Rachel Kay, Business Development Director at Thales Training & Consultancy has compiled a list of what she considers the top 10 L&D predictions for 2012. Rachel believes that the overarching theme for the coming year will be – Doing things differently. The market has recognised that the standard ‘classroom learning’ format is a bit stale and now has a thirst for something different, they don’t necessarily know what that is, or what it looks like but there is definitely a desire for it. We will definitely see a growth in bespoke formats and methods of accessing L&D in the coming year.

1. More innovation – This buzzword will continue to dominate in 2012 in two ways. Firstly there will be increased demand for L&D providers to include more innovative ways of learning in their core programmes, either in the way they are delivered or the content included. Secondly the continued difficult economic conditions will mean that business expects more innovative behaviours from their employees to deliver greater commercial value, something which can be supported through L&D programmes.

2. Doing things quicker – With less budget and time available to businesses continuing to battle the economic climate a significant focus on ‘just in time’ modular and/or blended learning courses will be seen.

3. Taking responsibility – There will be a shift of responsibility on to the learner, a drive for more self directed learning through a range of media will be seen across the board.

4. Focus on holistic reporting and tracking – Learning Management Systems (LMS) are no longer just tracking and reporting systems, they are now capable of integrating collaborative tools providing access to knowledge and content. Other services have been devolved to line managers, such as self-service systems for payroll, appraisals and recruitment. With ever increasing output targets and a corresponding reduction in available time for face to face management meetings managers will have to be offered more training in order to make these tools and systems a success

5. Social media as an L&D tool – Social Media is a forum for information sharing and can be used to assist employee engagement and provide access to L&D information. Corporate IT policies have often blocked individual creativity in regard to blogging and social media, but as organisations begin to realise the benefits to be gained they are lifting these policies and making available best practice rules of engagement. Individuals are relishing the opportunity to enter Q&A forums, access information on benchmarking and generally be able to share information easily and quickly.

6. More targeted L&D spend – In 2011 we’ve witnessed a distinct rise in strategic spend rather than the traditional broad-brush development spend. This will continue in 2012 with organisations needing to expand the competencies of their senior leadership teams. The increasing number of cross-discipline roles creates a need for wider skillsets, increased knowledge and a diverse variety of behaviours. All of which must align with the organisation’s strategic objectives. To assist organisations with their change strategies competency frameworks are being refined to ensure that the skills required for the new cross discipline roles are correctly identified and appropriate L&D put in place.

7. Change in focus for entry level L&D – In light of changes in the funding of higher education many organisations are now re-considering the components and scope of their Graduate Programmes. They are also seeking to ensure that the transition between graduate programmes in to early career development initiatives and on to leadership schemes is smooth and structured.

8. Increase in consultancy approach – Businesses are cautious, recruitment is on hold and budgets need far more justification before being approved. This means that L&D suppliers will need to offer a wider scope of services at a deeper level, working in a consultative partnership rather than just selling pre-packaged solutions. With continued pressure on budgets, managers have to demonstrate ROI in order to justify the spend; increasingly they will look to the L&D provider to support this.

9. Greater focus on soft skills – Many organisations have the required levels of resource to deliver the work required but to develop the business and move forwards a focus on softer skills is required. Building on emotional intelligence and leadership are all key to meeting corporate objectives. Coaching and mentoring are being implemented by more and more organisations but 2012 will see it taken more seriously and with realisation of how effective it can be in helping individuals align with the organisational objectives.

10. Increased outsourcing – Organisations are increasingly comfortable with using ‘managed service outsourcing’ to provide L&D. Many contracts are up for renewal in 2012 and the hunt will be on to review costs and identify where savings can be made. Outsourcing patterns tend to follow the strategic needs of organisations. In the current economic climate outsourcing offers the chance to make savings and expand on the expertise available internally.