Training in 2020: Five Priorities for the New Year

training priorities new year2020 is around the corner. Is your training program ready for the new year? If so, you’re not alone. Organizations have gotten more serious about making training a priority in the last few years and it appears that next year will be no exception.

A pair of reports show that organizations of all sizes are increasing their training budgets. According to the Training Industry Magazine’s 2019 Training Industry Report, 42% of organizations increased their spending on training this past year. LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report shows increased budgets, less worry among L&D leaders about not having enough funds, and more support for training from the C-Suite.

Full disclosure: Training Industry’s report also shows that U.S. spending on training programs is down overall by about 5%, but a large number of organizations are upping their budgets modestly and 46% report that their budget is holding steady.

What are they using the funds for? The majority of the companies that grew their budgets said they did so because they’d increased the scope of their training programs. Others are hiring more training staff, training more learners, or buying new training products.

So, how should you be preparing your L&D operation for the coming year? Read on to learn more about the ways your training program might change in 2020 and the metrics you’ll have to track in order to monitor those changes.

Here are five training priorities for 2020:

1. Boost engagement by marketing training

You didn’t read that wrong. Data shows that you may have to market your online learning to your organization’s employees in the coming year. Here’s a paper outlining five essential skills you need to do it well.

When all your employees work in one place, it’s easy to remind them about your L&D program. But with increasingly remote workforces made up of busy employees, you may need to remind your employees to take learning. In some cases you might have to tell your learners that your learning program exists. LinkedIn found that while more than half of L&D teams listed increasing engagement as their top challenge in 2019, talent developers only spent 15% of their time marketing their courses to learners.

To improve engagement numbers, talent developers are going to have to think like marketers, sending out email blasts and using the company intranet to remind learners about their courses. Those channels work — 61% of learners find out about training through email — but L&D will want to think beyond those channels. Research shows that managers are the most effective way of boosting learner engagement; 75% of employees say they’d take a course assigned by their manager.

2. Up customer satisfaction by training soft skills

We’ve written a lot about soft skills on this blog. A lot.

There’s a reason for that: soft skills are people skills and companies need employees with good people skills. This is potentially the reason so many businesses are expanding their training programs; businesses are realizing that they don’t have to hire people who are naturally polite, persuasive or organized. Sure, that would be ideal, but they’ve also realized they can train those skills.

That’s a big deal for roles like sales and customer service, which are soft skills-based, but it’s also important to any other job function, because, let’s be honest, people with good soft skills are pleasant to work with and good problem solvers.

Need proof? According to Linkedin, the most desired skill of all in 2019 was a soft skill: creativity. (It was closely followed by persuasion, analytical reasoning, collaboration, and flexibility.)

As a bonus, you don’t have to develop your own learning content — soft skills are universal, so you can often buy soft skills training content off the shelf, which is much more time and cost-effective than building that content yourself.

3. Boost completion rates by offering the training workers need

Time and training are a complicated mix, especially now that many training programs are online and self-directed. Training managers might feel employees don’t make the time for training, while learners might feel like they don’t have enough time to take all their modules. Then there’s the problem of taking training when workers are off the clock; 75% of learners would prefer to take training in spare time at work, according to LinkedIn.

That can be a problem when there’s not spare time at work. However, consistent training is important; according to the LinkedIn report, employees who spend more than five hours a week learning are more likely to know where they want to go in their careers, find greater purpose, and feel less stressed. Learners who spend one to five hours learning showed some of the same benefits as well.

A way of combating this problem is to offer just-in-time training — quick training modules that offer exactly what workers need right when they need the information. Just-in-time training should answer a question that is likely to come up on the job: how do I handle a customer with a specific query, or how do I do this one task.

Think of it as training’s answer to the YouTube video or Google query.

4. Boost retention with micro-learning

Another reason employees may dislike longer learning modules — they might not remember everything they learned after a long course.

Micro-learning — short bursts of information that are easy to follow and understand — is a way to boost retention, by making small, intensely-focused chunks of learning available to learners whenever they need it. How? Research shows humans learn better when they’re given quick, relevant lessons.

By giving them short lessons, one at a time, micro-learning is an effective way to boost learners’ retention and get new information into their hands (and heads) quickly.

5. Onboard quickly when you welcome Generation Z

When it comes to the workforce, Millennials have been here for a while, and Gen X is now more or less running the show. Generation Z, however, is just starting their careers.

How will you get these new workers up to speed quickly? Generation Z was born in the mid-1990s and barely remembers a time before mobile phones. They’ll expect learning to be mobile, online and easily accessible on their devices. Data shows that they also like their learning to be self-directed and independent, so you’ll want to make sure your mobile learning is up to snuff (which it should be, since you’ve been training Millennials for years already).

Preparing for your upcoming year of training

As L&D departments prepare for 2020, they’re setting aside funds for a variety of items. According to Training Industry, 20% of organizations are planning to invest in games and simulations for example, while 25% plan to spend on classroom tools and systems.

The vast majority, however, are investing in online learning — 44% plan to invest in learning systems and tools, 34% will spend on content development, 34% will purchase content authoring tools, and 31% plan to dig into their budget on Learning Management Systems (LMSs) in 2020.

That makes sense — an LMS is your best friend when it comes to tracking the learning metrics that matter to your business and serving training to your learners. By investing in an LMS with reporting features, you can track learners’ progress, identify skill gaps, and find ways to deliver the right training to your learners — wherever they are, and no matter their learning needs.