2013: New L&D Directions

This year the focus for learning functions will be on solidifying their role as a conduit to business success.

By The Brandon Hall Research Group Team

2013 is here, and the business community is poised and ready to take advantage of a year filled with possibilities – a year in which the impact of social, mobile, and cloud is no longer a question of when but how much? A year in which words such as data analytics, contextual information, and adaptive engagement models will become just as important to the talent and learning communities as they’ve become to the marketing and sales functions. A year in which business performance is redefined and the role of Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Learning, and Talent all will be re-evaluated. It is a year of new directions.
Learning and Development
Learning and Development has been on a difficult journey, trying to find its footing between talent management, operations, and even extended audience training needs. The business world has swung back and forth in the last few years between elevating the learning function to the highest levels, down to outsourcing all but the most critical functions.
This year the focus for learning functions will be on solidifying their role as a conduit to business success – not through better program design, but through better infrastructure, information access, and adaptable learning opportunities.  

Learning ecosystems become realities. It can’t be emphasized enough: The learning function’s role isn’t to create programs and courses. Shout it from the roof tops! The role of the learning function is to create a learning ecosystem, where people can share content and learn effectively. We’ve seen a few organizations embrace this already, companies you would expect such as Adobe, Cisco, and IBM, and organizations that may surprise you such as AAA Insurance. The challenge has been that organizations that think this way previously have had to build their own connections and relationships between multiple systems, platforms, and processes. This year you’ll start to see solution providers who understand this at a base level and offer real solutions for savvy learning functions that create these integrations seamlessly.
Understanding relationships becomes key. Organizations are going to realize the value proposition of relationships. As our view of the world expands, our ability to assess and make good judgment calls becomes more difficult. The context of the situation, the information, the relationship is becoming critical to adapting our learning outputs and information to the needs of our audiences, and to support business goals. Organizations will begin to value the relationships between the content, learner, and their goals to create more adaptive learning approaches.

Tracking learning activities and experiences becomes the holy grail. You’ll hear a lot this year about the newest standards being released from the ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning Organization), touted as the next generation SCORM compliant standards. The standards are aptly labeled Experience API (or you might have heard them called TIN CAN API, after the original project name). It is a standard that is worth watching and learning about. If used appropriately, it will begin to allow organizations to track what has never been feasible before, standardized activity tracking for non-structured learning experiences. This year you’ll see many solution providers both in existing learning tools and new ones working on ways to leverage a combination of these new standards, mobile technology, and a growing belief in experience-based learning to solve the most difficult leadership and development challenges facing businesses today.
Content management takes on new meaning. Last year the e-learning authoring community was thrown into a tailspin when Adobe announced plans to scrap Flash mobile in support of its long-term vision for HTML5. Years were invested in building up cadres of Flash developers and Flash-based content catalogs; the question became “Now what?” This shake-up in the development community allowed organizations to begin to think more broadly and more openly about their content management and content authoring practices. With little effort, the question shifted from what e-learning authoring tools we now should use to should we begin to look at an actual Learning Content Management System (LCMS)?

Our world is no longer tied to the PC, and we need content that can be transferred from classroom to an e-reader PDF to an interactive online module, and eventually a mobile performance support tool. This year you’ll see a resurgence in the learning content management discussion, with authoring tools, LCMSs, LMSs, and even marketing content tools all getting into the mix. To support a learning ecosystem, you need better control over your learning elements, and to support truly adaptive learning, you need more granular learning object management. If your organization hasn’t begun this conversation yet, then you are already late to this party.
Big data will go more granular. Building on the general issues arising out of questions concerning content management, learning ecosystems, and the need to provide relevant learning more quickly, we’ll see organizations struggle to make sense of their existing learning reports and measurement models. In Brandon Hall Group’s recent LMS Trends survey, more than 40 percent of organizations looking to replace their LMS were looking for improved reporting features; it was the No. 1 replacement concern. In the era of big data, reporting challenges have grown even greater. In a recent Brandon Hall Group event, a group of learning professionals was asked to share current knowledge of big data analytics and its understanding of the impact on the learning industry. More than 42 percent said they hadn’t really heard of big data analytics, and more than 80 percent were unable to explain the possible impact on the learning industry (Brandon Hall Group Event, Learning Meets Big Data, N=143, 2012). This understanding will change this year.

As organizations look for real value from their LMS reporting that goes beyond metrics on attendance and registration, they’ll find the value proposition in more granular data. Organizations will begin to look deeper at their content, using examples from marketing and online analytics tools to look at platform data, learner demographics, granular page and content views, even granular classroom activity tracking. When they start to combine this granular data with granular business data, we’ll start to see some amazing shifts take place in how learning content is designed, developed, and maintained across all delivery methods.

Extending the learning audience. In a recent survey on Relationship-Centered Learning, from Brandon Hall Group, more than 53 percent of learning functions already were gearing some of their learning toward external audiences (Brandon Hall Group, Relationship-Centered Learning Organizations, N=622, 2012). This year we will see an additional focus on internal learning functions supporting the needs of extended learning audiences (those outside the existing employees). We also will see growth in external learning tools and programs across the market, as the need continues to increase for adaptive engagement models with customers – education and learning opportunities are compelling ways to engage on multiple levels with consumers at all stages of the buying cycle.

For the full report, visit http://go.brandonhall.com/new_year_new_directions

With more than 10,000 clients globally and 20 years of delivering research and advisory services, Brandon Hall Group is an established research organization in the performance improvement industry. Brandon Hall Group has an extensive repository of thought leadership research and expertise in its primary research portfolios—Learning and Development, Talent Management, Sales Effectiveness, Marketing Impact, and Executive Management. At the core of its offerings is a Membership Program that combines research, benchmarking, and unlimited access to data and analysts. Members have access to research and connections that help them make the right decisions about people, processes, and systems, coalesced with analyst advisory services tailored to help put the research into daily action. For more information, visit http://go.brandonhall.com/home and http://go.brandonhall.com/membership_TM or call 561.865.5017 or email us at success@brandonhall.com.

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.