Talent Development Trends – 2017

Learning & Development


2016 was a very interesting year for many reasons, what with the geopolitical and socio-economic upheavals we have been witnessing recently. My guess is that 2017 will continue to surprise us all as these growing forces continue to exert pressure.

In the L&D space, we have seen the continuation of last year’s trends and a few interesting new ideas. So let me share what our company has experienced.

Contextualization and Customization

Training content used to be the critical component in many training programs and we saw training vendors win and lose business on the basis of the quality of their content. These days, though, this is changing rapidly. We have seen first hand that most training content is pretty much the same from company to company and country to country. In other words, training content is now becoming generic and commoditized. As a result talent development decision makers are recognizing that the key to delivering a successful training experience is contextualization and customization. What do we mean by this? We mean understanding which content will be the most useful for which people, knowing how to customize it for the unique needs of the learners, providing performance support tools for moving learning back onto the job, and selecting the right time, place and duration of training to maximize attendance and attention.

The Shift from Push to Pull Learning

Another major change we have seen is the move away from traditional HR driven “push learning” towards a more self directed “pull environment.” Organizations are providing a greater variety of shorter duration workshops and other learning opportunities that are provided on an optional, open enrollment basis. The impact we have seen with this is that we have smaller class sizes (as expected), but much more highly motivated attendees. For example, one company we worked with recently put on a 5-day Training Academy for their IT center in China. A variety of different training providers were invited, including technical skills, soft skills and MBA style business knowledge. Every member of the IT team was required to sign up for at least 5 units of training (one unit was 4 hours). The participation, enthusiasm and engagement was fantastic.

Informal Learning
Organizations are also blending informal and formal learning by supporting instructor-led training classes with videos, online and off-line games, group coaching, mentoring and other informal learning activities. Project based self-directed learning is becoming a common and very effective way of helping people to develop new leadership and technical skills. One client we worked with last year in the banking sector put together 4 small teams of leadership candidates and assigned them each a very tough business challenge to complete by the end of the year. We provided mentoring and group coaching support throughout. The results were very impressive – business outcomes achieved as well as big progress in leadership development.

Content Curation
For L&D professionals, curation and customization will be the key to success in 2017. The same 2-day workshops can no longer be assigned to whole layers of people. Instead, employees want control of their own learning experiences. L&D must serve as curators and guides, finding the best options in terms of availability and focus and providing advice and direction. HR leaders will need to understand and align with employees’ career goals and interests and collaborate with L&D to ensure people are empowered to select learning that helps them satisfy their professional goals.

Whatever 2017 has in store for your company, now is the time to start thinking differently about learning – because your people are already thinking that way. This can help your company remain competitive and produce a stronger, more agile workforce.

This post is also available in: Japanese