• The use of business simulations is linked to tablet usage. Once tablets are in the hands of more people, business simulations will increase in market share.
• Good business simulations are costly compared with other technological approaches. The cost is typically per user and still needs to be controlled. However, with a rise in competition, expect a drop in prices similar to the one that occurred with self-paced learning.
• Business simulations should be related to relevant content and should link to a purpose. For instance, I once used a simulation for teaching performance management. In this simulation, I played the role of a manager and guided the discussion out of the given options toward achieving a productive meeting with the appraised person. The outcome of this simulation was highly effective.
• An orientation session should occur before the implementation. Are the users technologically ready for complex business simulations where you virtually answer a phone, drive a car, ask for a meeting, or create a company?
• Provide good-quality tablets with large screens (no less than nine inches) and have enough technical support.
Change is coming. Some countries are currently more advanced in technology usage, but others will be topping the list soon. Whether you’re an investor, a learning specialist, or a learner, carefully select which approach to adopt to deliver the right message.
I’ll leave you with a set of questions to consider when developing a strategy to cope with future trends:
• Do trainers know what will shape the decisions of organizational training and development functions in the future?
• How will technology affect talent development teams?
• Are instructional designers ready for the future? Do they know now what it takes to be there?
• Is your organization ready for change?
• Will these learning trends produce better learning results?
• What kind of budget will you need?
• Do you have a place for Millennials?
• Are you innovative and creative enough to lead the change? Do you have the transformative power?
As Gerd Leonhard mentioned in his book Technology vs. Humanity (2016), “The future is in technology, yet the bigger future lies in transcending it.”
About the Author
Fady Kreidy is a computer and communication engineer from Lebanon who has more than 15 years’ experience in the fields of IT and HR. His passion for developing people led him to make a surprising shift from operations to HR, believing in human assets as the main drivers for many businesses. His long and extensive role in HR has exposed him to different cultures, especially during his time at Nestlé, meeting with different generations from all around the globe. He is a Microsoft Certified Trainer, a CCC Certified Trainer, an ATD Master Trainer, a Hay Group Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer, a Profiles Certified Assessor (PCA-Profiles Psychometric Academy), and a FISH! Philosophy Trainer (ChartHouse), and is in the process of getting his coaching certification from the International Coach Federation. He is well known in his region as a distinguished trainer, commended for his high performance and proven results, coupled with an extensive background in HR generalist affairs.
ATD (Association for Talent Development). 2015. Global Trends in Talent Development. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.
———. 2016. State of the Industry. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.
ATD and i4cp (Association for Talent Development and the Institute for Corporate Productivity). 2015. The Mobile Landscape 2015: Building Toward Anytime, Anywhere Learning. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.
eMarketer. 2015. “Tablet Users to Surpass 1 Billion Worldwide in 2015.” eMarketer, January 8. www.emarketer.com/Article/Tablet-Users-Surpass-1-Billion-Worldwide-2015/1011806.
———. 2017. Worldwide Internet and Mobile Users: eMarketer’s Estimates for 2016–2021. New York: eMarketer.
Leonhard, G. 2016. Technology vs. Humanity: The Coming Clash Between Man and Machine. London: Fast Future Publishing.