Corporate training tools have two purposes.
First, to ensure employees are learning and developing at work which would also eventually help them grow in their careers. Second, to get employees to be more productive at work than they already are.
But that’s easier said than done.
You know it’s an uphill task when somebody comes out with the finding that just 20% of the existing workforce has the skills for 60% of the jobs that will exist over the next few years. To add to that, you can’t just institute a training program within your org and expect your workforce to skill up.
Maybe you can try new hires? Not a great idea either. AT&T thought about it when they found that their workforce is not prepared for the landscape shift the company’s business was going through.
Scott Smith, SVP of HR at AT&T had this response: “You can go out to the street and hire for the skills, but we all know that the supply of technical talent is limited, and everybody is going after it. Or you can do your best to step up and reskill your existing workforce to fill the gap.”
When a company like AT&T is finding trouble attracting talent, you know what shape the talent market is in.
And so, the world’s largest telecom company embarked on a reskilling journey. What they focussed on was productivity and performance. Something that we, at Whatfix, strongly advocate as the end results of employee training.
Truth is AT&T is not the only company that finds itself in such a situation. Maybe not at the same scale, but every company today is realizing that its employees need to be continuously trained and re-skilled.
And that’s exactly why TechCrunch estimates that the global training, learning and development market could be worth more than $171 billion today. Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, Josh Bersin pegs the estimate at $131 billion.
That’s massive. In contrast, the global CRM market is worth $34 billion.
Training tools are more like B2C applications.
They need to attract the end user’s attention, they need to engage the end user, they need to deliver learning and they need to do it quickly. And continuously.
Why can’t orgs just have the time tested instructor-led training? Just send the pupils back to school.
If that approach still worked, there wouldn’t be so many training tools out there. Point is that, like customers, learner expectations and requirements are changing as well in sync with the digital age.
A recent report by Accenture, specific to Canada, reached the same conclusion. That if companies want their workforce to compete, they need to forget the whiteboard and join the digital age.
Learners want to be trained at work. Learners want to be trained at their own pace. Learners want to be trained at their point of need. It is dead obvious ILT can’t satisfy learners with what they want to do and how they want to learn.
Which is why, again, there are so many training tools in the market suited for different conditions.
In the current environment, it’s really hard to find one training tool that can do everything. The Salesforce of training hasn’t been built yet and it is unlikely, it’ll ever be built because it’s impossible. That corporate training is a $130-$171 billion industry should be a strong enough indicator of that.
So, to make it a little easier, we have shortlisted some of the most prominent categories of training tools across different categories in the corporate training market today. We have not really counted LMS because it’s not the most interesting training application out there. Most LMS applications are metamorphosizing into Learning Experience Platforms, which is like the Netflix for corporate training.
So, here goes our list of some great training tools. Note that this list does not claim to have the best tools in the market but only some great ones you should consider.
It is estimated that, by 2020, almost half of all the global workforce will comprise of millennials while Generation Z will make up 24%. These are not the kind of people who will navigate a clunky LMS and try to find what they need.
These are the kind of people who need to be ‘recommended’ what they should learn. Like Josh Bersin says, the LMS needs to look like Netflix for it to work. And when it does, it’s no longer an LMS but a Learning Experience Platform.
By injecting experience into learning management.
Adoption of software products is a pressing concern for orgs of all sizes as their application stacks continue to inflate.
ILT and user manuals are the common mode of training for software application users. But these are ridden with the same problem of being too far behind the current digital age.
With a workforce that’s short on both time and patience, point of need and time of need learning is what training tools are required to deliver. Especially when it comes to software training.
That’s what platforms like Whatfix are trying to do. To bring learning right inside the application so that end user are trained at their own pace, when they want and where they want. And, of course, learn without any external trainer dependence.
Whatfix does it using realtime interactive walkthroughs embedded inside the target application guiding end users on how to perform multiple tasks in the application. These applications could be anything from a Salesforce to a SAP SuccessFactors to a MS Dynamics 365.
