The “next normal” for the way we learn

Lately, I’ve heard people throwing around the term the “next normal” and what it means for different industries. But, in essence, it’s what the future holds for all of us based on how the pandemic changed the way we do things. Even simple tasks like ordering food, buying groceries and talking to friends and family have been up-ended.

So, I wanted to explore what the “next normal” is for Learning & Development (L&D). Because, like most of our lives, it will never be done the same way again. Here are the main trends that I’m seeing in the L&D space.

Digital transformation of learning is here to stay

The pandemic forced us to move most of our learning online or virtual. And this style of digital learning is not going anywhere. It’s just going to get better.

The digital transformation of learning means taking what we’ve already done to the next level to improve your company’s performance. This includes making the digital training more user-friendly, more accessible, increasing adoption, etc. Doing so is the only way to make L&D efforts truly impactful and successful.

In fact, we’re working with a client on specific certifications that professionals can do from home to bring their skill level up to what the market demands. Or, to learn a new skill based on what skills companies are looking for. Because it’s affordable and flexible, these trainings provide another way to get trained in different fields without going back to college. The courses focus on high-demand fields like data analytics, IT support, project management, etc.

Hybrid learning in a hybrid-work world

Most of us have been working from home for over a year now. And when that began, learning from home also started. Now that many companies are toying with (or actually implementing) the idea of hybrid work – part in-office and part remote – L&D will follow suit with a combination of in-class and online learning.

It’s well known that in-classroom training improves engagement as there are many more distractions online. But are we going to start bringing people into the office to train them because of that? Or will employees still be doing it remotely? Unfortunately, with this topic, there are more questions than answers. It all depends on your situation, the type of training you need, your employees, etc. It’s all about finding the right balance of online vs. in-classroom training for your business. And much like the shift to remote learning, it will require lots of experimentation.

Change management and more soft skills

During a pandemic, when disruption is the norm, professionals who have change management skills are in high demand. And change management has impacted the L&D world even more because L&D project managers are heavily involved in this type of training. They influence the trainers to do things a certain way. For example, do you need to shift to video interviews with all candidates – what’s the value add? This is where the L&D team comes in to create the training on how to conduct video interviews if that’s the route you take.

Training on soft skills, in general, is difficult because you can’t change someone unless they truly understand the end goal and why it’s so important. A good example is call-center customer service reps. Many of them impress me now when 10 years ago it was a pain to call because they were terrible. The training of these professionals has shifted toward soft skills and now they are more personable and helpful. It has completely changed the game.

Approaching L&D in an Agile and simplified way

Just like IT projects have moved to an agile methodology, the need for ramping up L&D also calls for speed. In an Agile method, your team can manage your L&D project by breaking it up into several stages, making improvements along the way based on collaboration with stakeholders. It’s less daunting and allows for a minimum viable product to get your training off the ground when you need it fast.

In addition, business leaders and L&D professionals need to identify the core capabilities for roles, projects and the work employees do as a basis for simplifying training and skills development. That way, it supports the overall business goals and can keep up with the pace of change.

A new focus on EX (employee experience)

We’re all consumers and expect a specific experience level when we interact with stores, banks, restaurants, etc. And there’s a huge focus on UX – User Experience – in the consumer world because of that. But the learner’s consumer-like expectations have extended to their training experiences as well.

It all goes back to the adoption of the training. If the experience is lousy, the chance of your employee taking the training course is low. Sometimes, incorporating a learning experience platform, which sits on the front end of your learning management system, can help. There are more and more of these tools available on the market today such as Degreed, Blackboard, Docebo and others.

Virtual Reality in corporate learning

Virtual Reality (VR) has been gaining steam over the years in corporate learning. But the pandemic brought it to the forefront even more. I believe it’s going to be big in the next 10 years for L&D.

VR can enable you to have in-classroom training from literally anywhere if you are attending virtually. Another big advantage of VR is being able to train on customer support with virtual role-play. The in-person simulation of, say, acting as a customer service rep in a retail store and interacting with a customer that walks into a virtual store is much more effective than simply role-playing over the phone.

Globalization and localization of training material

Training materials for a global company based in the United States are most likely developed locally. And then, they may need to be released to an office in another country. This calls for the translation of said training materials into the appropriate language without losing any of the meaning behind the words. And not offending anyone!

Because of different dialects within the same country, it can get complicated. For example, in many Spanish-speaking countries, there are different dialects to consider for the material to make sense at the local level. It might not even be a dialect issue, but appropriate wording for the region of the country, which happens right here in the United States. For example, I hear the word gnarly all over the place in California and it’s “normal” to us. But that would never fly in the South where it’s not part of the typical vernacular.

You may need vendors at the local level to help with these translations, and that’s okay. There are many corporate language training companies you can leverage to make sure you get it right.

Choosing the right learning technology

Effective buying strategy becomes more important than ever when choosing the learning technology for your business. If you’re going to invest in learning and you invest in a subpar tool, people aren’t going to follow it. L&D is such a big part of business initiatives now that you can’t just leave it to chance. It requires putting actual strategy behind your decisions. Otherwise, you risk not only wasting money on the technology but ineffective training as well. And, in the long run, that could be more costly to your business than the expense of the tools themselves.

Final thoughts

The “next normal” can seem overwhelming…because it can be. Especially without the expertise of L&D professionals. We recently helped a client build an L&D team, with a 90% fill rate for their L&D positions. Synergis can supply highly qualified talent for any client because of our robust candidate pipeline and our expertise in finding the best talent. Contact us to help with your L&D strategy.


About the author

Tim Pape serves as the Market Manager of our San Francisco office. In this position, he leads the sales and recruiting teams to ensure a high level of delivery for each and every customer. He also owns market strategies and initiatives to grow the Synergis brand. Tim has nine years of staffing industry experience, serving in Recruiter and Account Executive roles prior to his current position. He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Georgia Southern University. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time as a newlywed with his wife and puppy, reading, traveling, golfing & cheering on his favorite sports teams.

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