Navigating the Corporate Training Market During COVID-19
by Ken Taylor
We are experiencing unprecedented change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic impact from this global health crisis remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the buying behaviors of corporate L&D functions have shifted dramatically in the past few weeks. On TrainingIndustry.com, we’ve seen changes in the content and solutions attracting the most attention from our audience, which provides a glimpse into the challenges training professionals are currently experiencing — and how we can connect them with the resources they need to minimize business disruption during this turbulent time.
This article will share our observations on the information and solutions that training professionals are currently seeking and research-based recommendations on how training companies can meet their needs.
Searching for Solutions
TrainingIndustry.com has seen an 8.6% increase in web traffic over the past few weeks, with an 8,135% increase in topics related to remote learning, virtual instructor-led training (VILT), and leading through adversity and change. Additionally, articles focused on the advantages of eLearning have seen an 88% increase in traffic. Overall, our visitors are staying longer — with a 12% increase in time spent on page — and searching for solutions to their problems. We’ve seen an elevated interest in virtual training through an increase in registrations and attendance for our webinars, virtual conferences and podcasts. As training programs and events shift online, TrainingIndustry.com visitors are searching for strategies to quickly convert instructor-led training to a virtual format. This topic has quickly risen to the top of our most-read articles list and has been the focus of our well-attended roundtable discussion with Certified Professionals in Training Management (CPTMs) from around the world. Adapting training content to bite-sized chunks is no small undertaking, and learning leaders are searching for strategies and solutions to accelerate the speed of development. With this migration to the virtual classroom, visitors are searching for tactics to improve their virtual presentation skills. Engaging a virtual audience is quite different than presenting in-person — and facilitators need to quickly upskill before they go live.
Employee well-being has become a key focus area for many L&D professionals. Encouraging and supporting employees through this time is almost more important than productivity. We must be understanding with ourselves and each other, as many people are juggling child care and other caregiving and work responsibilities simultaneously. Learning leaders are searching for ways to motivate and engage their workforce to boost morale and reduce anxiety and stress.
Compliance has taken center stage during this pandemic. Organizations are being inundated with new policies and procedures on a daily basis. Learning leaders are challenged with how to quickly train employees on the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and comply with new recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
As training professionals, we are in the business of learning — and learning is a key enabler of organizational growth and change. This is an opportunity to showcase just how agile L&D can be to minimize business disruption and improve organizational performance. To overcome current challenges, many organizations are leaning on existing training partnerships or are in the market for new vendors.
The Value of Partnerships
L&D professionals are searching for training providers who can help them solve their immediate problems. We’ve seen a 126% increase in website traffic to our 2019 Top Training Outsourcing Companies list, a 93% increase to our Top Content Development Companies list and a 30% increase in traffic to our Top Online Learning Library Companies list. There’s also been more than 4,000 visits to our curated list of free training products and services that companies in our training community are currently offering. That’s a substantial number of people searching for training solutions in today’s market.
According to our research on great training organizations, high-performing organizations recognize that partnering with an external vendor provides a competitive advantage. In fact, high-performing training organizations are 30% more likely to use external vendors for training delivery and 88% more likely to use partners for portfolio management. With the considerable interest surrounding virtual learning right now, training professionals need partners who can develop just-in-time solutions to reach a dispersed audience.
Aligning Training Delivery with Learner Preferences
While instructor-led training is the preferred delivery method for many learners, virtual instructor-led training (VILT), eLearning and videos are ranked in the top five preferred modalities for all training topics, according to the “What Learners Want” research conducted by Training Industry.
Our research also shows that offering learners training in multiple formats improves the overall success of the training, including enabling greater work clarity and job satisfaction. When training programs use multiple modalities, they’re more likely to meet learners’ preferences, which is the largest driver of training effectiveness. Most companies already have multiple learning technologies in place, according to our research, with 89% currently using three or more types of solutions (see Figure 2).
Learning leaders are searching for strategies and solutions to accelerate the speed of development.
Areas of Training Investment
In 2019, many companies already had plans to increase investments in learning technology solutions (see Figure 3). Specifically, over 20% of companies planned to increase their investments in learning management systems (LMSs), eLearning (e.g., Skillsoft, Udemy, Coursera, and Pluralsight learning libraries), digital content solutions (e.g., e-readers, materials delivery systems), social/collaboration tools (e.g., social media, Web 2.0, wikis, blogs, communities of practice), and delivery platforms (e.g., WebEx, Citrix, etc.).
Companies that may have deferred their intended investment in learning technologies or are now needing to add additional technologies to meet their demand are entering the market ready to buy. Prior to the pandemic, upward of two-thirds of companies agreed that they were ready to introduce new training technologies when it comes to the hardware, software, internal expertise and resources needed to do so (see Figure 4). This research bodes well for the investments that companies made or are planning to make in learning technology solutions.
As we continue to navigate the current state of business, the full scope of organizational readiness will come to light. But, based on our research, we believe that many companies should be in a good position to integrate new technologies with relative ease. There are additional opportunities emerging in the training market, specifically around remote leadership. When it comes to impacting employee performance, on-the-job training and on-the-job coaching prove most effective, according to our learner preferences research. Finding ways to virtually coach and support remote employees is a critical need right now. Ongoing follow-up and feedback from managers are essential to the continuous growth and development of employees — and key to effectively leading through this pandemic.
Training professionals need guidance and support to overcome their current challenges, which requires insights and solutions from training suppliers. Training companies have long been the key innovators in the training space through the development of new products and tools. It’s this innovative spirit that’s necessary in times of disruption.
Here are few considerations for training suppliers to maintain an innovative presence in today’s market:
Don’t disappear Every business, regardless of industry, has had to quickly find its bearings. The amount of disruption that has taken place is unprecedented, and we may never see anything of this magnitude again in our lifetime. While your business may still be operating in a fog of uncertainty, you must maintain a voice and presence in the market. Continue to publish content, remain visible on social media and hold meetings with clients. These activities will help you gain momentum and move your business forward.
Messaging is critical When creating content, focus on the challenges of virtual work, change management or market disruption. Then, connect your solutions to those challenges and how they impact overall business performance. Don’t just address the COVID-19 pandemic in your headlines — offer people something useful.
Old problems still exist Let’s remember that companies faced challenges before the pandemic, and those issues still exist alongside the new challenges brought about by COVID-19. L&D strategy or execution (and likely both) have gained an added layer of complexity in the past month, but the crisis didn’t magically heal what was already a struggle.
Build future-forward solutions The pandemic has created immediate training needs, but they shouldn’t be considered one-and-done solutions. Offer solutions that not only help companies manage the current crisis but can also help them deliver learning to employees and customers as they assimilate into the “new normal.” It’s a time to forge new partnerships and build lasting solutions.
This is a scary and uncertain time in our industry — but with change comes innovation. Highly adaptive organizations will leverage their creativity and talent and evolve to meet the needs of a changing market.