What does the future hold for training and development? What are the trends, and how should you prepare? Those are great questions, and if you’re asking them, that means you are being proactive about preparing your organization for the future.
When I look at trends in the industry, I tend to see them through the lens of an entire learning ecosystem, something I’ve described before in some length. A learning ecosystem isn’t just one thing; it’s a whole system composed of people, content, technology, learning culture, and strategy. When most people talk about trends in the training industry, they tend to talk about technology, strategy, and to some extent, learning culture.
I’m convinced that the future of training and development has more to do with content—specifically, making the pivot to content that develops the right mindsets and behaviors within your organization.
The Transformational CLO
A recent article in Harvard Business Review describes a new kind of role for CLOs, which the authors dub the transformational CLO:
No longer are CLOs responsible just for training—making skills-based and compliance-oriented courses available to employees and perhaps running leadership-development programs. Instead, they’re embracing a more powerful role in which they reshape capabilities and organizational culture. We call this new type of leader the transformer CLO.
The idea is that truly transformational CLOs do not simply react to current needs for skills or compliance, but rather are proactive in bringing value to the organization. They are the ones who are peeking around the corner, looking at trends, and figuring out ways to make their organizations that much more ready to take on what’s coming in the next quarter, year, decade, and beyond.
(So congratulations! If you are looking into the future of training and development, you are already acting as a transformational CLO, even if you don’t have the title yet!)
Here’s the important part where the authors describe what transformational CLOs are doing now to future-proof their organization:
In their change programs, transformer CLOs focus less on teaching currently needed skills and more on developing mindsets and behaviors that can enable employees to perform well in tasks that may not yet be defined.
Content for the New Era of Transformation
So what exactly do you teach employees so that they can develop the mindsets and behaviors to perform well in tasks that have not even been defined yet?
Here are some content areas, pulled from our own library of off-the-shelf content, that our clients have found valuable precisely for instilling the right kinds of mindset at their organizations:
As markets become more global and more competitive, creativity will be needed to foster innovation and fuel new strategic directions. According to a Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper commissioned by Adobe, 82% of decision-makers believe that “Companies that are more creative gain greater business benefits like revenue growth and market share.”
But can you teach creativity? We do, in our series on creativity, which covers topics such as defining problems, generating and evaluating solutions quickly, and staying creative. We also have courses on more specific topics, like rethinking brainstorming.
One of the biggest challenges organizations face when it comes to training is that most problems employees will be asked to tackle haven’t even been conceived of yet. Likewise, their solutions might involve technologies and processes that are not in place today. (Adapting to the large-scale shift to work-from-home during the COVID-19 pandemic is a good example, as are disruptive technologies.)
So how do you prepare your workforce for future challenges? Instead of handing them ready-made solutions, you can help them learn how to identify, analyze, and think through problems more generally. Our courses on problem-solving focus on precisely those skills, putting an emphasis on the process itself.
Business leaders are embracing digital transformation because they know it not only improves productivity, but helps them stay relevant. Actually pulling off the digital transformation comes with a number of challenges, however: Workplace cultural conflict, team-building, sustaining a positive customer experience, learning to analyze data, and more.
In other words, “digital literacy” in the next decade will require more of employees than just knowing how to check email and use a spreadsheet program. They will need to know how to evaluate, select, and embrace technology, as well as how to use it to collaborate in richer ways. We have several series on digital transformation for employees, leaders, and those who are specifically in tech leadership, and all aimed at helping with future transformations.
The idea of change management itself is not new. As a field of study it has been around since at least the ’90s, and the term itself goes back a few decades before that. What is new is how change management is approached. Change management is now much more closely integrated with project management, and training in change management is seen as an important tool for employees across the organization, not just the topmost levels of leadership.
Dealing with change is a perfect example of instilling a mindset rather than teaching a specific skill. For example, in our own series on change management, we discuss topics such as coping with change, leading teams through times of change, and the different “phases” of organizational change to watch for.
When we’ve written about the benefits of a true learning culture, we’ve talked about how it can foster a “growth mindset.” This term comes from Dr. Carol Dweck, a research psychologist at Stanford University. She found that people who enjoy challenges, strive to learn, and uncover ways to develop new skills also tend to work harder, perform better, and adapt to change better than those with a more “fixed” mindset. If you can help instill this kind of mindset in your employees, they will be better equipped, intellectually and emotionally, to discover what new challenges and opportunities they need to tackle.
Our short series on the growth mindset reviews the limitations of a fixed mindset and the steps your employees can take to develop their own mindset.
Incorporating New Mindset Training into Your Development Program
Chances are good that you already have some corporate training in place. Adding new content to your existing program does not have to be difficult, especially if you introduce it slowly, in small, digestible chunks.
A good way to begin doing so is to perform a gap analysis to see what kinds of mindset training would be most useful. Then begin to provide small bits of formal training, perhaps in a blended learning format, to begin to fill those gaps. (For more on creating an entire training program, see our “Guide to Creating an Employee Training and Development Program.”)
Having an active learning culture will be important, too. The right learning culture can be highly motivating for employees and encourage learning, not to mention bringing overall benefits to your organization. You can and should be intentional about cultivating that learning culture.
In the end, a good learning culture will always be needed if you want to introduce anything new and innovative into your training programs. In that way, having the right mindset and being up on trends in learning and development end up mutually reinforcing each other. It’s a virtuous circle, and one that successful companies look to maintaining.
- One of the biggest obstacles to introducing new training content, or any training content for that matter, is getting employees to make the time to take it. Start with our “Guide to Creating an Employee Training and Development Program.”
- For more on taking the reins and being proactive about your learning culture, see our article “Leading the Way to a Learning Culture.”
- For more immediate crises, see our article “Empower Your Employees with Crisis Management Training.”
- Learn more about how you can affect employee retention in our blog "Training's Role in Employee Retention Management."