The learning and development (L&D) stove is always warm, especially right now. Trends in learning and development change with the year and with the seasons. And it’s no different for us at Hennessey Digital.
Currently, we’re seeing team member requests for a few subject matter areas in L&D that are fairly common in the workplace. Before I even address the topics we see, I want to stress that you always need to keep a pulse on your company’s requests when it comes to continued education or the development of new skills.
How to approach learning and development
Last month, our resident HR expert and Senior Director of People Success Jill Wenk addressed five questions she gets the most. As she shared, we’re serious about incorporating team member feedback into our decisions, and this includes learning and development content.
At Hennessey Digital, we use a couple of different methods to ensure we have our employees’ best interests in mind when creating or endorsing learning content. Primarily, we utilize an internal form that is accessible and available to all team members at any time. People can suggest learning content based on an existing module or something brand-new to us.
As our L&D champion, I personally attend cross-functional and cross-departmental meetings to get a clear understanding of our company’s goals, challenges, and go-to-market strategy. This way, I can design learning and development content that aligns with where our business is and where we’re going. Fortunately, these pieces of content often jive with what our team members want.
And speaking of giving people what they want, look no further than social media! We use LinkedIn to see what our team members are engaging in outside of our digital walls. We also keep note of what competitors and others in the industry are finding valuable and share these assets with the proper teams and roles. I also take advantage of Lessonly’s internal community known as LlamaNation to get insights on how others in our industry and beyond are incorporating L&D into their programs.
You need an open-door policy to make sure you are present in various parts of the company, especially if you’re a remote company. At a minimum, your L&D specialist should be meeting regularly with senior management to discuss ideas and any gaps in training and skills at the company. This will help your L&D specialist understand the goals, expectations, and needs at your organization.
Based on what I see at Hennessey Digital, and in monitoring the L&D industry, these are the top three trends in learning and development right now.
Google updates and enhancements
Because of the nature of our business in SEO, the first unique request that we get most frequently is on the search engine giant, and Google has always presented an interesting challenge when it comes to learning and development.
Most of the time in the L&D space, you can create content that doesn’t need to be updated as often. It might require a tweak here and there, maybe every other year or so. But with Google, the L&D strategy has to be on its toes.
Updates to policies or core updates at Google create obstacles with keeping training materials updated and reflective of those updates from Google. What was true one day in search engine optimization may not be true the next day. Additionally, this type of content can be harder to implement if you are sticking to a singular medium to administer the training.
When it comes to training around Google updates, we find that a blended learning approach is best. It’s one thing to read through all of Google’s updates, and it’s another thing to understand what they mean and how/if you should change your strategies based upon those updates. We find that blended learning is the best approach because it creates a digital resource that we can always point back to, but also an element of in-person training to see the hands-on application of that training. This is helpful in any industry that has client-facing roles.
Role playing is generally one of the best strategies as you can bring up recurring conversations that an employee might encounter and provide them with the company’s preferred response. This is also a great way to highlight the best practices and give practice to those that aren’t as comfortable with the training topic.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning is an approach that combines online or virtual educational materials with activities that take place in a traditional classroom-based environment. For most L&D content, it’s smart to have a blended learning approach as it presents the content to the many different styles of learning at your organization.
A perfect example of blended learning at Hennessey Digital would be learning through our online LMS (learning management system) and pairing it with in-person demonstration and/or role playing through virtual means like Zoom.
When our company leaders and local team members met for an in-person retreat in Austin this spring, we used a blended learning approach where we all took personality assessments online prior to the event. Next, we gathered for a live training session to better our understanding of our team members and how to leverage the assessment results to enhance how we work together.
Another thing to consider is where you get your educational content if you don’t have existing content or a subject matter expert to help. Perhaps you just don’t have someone on staff who has the time to help train another individual.
In this case, seek out online learning institutions like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning. Many of these education portals have free learning options or the ability to audit courses for free. Your company may even have tuition reimbursement programs or accepted educational expenses via expense reporting. Check with your leaders and People Success/Human Resources to check on these benefits, because you may even be able to have courses fully covered. Get those certifications!
Outside of our unique learning and development situation with Google, there are other requests for training and L&D content that I see internally at Hennessey Digital. Some of these learning areas are also discussed among local and national L&D/People Success/HR groups.
Upskilling and career development
One of the biggest trends in learning and development content is upskilling and career development. This could be someone looking to upgrade their current skill set within their role or department or look to gain new skills in relative roles or departments. We even make training a piece of our career pathway program!
Upskilling training varies widely depending on industry, but for the sake of an example, we see our SEO team members looking to broaden their cross-departmental understanding. Topics such as publishing content, general SEO skills, technical SEO, or specific tool training are just a few of the many examples that pop up here.
Additionally, we see individuals looking for an upward trajectory in their careers so they seek out people manager training and ways to involve themselves in additional company projects. Our mentoring program is a perfect complement to the individuals looking for the latter! Running a mentoring program effectively means you need to devote the time and effort to make it run properly, and this is where our blended learning approach comes in heavily.
At Hennessey Digital, we pair a monthly virtual learning topic with monthly 1-on-1 meetings between mentors and mentees as well as a monthly group meeting with all mentors and mentees. This allows all groups to share their findings and experience based on the month’s topic, and this sharing helps mentees prepare for their growth behind a curated set of topics. They also create a strong relationship with a senior leader at the company.
Health and wellness learning
Outside of job-related requests, health and wellness is a big area that employees are asking for in learning and development. We tend to see a good amount of requests come in for topics related to personal development in areas like physical health, mental health, and financial wellness.
I recall one specific request where someone wanted more information on our benefits offerings at Hennessey Digital. The team member’s idea was to create tips on ways to utilize the benefits we offer, such as knowing when benefit coverage periods start and end, what rules our 401(k) plan has around rollover funds, and more.
In response to this request, we are now implementing recurring education sessions every six months with our 401(k) vendor. They present to our teams and provide virtual learning on how to save towards retirement, offering personalized 1-on-1 sessions for individual financial decisions. This shows our employees that we want them to grow outside of our walls as well.
These types of training requests are common and can sometimes be the most valuable for your employees. Why is this? One could argue that specific technical skills training would be more valuable in leveling up an employee’s skill set. However, investing more in your employee’s well being shows you truly care about them and, in turn, they are more invested in the business.
Our People Success department also dedicates time to an internal health and wellness program. From walking competitions to sharing tips for a healthy and happy life, I can say with confidence that we truly care about our team members’ well being. Life at Hennessey Digital is certainly about more than just our day-to-day work!
Following trends in learning and development
One big takeaway here is that learning and development categories are constantly evolving and revolving. By this, I mean the means and ways you administer training is always changing, and sometimes you’ll notice old ways working best for new situations. Essentially, you need to be ready to find new ways to make your content engaging and modern, whether that looks like adding existing content to a learning management system (we love Lessonly!) or finding a new way to increase employee engagement in said content.
Trends in learning and development are always changing, but the good news is some of the old, tried-and-true ways to engage employees still work. Role playing and gamification are great ways to make that learning and development shine.
What do you think were the trends in learning and development requests throughout 2020? Ask any friend in the learning and development or human resources space, and after a good sampling, you’ll find out that a lot of employees were trying to get a better financial education then. At that time, companies offered learning sessions about all of the new COVID-related bills that were tied to unemployment, 401(k)s, and much more.
L&D always needs to be prepared to pivot quickly to provide the resources to make sure employees feel invested in and ready to conquer their personal and professional lives. Offering plenty of opportunities for learning and growth helps your people feel valued. When you invest in your people, they invest in the company. This is what learning and development is all about!