Business Intelligence, Learning Delivery, Measurement

Sunny Forecast for Learning in 2018

CLOs are feeling confident in the results of their investments but more work remains.

As chief learning officers look to the year ahead, by and large it’s the bright side that they see.

According to a survey of the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board, a majority (59 percent) of CLOs say their outlook for 2018 is more optimistic than 2017, with 29 percent saying their outlook is the same and 11 percent less optimistic (Figure 1).

The Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board is a group of 1,500 professionals in the learning and development industry who have agreed to be surveyed by the Human Capital Media Research and Advisory Group, the research and advisory arm of Chief Learning Officer magazine. This survey was conducted from June to July 2017.

A closer look at the responses reveals that CLOs are an optimistic bunch, expecting continued improvements and positive movement in a number of core talent areas (Figure 2).

For example, a vast majority (83 percent) expect the learning function and affiliated programs to be more aligned with company business objectives. When it comes to integration with other talent management functions, a solid majority (64 percent) think learning will be better integrated in the coming year. In terms of the quality of their work, 71 percent believe they will have better quality learning offerings.

The work that CLOs do to make the case for learning as a core asset to successful business operation looks set to continue.

Driven in part by that confidence, CLOs are also in an experimental mood as they look for new and innovative ways to deliver learning. Nearly 80 percent expect to adopt new training techniques and 63 percent expect their blend of modalities to change.

Of course, it’s not simply confidence that is pushing CLOs to change how they deliver learning. New and emerging technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and virtual and augmented reality are finding their way into the marketplace. And the continued shift of workplace demographics to younger, digitally native workers with high expectations for learning and career development has upped the ante for enterprise learning functions.

But as always, cost plays a significant role in any plan for the year ahead. If there’s a note of pessimism in CLOs’ outlook, it’s as they figure out what and how to fund their programs. A slight majority (56 percent) either don’t expect their budget to increase or think it will remain the same.

Digging in further, a majority of survey respondents don’t expect to increase their use of off-the-shelf content, invest in a new learning management system or expand their learning department’s capability through outsourcing. While they expect investment in learning to increase, CLOs remain realistic about the levels of investment they will be able to make in 2018.

A look at how learning departments plan to use external providers provides further perspective on the learning outlook for the coming year (Figure 3). The accelerating pace of change in business and the need for agile, well-rounded leaders is pushing a majority of CLOs (84 percent) to maintain their use of executive education and leadership development services.

Informal learning is another area of expected change. According to the survey, 45 percent of learning leaders plan to use more external support and 38 percent plan to keep usage about the same. The ongoing recognition of nontraditional learning modalities is pushing CLOs to continue to look outside for help in making the most of the valuable learning that happens outside of the course or classroom.

Unsurprisingly in the era of ubiquitous mobile technology, the area where CLOs plan to cut their use of external vendors the most is in the use of books and printed materials. A solid majority (71 percent) plan to use these services less or keep their usage steady.

Mike Prokopeak is vice president and editor in chief of Chief Learning Officer magazine. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.

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