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The growth of learning and development in 2011 – and what lies ahead in 2012


It has been a difficult year for British businesses. Rising unemployment and the growing skills shortage have gripped the nation, once again raising learning and development to the top of boardroom agendas around the country.

But the future of the UK workforce lies in having skilled people, ready and able to take jobs in fields like business and information technology. If companies begin to see learning and development (L&D) as an area to potentially make budget cuts, then they will feel repercussions for years to come. However, those that invest in their staff now and champion training within their organisation will reap the benefits, and ultimately, stand apart from competitors.

In this article, Kevin Young, managing director for SkillSoft EMEA, takes a retrospective look at trends in learning this year, and offers his thoughts on the main trends for the next 12 months.
The future for learning
This year we have seen an increased demand for shorter, more engaging content. Budget cuts and fewer staff mean that organisations now have less money to play with and fewer resources at their disposal.
As a result, companies demand training that is specifically targeted for their business’ overall objectives and company policies. They also want to include video content to keep audiences engaged. Our experience shows that modules of 10-12 minutes in length are best suited for desk-bound workers. Instead of just ticking the ‘training’ box, organisations should ensure their employees are able to take what they have learnt back to their roles and apply it to everyday tasks. At the end of the day, these companies want to give employees relevant training in a quick, easy-to-digest form. Given the growing economic situation, the desire for bite-sized learning will only increase moving across the New Year.
The year for mobile learning
Advances in technology have helped shape the e-learning industry this year. With the increase of smartphone and tablet use in the workplace, it is no surprise that many organisations are introducing a mobile strategy into their learning programme. Technology as a learning platform, has grown exponentially over the past few years and moving forward will continue to modify the learning and development sector.
In our experience, companies are fearful of being left behind the mobile learning curve, but just do not know where to begin. For companies of any size, driving a successful mobile strategy can be daunting task but overwhelmingly worthwhile.
Mobile learning offers high quality, on-the-job, bite-sized and modular training that can be undertaken anytime, anywhere and applied immediately to a role.  The benefits of having on-the-go training are plentiful, having workers actively engaged in training and performance support programmes are key contributors to increased productivity. The evolution of the mobile market will play a key role in the learning and development field, whether it will build content geared around a single device or rather if the industry will take a more flexible, rounded approach to learning moving forward.
Social aspect of learning
With Facebook reaching 800 million users worldwide in 2011, social learning is one of SkillSoft’s most popular research and development initiatives. While this aspect of learning might be the newest, it is the forward-thinking companies who are ahead of the curve, seeking ways to actively engage their employees and to get them involved within the L&D process. By mixing social media with traditional training, it brings the content to life, transforming learning and development to be both exciting and appealing to staff.
A social learning platform layer lets businesses securely empower their employees to find, create and share knowledge assets with their colleagues in a way they’re already doing in their personal lives. It is more than technology, it is about human behaviour and how to leverage it for the corporate good.
In a survey conducted by SkillSoft from among a sample of 3,000 learning professionals, an overwhelming 91 per cent believed that social networking principles can be even more useful in a professional environment than a personal one. Our InGenius programme was created due to high demand by customers looking to mix their current learning strategy with the benefits of social learning.
While social learning may be the newest trend from 2011, we think it will take off in popularity over the next 12 months as more companies realise the benefits of mixing social media with traditional learning.
Looking forward
The desire for affordable, relevant, bite-sized training will only increase as companies tighten their purse strings. E-learning and video learning is the obvious solution and keeps in line with what our customers are asking from us.
Aside from these trends, we think organisations will begin to adopt a more unified blended learning solution over the next year. By incorporating several channels, like mobile learning, video content and traditional learning organisations will be able to reap more benefits.
This year in learning and development has been challenging, but exciting, and at SkillSoft we are looking forward to what the New Year will bring. Our customers are constantly seeking innovative ways to boost their learning, efforts and we think 2012 will be no different.
About SkillSoft
SkillSoft is a leading SaaS provider of online learning and performance support solutions for global enterprises, government, education and small to medium-size businesses. We enable organisations to maximise business performance through a combination of comprehensive e-learning content, online information resources, flexible learning technologies and support services. SkillSoft serves over 3,000 organisations and 11+ million learners worldwide..


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