Learning and Development (L&D) professionals can switch off the weather channel — the forecast on the L&D industry is sunny and clear.
According to Training Magazine’s 2015 Training Industry Report, the overall training expenditures in the US went up 14.2% to $70.6 billion dollars last year, and learners are getting on average 13 hours more of training than last year.
But even with these increases, individual companies are actually spending less per learner — $702 compared with $976 in 2014. Companies are getting a bigger bang for their buck.
They’re also focusing now more than ever on aligning training with business objectives and goals. This means more than simply closing employee skill gaps and making sure employees are up to speed on corporate software — companies are also concerned about bigger issues like leadership succession and organizational change. Over 70% of senior executives responding to a survey by training company ExecSense said that leadership and strategy were their top priorities when it came to executive learning, and 58% of them plan to increase L&D spending in 2016.
But effective training isn’t just a matter of more dollars in, more knowledge out. To meet these targeted business goals most efficiently, many companies are looking to online training tools and technology — particularly for smaller and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). SMBs spend a higher portion of their budgets on learning technology than larger organizations do, according to the 2015 Training Industry Report.
And that number seems like it will be going up. Of the companies Training Magazine surveyed, 38 percent anticipate purchasing a learning management system in the near future, while 37 expect to purchase other online learning tools and systems.
Turning to technology
Cloud-based LMSs with built-in authoring tools make developing training programs budget-friendly and effective. L&D departments can easily upload existing content and deliver it across a range of devices and platforms, enabling access without the need for costly training seminars. This also lets L&D departments offer “just-in-time” content to keep learners up to date.
But modern LMSs don’t just make it easier to deliver content to learners. The best systems allow L&D departments to take advantage of modern research on how people learn in order to create the most effective lessons. Embedded multimedia, quizzes and discussion platforms keep the learner interested and encourage them to retain the materials more completely.
Detailed reporting on learner progress allows the L&D team to fine-tune courses. Learner progress reports pinpoint places in the course where learners are struggling, while engagement data provides understanding about how effective certain elements are, such as video content vs interactive text.
All of this creates a more user-friendly course for learners. White labeling allows companies to brand courses for a seamless experience, and application program interface (API) and Single Sign-on (SSO) capabilities let companies implement contextual training across the entire user journey, from awareness to onboarding and retention.
Better ROI for organizations of all sizes
As a result of these developments, we’re seeing a shift in how L&D can be used to grow businesses of all sizes. In the past, multi-channel training programs for the workforce, business partners, prospects and customers were produced only by huge organizations. Now even small and emerging L&D teams can take advantage of these powerful training opportunities and gain an edge over their competitors.
Because of the advanced nature of available technology, measuring success is much easier. Forward thinking L&D departments aren’t just analyzing learning metrics like course completions and quiz scores, they’re measuring things like retention, productivity and time to value to demonstrate the return on their training investments.
This is another factor that allows companies to decrease their spending while achieving better results — more accurate reporting tools allow L&D teams to truly understand what’s going on, without having to throw around money to test solutions.
More bright developments on the horizon
With all these developments happening today — and with more just around the corner — it’s understandable that people are getting excited about the future of Learning and Development.
New tools — with sophisticated new technology under the hood — are making it not only easier for L&D teams to do their jobs, they’re providing opportunities for innovative companies to push ahead of their competition. And as the technology continues to evolve, we predict the future will only grow brighter.