Technology will play a big role in personalized, continuous professional development in 2020, and workers with strong behavioral skills will be highly sought after, according to predictions from experts in the learning and development field.
No. 1: We'll see an increase in personalized learning.
Personalized learning will boom in 2020, thanks to the ability of artificial intelligence and machine learning to assess a learner's needs and offer customized learning content, predicted Celeste Martinell, vice president of customer success at BenchPrep. A Chicago-based company, BenchPrep works with large training and credentialing organizations to improve the employee learning experience.
"This could mean delivering remediation courses or content if a learner struggles in a course or with a specific topic. We will also see increased gamification of content. Professional training designers will take a page out of consumer Web and mobile playbooks to get this done. 2020 will also bring more user experience [UX] applied approaches that many haven't seen before. Professional training companies need to invest in content and the overall UX if they want to be successful in the years to come."
Kara Hamilton, chief people and culture officer at Smartsheet, predicts more organizations will offer their employees multiple career paths and invest in people-manager training—both of which the Bellevue, Wash.-based organization does now. "Unhappy managers do not have highly functioning teams. We really need to offer multiple paths so [employees] can do what's best for them," including not moving into a people manager role simply because that has been the traditional upward career path.
"We're being very intentional about having multiple tracks to career growth and development—paths to go deep into subject matter expertise, as well as career paths," she said. This is a way to attract and retain employees in the current job market, which favors the job candidate.
"It's OK not to be a people manager; it's one way to growth, not the only way."
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No. 2: The tech industry will take the lead in training.
"The technology sector is doing a great job in training recent college graduates and placing them into professional roles, and we'll see this become more popular in 2020," Martinell said.
"There are a number of companies that are employing recent graduates, paying them salaries and providing benefits to train them in the latest technologies, development or data science skill sets, and then staffing them at their client sites. They also provide ongoing professional coaching for them so that their clients are confident they are receiving a high-quality employee, albeit a contract employee. It's an innovative model that removes a lot of the friction in the education and training space."
No. 3: Tech upskilling will reduce displacement.
Hamilton thinks teaching employees "no-code" technological platforms will reduce the likelihood of knowledge workers being replaced by automation, because the platforms will give these employees time to work on more meaningful and efficient problem-solving.
"There is a sense that employees will get displaced [by technology], which we don't believe to be true. Humans create technology, and we can all benefit from that, and it adds to the sense of meaningful work," she said.
"Any knowledge worker has the capability at their fingertips to create their own automation and workflow without IT or in partnership with IT," she said. "For the actual workflow you're creating … you're in an interface where you can apply your knowledge very directly."
That jibes with ADP's view of the future.
"We are seeing a business-critical convergence of technology and data in the workplace," said Don Weinstein, ADP's corporate vice president of global product and technologyin a news release.
Cloud-native platforms will require less technical fluency from users, allowing them to tailor worker experiences and create their own workflows.
"In 2020, companies will look to leverage customizable tech solutions that meet the needs of their organization, their teams and their workers to provide a more engaging and productive work environment," he said.
And Atlanta-based Randstad U.S. identified upskilling as an urgent employee demand and a trend it expects will shape the world of work in 2020. Companies must particularly address the expectations that Millennials and members of Generation Z have about learning and growth on the job, it said, and develop meaningful training programs not only for skills critical to business now, but also for those that will matter in the future.
No. 4: Continuous professional learning will outpace one-off training.
"In today's fast-paced society, it's important for professionals to keep their skills up-to-date," said Joe Miller, vice president of learning design and strategy at BenchPrep. Miller foresees organizations implementing learning components into a curriculum to make the training stick with employees.
"For example, after passing a certification exam, an employee would still engage in occasional learning activities over an indefinite period of time within that certified subject matter to maintain mastery. The previous one-off training programs," such as a one-day workshop or a few hours of a training session, "lose their effectiveness if that content is not reinforced and constant in nature."
"While traditional upskilling programs include things like lectures, webinars, lunch-and-learns or online courses, the most effective training will utilize technology. Online gamification platforms, for example, offer employees a personalized, tailored learning experience which better engages employees."
No. 5: Power skills will reign supreme.
An increased emphasis on behavioral skills—also known as power skills or soft skills—will become a top priority for companies to address in 2020, said Will Foussier, CEO and co-founder of AceUp, a Boston-based talent management platform offering personalized executive coaching. He pointed to an IBM report that showed behavioral skills dominate the list of core competencies that global executives seek in employees, supplanting technical skills for the first time.
"Employees at all levels across the organization will need to reskill and upskill their power skills to successfully manage and operate in teams that are confronting the rapidly changing workplace landscape."