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American businesses spent more than $70 billion on employee training resources in 2016, marking the fourth consecutive year of increased investment in this area, according to research from Training Magazine. Analysts for the publication predicted that this trend would continue into 2017, as companies communicated plans to budget more funds for learning management systems and other instructional resources.

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With 2018 on the horizon, it is time for organizations to once again assess forthcoming training needs and, hopefully, commit to investing more in skill-building initiatives that empower workers and bolster productivity. But what training tools and strategies should human resources and/or learning and development personnel pursue?

Mobile

Last year, mobile instructional options gained steam as learners called for assets that they could access at the point of need and on the go during breaks or commutes, according to insights from LinkedIn. This collective call for mobile solutions is likely to grow louder in the new year, the International Data Group reported.

Financial and Mental Wellness Training

With 78% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck and student loan debt at over $1.4 trillion, workers are struggling and it’s affecting their health. Workers are stressed out, burned out and it’s affecting not only their productivity but their satisfaction on the job. Northwestern Mutual reports that more than a quarter of millennials say financial stress affects their job performance and made them feel physically ill and depressed. Nearly half of employees have financial concerns, causing them to lose an average of six productive work days annually. Mental health, which has long been a stigma in the workplace, is now becoming something that is more common and accepted by leaders. Now HR is taking on the role of mental health counselors, providing relevant training and helping support employees dealing with depression, anxiety, bipolar and ADHD. While many of these disorders are hidden, 84% of employees have experienced physical, psychological or behavioral symptoms of poor mental health. Symptoms like depression can result in about five missed work days and 11.5 days of reduced productivity every three months, costing the U.S. 200 million lost workdays annually, resulting in $17 to $44 billion in lost productivity overall. After the story about Madalyn Parker, a web developer whose manager was accepting of her taking a mental health day, went viral, many companies are starting to have real serious conversations around the topic.

New Learning Credentials

Pew Research reports that self-directed learning is driving the need for new credentialing systems. More employees will be accepting different types of credentials as they seek to build diverse talent pools and expand their reach. Almost three out of every four adults agrees that individuals have the responsibility to make sure that the workforce has the right skills and education to be successful in today’s economy.

Upskilling and Retraining Current Workers

While the political discussion is focused on bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, and the news media continues to publish articles on how automation will eliminate jobs, we should really be focused on the growing skills gap. There are currently 6.2 million job openings in America that are unfilled, which is up from 5.6 million during the same time in 2016. Companies can’t find the right workers, that have the right skills, at the right time, which has slowed growth in the economy. The National Federation of Independent Business reports that 45% of small businesses were unable to find qualified candidates to fill job openings and 60% of all employers have job openings that stay vacant for twelve weeks or longer, which costs them $800,000 annually in lost productivity and advertising fees. In our current economy, change is happening faster than ever before and the half life of a learned skill is a mere five years. As more industries become disrupted, companies are evolving their business models to align with new customer demands. AT&T, for example, notified 100,000 of their employees that their job roles wouldn’t be relevant in ten year and then subsequently created the Workforce 2020 initiative, with over $1 billion invested, to help upskill their employee base.

In addition to looking into modern instructional tools and topics, HR teams should consider adopting new, more holistic strategies designed to promote a culture of learning within the organization, according to LinkedIn. This ideological switch can lead to long-term growth and performance improvements.

Sources:

https://trainingmag.com/sites/default/files/images/Training_Industry_Report_2016.pdf

https://learning.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/learning/en-us/pdfs/lil-workplace-learning-report.pdf

https://www.networkworld.com/article/3217750/internet-of-things/5-iot-trends-that-will-define-2018.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2017/11/01/10-workplace-trends-youll-see-in-2018/#70fa69124bf2