2021 Summer Training Trends

top training tends 2021Ah, summer is upon us! Sunday, June 20, was the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, which marks the official start of summer. For most, that’s a welcomed event (unless you live in Arizona, like I do and are facing long stretches of days above 115 degrees), but again, for most, it brings with it plans of holiday travel, time outdoors, and soaking in plenty of sun and fun.

This year, it feels even better because summer isn’t “cancelled” due to a pandemic. Restaurants, bars, parks, sporting venues, festivals, and other events – they’re opening again and never has it felt so exciting.

People are scheduling air travel – trust me on this one, as I just tried to book a ticket and there was next to nothing available and the phone wait-time with the airline was more than 90 minutes; (apparently, I’m not the only person trying to escape Arizona right now). But back to the matter at hand: people are hitting the highways for road trips, having barbeques, attending pool parties, and enjoying all kinds of formerly taken-for-granted wonderfulness.

So, with all this newfound merriment, what’s going on back at work?

That was not meant to be a downer question. It just means, “Can’t we bring some of the joy of summer 2021 into the world of corporate training?” Of course we can!

So, let’s have some fun and toss around the beachball of training best practices for the rest of the year, and certainly well into 2022.

Top Six Training Trends this Summer (and Beyond)

  1. Playing knowledge over skills: As we discussed in depth in a recent webinar on Training for Transformation, today’s training needs to focus on broader knowledge, creative and collaborative thinking, and navigating unfamiliar challenges versus one-off skills training. Sure, there will probably always be some myopic skills training, but the bigger goal should be the bigger picture. This is what enables people and organizations to transform toward greater purpose and performance.
  2. Toasting team mentality: As an extension to the bullet above, teamwork has never been more important to an organization’s success. Collaborative thinking and cooperative work now fuel most projects across industries with only a few exceptions, including being a pet sitter, a transcriptionist, and a truck driver. Beyond those and some others, many roles have become increasingly specialized, but increasingly connected with other specialized roles. In other words, it takes a team of specialists to complete the required pieces and hand the baton to the next specialist(s) – or devise ways for the team to collectively carry the baton. Brandon Hall Group reports that 70%+ of organizations perform more than half of their work through teams and 52% said team-driven work will increase moderately or greatly in the next two years.
  3. Chilling with the C-suite: The pandemic-related events of 2020 launched L&D into the spotlight. Suddenly, companies that perceived training as a compliance-driven checkbox realized the deeper, more meaningful purpose of keeping people engaged, informed, and connected. They saw that training agility meant having the ability to reskill people whose jobs changed overnight. This stuff needed to be ready to roll out in days not weeks, and the C-suite took note. Survival, much less success, meant that training is an invaluable tool in the toolbox – and one that doesn’t gather dust until it’s needed. Execs became not only willing to designate more dollars but also more willing to listen to the changing needs of L&D departments as they strive to serve the changing needs of learners. This trend will not cool down when summer 2021 does.
  4. Rallying remote people: With in-person training off the table for the past year and a half, L&D learned a lot about transitioning everything to digital. New best practices emerged very quickly to rally remote workers to continued engagement, productivity, purpose, and job satisfaction. Now, perceptions will not go back to pre-pandemic naiveté. According to Brandon Hall Group research, 54 percent of companies will either increase or remain at current usage levels of digital learning, as the pandemic eases. Remote work, while still trendy now, will just become a norm. It’s quite frankly the way of the world as we know it, and not going anywhere.
  5. Digging deep on DE&I: Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has never been more important or more top of mind for businesses. In fact, it’s the top priority for human capital management investment for employers in 2021, according to Brandon Hall Group research, and 76% of employers say the social justice movement that started in 2020 increased the urgency for improvement. Organizations that paid little attention to the subject in the past are now ramping up rapid plans to get it front and center on the required learning list. It’s vital for companies to have a strategy in place to make everyone feel included and valued, regardless of race, gender, age, religious affiliation, etc. Training is how to get the message across and how to teach people to do better, if they’ve been less aware in the past.
  6. Hyping hybrid models – Now that people have gotten used to remote work and many actually attest to preferring it, companies will continue to offer hybrid work environments. Here at SAP, we’re being offered hybrid work options that empower us to build our best mix of in-office and at home work schedules for optimal productivity and sanity. That’s a pretty progressive plan to keep 102,400 employees happy and very encouraging in this new world of the “trust-based workplace.” To me, it’s not surprising that 94% of SAP employees plan to take advantage of the flexibility provided. We like our jobs, our colleagues, and our company and are grateful that they’re entrusting us with the ability to build our own work environments. Hybrid models, of course, then extends to hybrid learning. As mentioned, we’ll continue to see a mix of digital (synchronous and asynchronous) and in-person training. This trend will go well beyond the end of 2021.

Happy summer, everyone! Please go make up for the lost season. Be safe and have fun!