Business training: why is it important in 2020?

Amidst unprecedented change, the mid-point of 2020 seems timely to reflect on the top five business training trends so far. We now focus on what the important trends have actually been seen to date this year. Hopefully, this will be more useful now than the usual beginning of year predictions.

All the advantages of business training

Below we set out the main 2020 themes that we are experiencing. These partly come from our client base and our recent interactions with key figures within the global learning industry environment. At the end of last year we did identify some of these themes as ones that we thought would emerge. However, some topics have suddenly overtaken. These trends have become of immediate and urgent focus in a way that we completely didn’t expect. Naturally, we have to mention the pandemic  and its impact on the need to deliver training via remote learning technology. Hopefully, these topics will have resonance with many in the L&D community.



Mobile delivery

In a CIPD & Accenture 2020 report, 70% of survey respondents claimed that they have increased their use of mobile delivery in the last 2-3 years, and this was set to rise. In addition, a prediction from the CIPD written before the pandemic suggested that mobile delivery should be a core focus for IT teams in establishing that existing technology can support mobile learning needs in future. Evidently, since the pandemic, then this has become even more important. Of such prominence is this topic currently that research studies are being undertaken about mobile delivery of learning technology across nations for educational needs. Additionally, the World Bank has undertaken a larger three month study on how learning is being delivered, in an effort to evaluate how learning is being successfully delivered via mobile (and other) methods.



Recently, upskilling has been cited as a key focus across almost all workplace reports from the major management consultancies, which have been undertaken with the ‘C Suite’ and L&D professionals in organizations. For instance, Deloitte discusses its forecast of a significant elimination of certain job types, as well as the priority that is being placed on redesigning roles on a large scale across many types of enterprises. Deloitte emphasises that there is a preference to ‘upskill’ or ‘reskill’ existing teams, rather than to hire skills externally. Naturally, this will result in L&D teams being obliged to provide the much-needed learning required.

Upskilling research


Accordingly, those surveyed in this particular study confirmed that they were shoring up L&D teams in preparation. A PwC report also emphasised the need for public sector bodies to prioritise upskilling of their workforces as they become responsible (in a way not experienced before) for supporting and providing responses to the pandemic in so many different ways, whether in health bodies or in public organizations providing Governmental financial assistance to a huge number of enterprises and individuals. PwC urges Government organizations to focus on a list of skills, for example, “frontline workers need better communication and problem resolution skills, back office staff require data analysis and collaboration capabilities, and senior management need stronger creative thinking and change management skills”. Additionally, a CIPD & Accenture report found that ‘upskilling’ was firms top L&D priority for the next 12 months.

The World Economic Forum (WEF), in a “Future of Jobs report” suggests that ‘Upskilling’ is a vital focus for businesses, stating that, in the context of technology developments  “skills gaps—both among workers and among an organization’s senior leadership—may significantly hamper new technology adoption and therefore business growth”. Further, the WEF suggests that organizations need to “futureproof” their employees’ skills by persistently providing ongoing learning and retraining programmes. Organizations that do this might ensure that their businesses can compete successfully in a sustainable manner.   


More remote working and collaborative technologies.

It’s clearly an understatement to say simply that there’s been an increase in remote-working. The pandemic forced millions worldwide to work (and study) from home. We have written about how this has led to increased scrutiny and interest in understanding how existing remote-learning technology might be adapted to suit new needs of remote workers. Recently, we wrote about the huge interest in enhancing learning delivery worldwide with learning technology platforms by NGOs and public sector bodies, as well as by media organizations and enterprises of all sizes, across the globe.

However, there continues to be considerable, serious, discussion on how remote-working will be the ‘new normal’ for many. Increasing numbers of organizations join those others who have stated that they will increase their remote working in future. For example, in the US, a survey of 400 IT decision-makers suggested that 84%) of US organizations expect a broader and more permanent remote work adoption after the coronavirus pandemic passes”.

Further, CIPD makes the recommendation that it is essential for organizations to compete and be up to speed with the pace of change that they should “Embrace technologies that support learning and collaboration”.



Pre-boarding seemed to be a growing trend at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020. What is it? In short, pre-boarding introduces candidates to the company’s culture and colleagues before they become a ‘full’ employee. Anecdotal evidence suggests that pre-boarding builds engagement early on. It could also potentially encourage your prospective employee to act as an advocate for your organization through their informal networks. How can you facilitate pre-boarding? One way is to provide learning technology access to personalized (non-confidential) learning content prior to a candidate beginning work. This has the advantage of supporting the speed in which an employee might be ready to ‘hit the ground running’ at your organization.

With the stakes so high in the success or failure of an organization’s investment in a new colleague – some studies suggest that up to 17% of new hires leave in their first three months – then it seems vital to ensure an individual understand the culture and expectations of an employer as soon as is possible. Inevitably, the earlier the process of onboarding – ie pre-boarding – the better.  The same study by The Aberdeen Group  suggests that 62 percent (of those who received structured ‘onboarding’ processes) had higher time-to-productivity ratios. However, might the pandemic affect the widespread adoption of this trend? Should hiring levels shrink in the short-term or longer (as a result of the pandemic), remains to be seen.



Soft skills

Organizations are giving soft skills increased prominence, for a number of reasons. We have already discussed the trend to ‘upskill’ owing to the impact of disruptive tech on job roles. For example, ‘Tech’ such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is displacing tasks previously performed by humans. This refocusing means that vitally-needed skills that can only be performed by human employees are being given greater prominence.

Increasingly, customer experience and perception of an organization can have a serious impact on organizational success. More so recently, as face-to-face contact may have been impacted.  Therefore, it is no wonder that L&D departments are ensuring that training for soft skills features high up in their learning armoury. What are ‘soft skills’ exactly? Meister, 2020, defines them as “the five C’s: Communication, Collaboration, Cultural IQ, Creativity and Critical Thinking”. She also includes “Initiative, Optimism, Emotional IQ and Adaptability”. Clearly, these types of skills are not abilities that can all be ‘learnt’ in one course.


Impact of soft skills

Additionally, these types of abilities will take a variety of learning methods to have a successful retention and recall rate. Organizations can support employees by incorporating learning methods into daily ways of working. For instance, collaborative techniques and technology that allows users to facilitate learning-based knowledge-sharing. In remote-working situations, collaborative technology can replace traditional ‘communities of practice’ methods. This can also support other ‘soft skills’. For example, employing ‘initiative’ and communications where employees have had to adapt quickly to new ways of working. However, Taylor, 2019, in Training Industry cautions that organizations need to make soft skills training a continuous experience and that “To truly develop these skills, employees require multiple training experiences over an extended period of time…” adding that “… L&D professionals must create comprehensive learning experiences to develop this critical skill set.”.





So, having listed our Top Five business training trends for 2020, it is important to reiterate that nobody could have predicted the extent to which some of these trends have been employed so far this year – namely, remote working, collaborative technology and mobile delivery. As we have discussed, the pandemic has been the catalyst for these. However, we have strong indications from across the globe of other results. Organizations have discovered benefits, possibilities and (in many cases) improved productivity levels that seem hard to ignore in relation to future organizational planning.


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