Drawing from the quality and quantity of training produced by leading organizations using our training management platform, we at Administrate take time each Q4 to learn what we can about the year drawing to a close and what emerging trends the data may indicate. The year of 2020 is certainly one we’re eager to unpack.
Because of the high security performance of our platform, we’re able to conduct this inquiry in an anonymized manner and view it as a true window into the training industry. This year, data from more than 170 organizations – serving 660,000+ learners – who use the Administrate platform every day to manage their training has been compiled to provide trends, stats, and insights at the forefront of change within the training industry.
Since 2015, more than a half-billion dollars of training investment has flowed through the Administrate platform. For our customers who sell training, early on, 2020 looked like it was going to be a banner year.
Across the board, in almost every industry apart from manufacturing and financial services, activity accelerated until lockdown began to hit at the end of 2Q2020.
When COVID-19 made impact at the end of Q2, training revenue fell sharply among independent training companies, with the exception of manufacturing which seemed to be unaffected. As countries began reopening, hospitality along with logistics and transportation saw a surge of activity, ostensibly to retrain new workers that had been laid off.
There is a broad spectrum of challenges faced by training organizations as a result of the pandemic. While some industries – like travel and transportation – struggle to adapt for survival, others – like logistics and healthcare – are facing the perils of rapid growth. Does your organization need to quickly upskill team members as downsizing takes place, or are you being asked to onboard staff faster than ever in order to tackle increased demand? Mapping the pandemic impact to training, both past and future (if a second wave occurs), is crucial to maximizing your training resources.
Most organizations weren’t able to plan for the impact of the first wave, but there is an opportunity for a more skilled response as the global health crisis continues.
Encouragingly, by the end of Q3 almost every sector started to rebound as various countries reopened and training operations increasingly changed modalities.
Uncertainty is still a large part of the pandemic economy moving into 2021, so many training programs are increasingly leaning into training delivery mechanisms that provide them the agility they need to respond to an ever-evolving COVID-19 situation.
Customers who sell training on a subscription basis (whether standalone or linked to a subscription-based product) weathered the COVID-19 shutdown storm better than those without a subscription offering. This supports, and could accelerate, a macro trend we believe is a fundamental shift within the training industry.
Durability and longevity of subscription revenue are two critical factors that make this business model desirable for training, even during a global pandemic. This is why Administrate has been advocating this business model as the future of the training business for the last several years.
Given this success, many training providers are building their offerings and capabilities in direct response to tighter corporate and consumer spending. For enterprise training needs, subscription services may become an available and valuable way to augment training needs rapidly as organizations respond to market behavior.
Change management played a huge role in 2020, and the ways that training teams adjusted to uncertainty this year will be pivotal in determining how training programs continue to provide growth opportunities for learners moving into 2021. Training modality is at the forefront of that adaptability, but there are also interesting developments taking place within the landscape of knowledge transfer and EdTech tools, where innovation and configurable solutions are proving to be paramount to sustained agility.
The volume of course offerings remained mostly unaffected because training remained a core strategy as businesses coped with the crisis.
Training operations did have to evolve, however, and quickly. Most training providers faced the challenge of moving their offerings to a mix of virtual instructor-led training (vILT) and eLearning. Agility in technology became a crucial factor in meeting this need. Many customers who never previously contemplated vILT as a delivery mechanism shifted almost overnight during February and March to run most of their offerings via this modality.
This data closely matches the experience of our team who saw an explosion of customer requests for assistance in configuring this critical modality. While the value of in-person or instructor-led training remains critical for many industries, particularly as generations of workers leave the workforce with their knowledge and experience, it is important for training teams to deliver a hand-off of workforce expertise with more remote agility. vILT is a crucial bridge for organizations that depend on personal knowledge transfer.
With the exception of Hospital and Healthcare training, learner volumes were down considerably, which matches the macroeconomic trends of tightened consumer and corporate spending. Furthermore, many learning and development programs operate within diverse and disconnected EdTech stacks made up of multiple systems. Making the shift to online delivery formats was not always a readily available option for these programs that lacked a single-source EdTech infrastructure approach.
Internal training departments were the most caught out by the sudden shift to remote working environments. Many use office meeting rooms for training, and critical classroom operations were not able to go ahead without a switch in delivery, which in some cases was difficult to do outside of the office. We have found that larger enterprises required more support to switch their internal offerings quickly, but if they had invested in an agile and comprehensive training platform, the transition was both possible and rapid.
While training volumes sharply decreased during the spring/summer lockdown, learning and development teams were certainly not idle. Across the board we saw organizations investing in new course development at an unprecedented rate – in most cases, at least twice the normal volume – so they could leverage Administrate to deliver training in all modalities.
In most cases it seems clear that the new courses being created were heavily biased toward eLearning, vILT, or blended distribution models, which, while unsurprising, does seem to signal an underlying trend that may continue from previous years.
With change happening on almost every front, customers communicated via email and SMS three to four times as frequently as previous years.
For Administrate users, most of these communications were automated. and came in direct response to changes in learner working environments, course locales, and modality. The ability to automate learner communication and resource provisioning while these critical changes were happening helped training programs stabilize their training and provide success for their organizations.
With significant percentages of most customer’s offerings being impacted, the fact that these announcements could be automated was a lifesaver for dispersed teams and work-from-home adjustments.
Training teams are preparing for another year of uncertainty in 2021. There are some strategies, like Business Intelligence, integrating critical tech tools, and ongoing learner engagement, teams are leveraging in 2020 in order to be best prepared for the unique challenges on the horizon as teams plan their budgets for next year. Our data has provided some takeaways we believe will be on the frontline of innovation next year. These takeaways are driving Administrate forward, and they will be foundational to the growth of your training team as you search for new and innovative responses to the pandemic economy.
The year 2020 has demonstrated the importance of technology in training, and that training technology must be agile in order to respond to rapidly changing business needs. Training organizations that relied upon a daisy-chained set of systems and spreadsheets found it more challenging to adjust versus those whose tech stack was agile and able to be re-engineered on demand.
Agility of modality, content creation, and rapid iteration sets teams apart in the best of times but is essential in times of massive change.
Just as every organization needs a strong platform foundation to undergird operational agility, each team also needs a strong culture of, and access to, business intelligence. For years, training reporting has revolved around activity, not outcomes, which is a direct result of training technology that lacks robust reporting and integration capabilities. But, in times of sweeping business change, creating a sightline to the true business impact of training is vital for strategy, and budget forecasting.
This has always been a need, but as the macroeconomic situation continues to evolve globally, understanding what is working well, what needs to work better, and where to find the best chance for ROI is even more vital. Quick iteration of questions and answers for training teams should be a fundamental part of operations and planning.
We continue to believe that engagement of learners is essential for long-term impact (both when selling training or delivering training to an internal audience).
As mentioned above, subscription business models naturally drive higher engagement and are more resilient during periods of downward financial pressure
Experience defines culture. Creating a coherent avenue of access to training, resources, staff progress, training requests, and other critical elements will not only reduce your operational burden, it will become a first port of call for learners when they have a need. Increasing the touchpoint you have with learners will spark a virtuous cycle of increased adoption and ultimately increased impact.
Deeper integration within the business systems that exist in any organization will help the training team demonstrate impact of key business goals, and make sure that areas of manual work aren’t distracting from this goal. This step will move training from spend-focused activity-based reporting to investment-oriented business outcomes reporting.