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A lesson in corporate training

In a digital era where change is the only constant, and in order for continued business success, it is essential organisations keep their employees in tune with the latest happenings in the world of work.

As much as corporate training is important, the method of training is just as important. Jerene Ang speaks to HR leaders in the region to study the coming trends and developments in the L&D arena.

2016 was a year of disruption and that is expected to continue as we enter 2017. In order for businesses to continue to be successful in this competitive digital age, there is a need to ensure employees are constantly upgraded to ensure they stay relevant.

In fact, HR and business leaders are aware of this need for upskilling. According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 survey, which polled more than 7,000 HR and business leaders from 130 countries, 91% of Southeast Asian respondents rated learning as “important” or “very important”.

As organisations enter the digital era, it is crucial to remember the method of learning is as important as learning itself. After all, the digital way of life cannot be taught in a classroom.

In line with today’s rapid technology advancements, the emergence of the sharing economy and social collaboration, Evangeline Chua, chief people officer at Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), points out the direction of corporate functions have largely been reshaped – learning and development included.

Yesterday’s corporate training was about classroom learning, conferences, seminars and workshops. However, with today’s digitally savvy workforce demanding engaging, personalised, mobile and immersive learning, it is no longer about HR and L&D functions creating formal training courses, but blending a range of formal and informal learning experiences such as mobile and online learning, gamification and social sharing forums.

Hence, to help HR and L&D professionals craft a top-notch training plan – and as a prelude to Human Resources’ upcoming training and development guide – we speak to HR leaders from organisations in the region such as Unilever, Liberty Mutual Insurance, TIME Dotcom, and GovTech to reveal the top corporate training trends to watch for this year.

T&D trend No.1: Personalised learning

Chua observed that if we understand the Millennials’ profile, they will continue to value L&D as a prime benefit.

“While there is a hype on addressing the Millennials’ learning needs, we must not neglect the rest of the workforce,” she notes. This brings us to the first trend picked up in our conversations with HR leaders –personalised learning.

Betty Lau, global learning director, leadership and business skills at Unilever, is of the opinion that personalised learning (instead of a one-size-fits-all approach) will prevail in 2017.

Similarly, Beike van den Broek, head of talent and enterprise services for the global consumer markets EAST – Singapore at Liberty Mutual Insurance, feels that businesses will gravitate towards customised training for companies to address specific needs which will help organisations to grow further versus off-the-shelf generic products.

In that same line of thought, while it is not something new, no training curriculum can be more personalised than having a coach or mentor.

Given that in the 70:20:10 learning model, the 20 refers to coaching and mentoring, Unilever’s Lau also predicts there will be a greater focus on the 20-70 of learning to create a more lasting impact on learning.

Wan Ezrin, chief people officer at TIME Dotcom, agrees and points out that people tend to be blind to their own shortcomings or overlook their idiosyncrasies.

“They need an honest person to go to them and tell them that what they are doing is not right, explain to them the implications, and suggest an alternative way for them to do things.”

T&D trend No.2: Technology

In the digital era, not surprisingly, the second trend we picked up is the use of technology for learning and development.

Liberty Mutual Insurance’s van den Broek opines: “Traditional classroom training will further decrease as it is too time consuming. Employees want to learn quick and fast, hence, the focus on learning through mobile, video, online and gamification will further grow.”

GovTech’s Chua agrees, explaining that at GovTech, the training team is constantly looking to see how the learners’ experiences can be improved as well as how the utilisation of various training modalities can be increased.

“From that perspective, mobile learning solutions can really improve the adoption and heighten user engagement. Hence, this is one trend that I think a lot of organisations are riding on and assessing what’s the best tool out there,” she says.

Apart from mobile and online solutions, another area in technology close to the hearts and minds of HR and business leaders is big data and analytics. Which brings us to Unilever’s Lau’s prediction of the emergence of artificial intelligence/machine learning being used to help build predictive analytics to define learning needs and design learning for future capabilities.

In line with that, TIME Dotcom’s Ezrin foresees that people from actuarial sciences and statistics will be greatly sought after and even modified to fit into business needs.

“Expertise in such fields will be big in training. People want to know how to do meaningful data crunching and provide insights, and CEOs want to make wholesome informed decisions through number-backed insights on top of their own intuition and gut feel,” he says.

T&D trend No.3: Fostering a knowledge-sharing culture

Establishing a conducive environment is essential for learning to take place. This is exactly what GovTech’s Chua envisions happening in the L&D arena. She anticipates an up-and-coming rise in the fostering of a learning and knowledge-sharing culture, as well as the adoption and investment in social learning and collaboration tools.

“When we look at learning and development, it is not only about education. Giving employees exposure and experiential learning are equally important.

“I advocate for blended learning modality. For example, TED talks are engaging and the topics are wide ranging and tend to be fairly current.”

Additionally, GovTech conducts meet-up sessions to engage industry players, which Chua says, is a great platform for mind-sharing to exchange knowledge and ideas.

“We have also explored and piloted several tools in the hope to achieve optimal learning results,” she says.

Unilever’s Lau agrees, foreseeing an increase of the blending of internal and external learning resources, with learners bringing external content into the company learning environment. “For example, the sharing and recommend learning in LMS.”

T&D trend No.4: ROI of corporate training

Last, but not least, Liberty Mutual Insurance’s van den Broek envisions a shift in the way ROI is viewed when it comes to learning.

“Historically, HR would look at training hours, the development plan completion rate, and training feedback surveys as metrics to measure the success of the L&D effort,” she says.

“The shift will now weigh more towards measuring the impact on productivity and performance of the employee base as well as the investment in high performers versus ones that are not belonging in the top talent tier.”

Having an effective way to measure ROI is one thing; achieving good ROI on learning and development is another.

For a good ROI to be achieved, learning initiatives should ultimately help the business.

This brings us to TIME Dotcom’s Ezrin’s point about the institutionalisation of internally driven solutions.

“People who best understand the business are people who are inside the organisation. Vendors are vendors, as much as they claim that they are sincere and concerned about the organisation, they will never be as concerned as actual managers and leaders within the organisation,” he says.

“This is natural, just like how a mother loves her child very much and not in the same manner as with another child not of her own.”

To sum up, for HR leaders to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of the workforce, GovTech’s Chua advises HR leaders to be really plugged-in to how the world has or will evolve and the business challenges which drive the business mandate.

“That will help us to better address the organisation’s needs proactively,” she says.

She adds that a more fundamental question that may not correlate to the trends above is whether the L&D agenda is aligned or addressing the organisation’s priorities. A litmus test for that is to look at how often training catalogues are updated or training partners are reviewed.

“So my advice is stay current, stay relevant,” she concludes.

Trend alert:

Integrate L&D into talent managementWith learning and development one of the four pillars of talent management that most talent management systems address, Liberty Mutual Insurance’s van den Broek predicts that this year organisations will look to fully integrate L&D as a part of the talent management strategy.

Effective blended learningTIME Dotcom’s Ezrin envisions that effective blended learning will be institutionalised. This basically democratises ways for people to learn and develop, he explains.

“People got excited with e-learning, but now people are really thinking about how to make it relevant and how to make it effective. The confines of time and calendar is no longer a limiting issue and people can learn irrespective of geography and schedule.”

As blended learning also incorporates face-to-face delivery, Ezrin foresees that people who are highly competent and passionate about development will be at the helm of this blended learning trend.

Photo / iStock

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