Opportunities and risks for corporate learning

It’s a changing world for skills development – in further and higher education, but also in the corporate learning sphere. Shifts in funding, global labour markets and technology are keeping us all on our toes. How are we responding and what’s likely to be around the corner?

That was the theme of a discussion panel I took part in recently for the Education Investor Summit 2016. Along with fellow leaders in learning and development – Jonathan Satchell, Mike Feerick and Guy Cooper – I explored issues around the present and future for corporate learning. The following are questions that were put to the panel - but what are you seeing, and what would your responses be?

‘Which models of learning delivery are currently popular?’
Blends remain popular and are becoming the norm for workplace learning. It’s understood now that face to face training on its own isn’t always the answer, nor is a long online course. A big chunk of what we learn happens on the job rather than in a training intervention. The City & Guilds Group’s latest research – Skills Confidence 2016 - revealed that 68% of UK workers name on the job learning as their preferred method. But there is still a mismatch between terms – learners typically ask for ‘training’ even though they understand the value of ‘on the job development’.

Our client base is global and we see different trends in different parts of the world. That usually revolves around the speed of change. For instance, the US market is moving much more quickly towards cloud-based solutions, using a stripped down learning management system (LMS). In the UK businesses are tending to move towards integrated talent pipeline management systems, taking an end to end view from recruitment through to on the job development.

‘How will business training needs change over the next five years?’
Perhaps we should change the question here: we are no longer talking about business training – we need to shift our perspective. Instead we should start with the outcome we’re seeking, for the learner and for the business. The City & Guilds Group’s purpose is to help people and organisations to develop their skills for personal and economic growth – this is a better starting point.

We’re seeing a greater focus on learning revolving around the learner and driven by not just the learners’ needs but their expectations. We’re calling it the Martini model – learners want to access content anytime, anyplace, anywhere. L&D needs to meet this challenge – whether that means creating responsive digital content that’s accessible on any device, or allowing learners to create their own personalised blends.

It must all be related to measurable business outcomes, though. Organisations should work to measure the success of different learning methods – and to evaluate what they offer according to the results they see.

‘Is in-house training becoming more common?’
Perhaps there is a move towards the development of the tools to allow more self-authoring and increasing capabilities to allow clients to create content and courses themselves. But of course, someone still has to develop the tools, someone has to train the professionals.

‘Is the rise of MOOCs, nanodegrees and accreditation platforms a threat for traditional corporate training providers?’
It depends where you sit on the value chain. There is no doubt in my mind that ‘micro learning’ is a trend – these are modular, bite-sized interventions at the point of need from a wider range of sources. Increasingly these are user generated – think of how-to videos on YouTube. Rather than see these as a threat, corporate training providers can effectively curate this content and incorporate these trends into what they deliver – for instance, social learning and networking tools as an add-on to a traditional LMS.

Accreditation and badging are a central strategic pillar to LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda.com. But we’re still waiting to see how such accreditation platforms and badging will be monetised – LinkedIn has taken a risk that professionals will be prepared to pay for their own development.

LinkedIn is not the only company embracing the rise of badging. The City & Guilds Group recently announced its acquisition of Makewaves and sister company Digitalme, which designs credentials using open badges to recognise individuals’ skills and talent, and works with employers, training providers and schools across the world.

‘What are the exporting opportunities like for British L&D providers?’
I’m less convinced about the opportunity to export products per se – it’s more about exporting standards, tools and capabilities. What’s interesting is the ability to learn from one country that is perhaps a little further on the elearning development journey and to leverage that model into markets that demonstrate the right growth prospects.

‘Is the introduction of the apprenticeship levy a threat or an opportunity?’
It’s both an opportunity and a threat, from the point of view of providers and employers. At the moment policy is not clear and this is creating uncertainty in the market. Once the policy is clear, corporate training providers will be able to create solutions that meet the market demand. We need to make sure that we are still delivering a quality product aligned to business needs.

Grasping the opportunities
It’s a bit of a truism that change is the only constant, but that’s certainly how it feels in corporate learning. We are not using the terms ‘elearning’ or ‘training’ so much anymore. Instead we talk about learning and development – whatever the delivery channel.

The locus of responsibility for career development seems to have shifted much more towards individuals rather than employers. And responsibility for workplace effectiveness has shifted away from L&D towards HRDs and line managers.

This change has been facilitated by both technology advances (devices, bandwidth, speed) and the growing ubiquity of free, quality content. In a sense, learners have become empowered and encouraged to develop themselves, whenever and wherever they happen to be. We must adapt to provide them with the means to do so. And to do this we must not only adapt our portfolio, but our mind-set and approach as well. 

Matt Johnson is the Managing Director of Kineo, a City & Guilds Group business.


Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson is the Managing Director of Kineo, a City & Guilds Group business. Kineo is a corporate learning solutions provider which helps businesses improve performance through learning and technology.