The end result? With this form of on the job training, employees get more productive and perform better. Because nothing in the world can beat real-world, hands on experience.
A little more data from the LinkedIn Learning report for 2018 would help in setting some context.
About 68% employees like to learn in the flow of work. Maybe in contrast, getting employees to make time for learning is the biggest challenge trainers face today. Which is where the idea of microlearning fits.
Essentially, learners are not only consistently spending very small bits of time in training but also getting a very high learning ROI on it. As it was with SaaS products in general, orgs are also realizing that training tools need to emphasize on not just training and learning but also on retention of that transferred knowledge.
For orgs not invested in creating custom training courses, online content libraries are pretty important.
Libraries like LinkedIn Learning (Lynda.com) and Udacity fill the content gap with huge repositories of courses for every vertical and function. Skillsoft is also pretty highly regarded by a lot of trainers.
A big parameter for evaluation of content libraries is obviously the quality of production and delivery. That’s more important than ever, because in the digital age, there’s no dearth of content. It’s just quality content that’s hard to find.
There’s no short of innovation in this space either. If LMS platforms are turning into a Netflix, content libraries are trying to become an Amazon for courses integrating with a Learning Experience Platform or even delivering courses into the learner’s inbox.
Here’s a bigger list of content library vendors in the market today.
Now, this is something slightly different. Learning Record Stores are not training tools per se but help orgs measure their training. LRS has come into the spotlight with the increasing use of the Experience API, or xAPI, for learning.
In short, LRS just tracks multiple training initiatives across different touchpoints.
Why do we LRS? If your org is the one using multiple training techniques like open courses, online courses, VR training, embedded application training in tandem across the enterprise, you need to collate the measure of their effectiveness in one place.
LRS tools like GrassBlade xAPI or even the open source Learning Locker are redefining this space with extensive capabilities. Rather, they are turning into something of learning data warehouses. Which is great for large enterprises.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to find one training tool that can manage an organization’s end-to-end training requirements.
Orgs need a training stack that can support the multitude of learning habits and behaviors that modern learners have. But that stack needs to suit the digital age.
The one fundamental shift in employee behavior over the past decade or so is that they are beginning to act like customers. That’s shouldn’t be too surprising considering they are also customers of other companies.
Is it a bad thing? It’s very hard to confidently say anything. What we can definitely say is that, as time passes, it’s becoming increasingly hard to take the customer out of the employee.
Which means there is a lot of convergence between customer expectations and employee expectations.
In that context, there are two things about customers that every org should know. First, they are increasingly switching to the autopilot mode meaning they expect things to be highly automated and intelligent. Second, they expect brands to come where they are. Exactly why we see that platforms like Facebook are making so much money.
The same principles now apply to employees as well irrespective of the fact that you can still tie them down with culture, work and things like that.
To cut the story short, employees are going to put in effort only into their direct work. So, you are expecting quite a lot from your employees if you want them to continue navigating and using the old training tools, which, clearly weren’t designed keeping in mind the learning habits of the modern employee.
Today’s training is all about hand holding the employee through the endless learning curve. It’s also about taking corporate training to where learners really are.
For instance, Whatfix takes training and learning inside the business application that end users are using. So, they don’t have to go an instructor led classroom or another LMS application to actually learn.
Another aspect of training or learning that has changed over the past few years is focus on retention of knowledge or being instantly able to apply that knowledge to practical work. Rather than simple transfer of training knowledge to the end user.
Essentially, the focus of training is now on performance. That means learners need to be able to retain knowledge and then apply it to improve their individual performance. In some ways, that’s a parallel to how the cloud based SaaS economy works. It works on retention rather than just sales.
That necessitates the presence of analytics and a feedback loop to continually improve the training methodology in use.
But, the question is if this is the end? How long will these training tools continue to help an organization? How far away are we from the next iteration of corporate training?
Not very far. As Josh Bersin predicts, maybe in about two to three years, training tools will start using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to train end users.
We just have to wait and watch.