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Jon Kennard


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TrainingZone interviews: Kevin Young and Liam Butler


Recently we interviewed Skillsoft's Kevin Young and Sumtotal's Liam Butler about the year gone by in L&D 

How has L&D grown in 2015 – what has shaped the industry over the past year?

Kevin Young: The L&D market has continued to evolve and grow in order to keep up with the relentless pace of developments in technology. The increasing complexity of the HR market can be attributed to the coming together of L&D and talent management alongside the increased adoption and integration of organisation-wide supporting technology. Additionally, increased pressure from business leaders to demonstrate the ROI value of L&D amidst financial constraints has also played a major part in having shaped the industry in 2015.

This year has highlighted the increasing important of learning as a key driver of performance for incoming workers, from millennials to generation Z. The growing emphasis on career mobility has meant that employees now want the opportunity to develop their skills so that they can seamlessly work across various teams whilst learning new competencies.

Liam Butler: Over the past year, L&D has grown significantly in relevance. This is in large part due to the fact that people are now using data to reach an end-goal, rather than collecting data for the sake of being able to. The use of data analytics is slowly becoming standard practice within L&D, rather than an exception to the rule. No longer is the idea of extracting valuable data from large sets of information just a fable in HR, in 2015 it became a reality.

What surprising trends and development have you witnessed in the L&D space over the past year?

KY: There have been no real surprises, but as the industry continues to develop and grow, we’ve seen a rapid increase around the emphasis placed on video content, mobile solutions and social collaboration. This is a trend that shows no sign of slowing down in the near future.

LB: A trend that we’ve witnessed develop over the past year has been around the ability to integrate content and platforms together to make L&D contextually relevant for employees. Additionally we’ve also seen an increase in the use of analytics, allowing businesses to make insightful decisions in relation to L&D. Business objectives can now be quantified and tied back to the delivery of training. Take manufacturing for example, businesses in this field can look to measure the defect rate on a particular product and link this back to training that’s taken place during the manufacturing process. Another example of this having a big impact is aviation. 

Airlines are beginning to move to a more ‘evidence-based training’ model whereby they receive the latest data sets from flight crews on known issues rather than just potential issues. This means that instead of simply following mandatory requirements from a regulator, crews are able to recognise the difference between being certified and competent.

Looking ahead to 2016 - what do you see happening in the industry? Are there any big trends on the horizon? Is there anything L&D professionals should be cautious of?

LB: There's the prospect of further consolidation between content and platforms. L&D professionals need to ensure that they are not overly cautious but instead they need to be curious and embrace the way in which the industry is evolving. We can also expect to see a great deal of positive disruptive change as companies enable themselves to become self-developing organisations and alter the way in which learning is delivered to their employees.

KY: We'll see the role of big data within L&D increase significantly. The industry is beginning to recognise the importance of intelligent analytics and this will be an industry game-changer. As a result, we’ll also see the growth of self-direction learning begin to take shape. 

LB: We are moving beyond the traditional ‘push and pull’ method of providing content to an audience. For example, try to imagine Amazon without the option to buy books, music and movies based on your personalised past behaviours, purchases and preferences. The same applies to learning. Why shouldn’t we expect to have a personalised learning experience from our talent management system?

What will be the long term impact of HR technologies over the next year or so? 

KY: The pace of technological systemisation in L&D will undoubtedly continue to accelerate over the next year – for example at present, most LMS decisions are primarily being driven by the CIO and not by the HR function within organisations. In order to keep up with advancements in technology, L&D must become a lot more technology savvy or risk becoming isolated in terms of its relevance and impact on business.

LB: We’re already started to see changes to how learning is being delivered and viewed by companies. Human capital management needs to ensure that it has the ability to be adaptive and responsive to the needs of each individual and then provide the relevant information, rather than simply just being a rules-based system for prescribed user journeys. Millennials will soon make-up the majority of the workforce and they expect to have pervasive content that is contextually aware as the bare minimum.  

KY: Additionally, the ever-expanding capabilities of using big data within HR systems will help organisations to ensure their talent processes complement the way employees actually work. The influence of big data will increase, and this will be used more and more to personalise the entire talent management experience. HR technology will begin to feel like an invisible tool that empowers people to accelerate their own learning, productivity and career growth. As a result, employees will not necessarily notice that HR technology is there, but they would definitely notice if it wasn’t – much like Wi-Fi, we use it constantly however the minute it disappears all hell breaks loose.


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Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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