2017 HR Trends: Agile & micro learning will be trending: Hemalakshmi Raju


Some learning trends that we can anticipate in the New Year.

India is amongst the top 10 online learning countries, and mobile learning accounts for 25 per cent of all learning worldwide! Also, classroom-based, instructor-led training has shrunk to a mere 32 per cent in 2015 from 77 per cent in 2009. These disruptions for sure will continue. Here are some learning trends that we can anticipate in the New Year.

Drivers of learning

External World

The larger macrocosm of the world at large and what is happening there — for example, a recent Gartner report says that by 2018 more than three million workers will be supervised by a roboboss; by 2020, 30 per cent web browsing will be done without a screen and by 2019, 20 per cent of brands will abandon their mobile apps. All of this will have an implication on how we approach learning in the corporate context, in 2017

How is learning happening in other organisations? If peers are more effective at addressing needs in a more timely and engaging manner, then talent erosion can be a probable consequence. It is essential for one to stay ahead of the curve.

In an ever changing VUCA world, knowledge and skills become extinct fast and frequent structure changes to address market needs become common place. In this scenario, learning will help the organisation stay agile. Just-in-time learning is a business expectation. For the learning function to stay relevant, it is essential that they appreciate this need and deliver accordingly.

In a hyper connected world with deep digital penetration, individuals keep learning on a continuous basis. Millennials say that their ability to learn on-the-job is their top driver when looking for a new position. It is essential that we tap this and make learning both relevant and engaging for the learners.

Key Learning Trends for 2017
Align learning with business needs: While it is important to focus on individual needs, it is crucial that a significant portion of the learning agenda focusses on business needs. Considering the dynamism of the business world, learning needs will be dynamic as well. “What is the top priority for my business today? What is giving my business leaders sleepless nights? What are the people capability issues aligned to that?” These are questions that the learning professional should keep asking on a regular basis and then design solutions accordingly.

Metrics that matter: Many organisations still focus on operational metrics like man-hours and employees covered. Expectations of business leaders clearly revolve around impact created and how learning can support a future need. We will see an increasing trend towards leveraging the power of analytics and data for assessing learning effectiveness. To stretch beyond reaction or learning feedback does not often need a sophisticated tool or huge investment. It is just about the discipline of planning, and focussing on it with passion.

Just in time, just enough and just right: This is an expectation both from business and learners. Micro learning is a powerful tool that can do this. The power of a two-day classroom training or a two-hour e-learning on customer handling can be fully leveraged if the learner can be given access to a two-minute mobile capsule, that highlights the key aspects, which the individual can go through just before a customer meeting. The mobile as a platform for learning will continue to be prominent. Also, learning will be more spaced out. Instead of making new joinees go through a four-day induction module at the start, learning will be spaced out in line with needs. For instance, a short module on performance management just when they are about to go through the appraisal process, can be very effective.

Power of Analytics: The power of analytics in making learning more effective is something that we will see going ahead. Google’s Project Oxygen, which helped them establish eight behaviours of great managers, is a good example of this. Using the power of data to see what kind of learning is needed, who needs it and when can be a big game changer with respect to learning effectiveness. Big data can throw trends on sales skills of employees, and compliance levels, which can feed into training.

Just for me: Gone are the days when we used to boast about an e-course catalogue with 3000 courses. ‘What is in it for me’ is a key question that needs to be answered. Curated, customised content for different parts of the organisation needs to be looked at. Along with that, the technique to aggregate content from different platforms so that learners have access to all that they need in one place and at one shot, should be facilitated. Most importantly, learner experience is key.

Hemalakshmi Raju

P2P (Peer to Peer Learning): With knowledge being easily and freely available, everyone is an amateur expert and peer knowledge needs to be tapped in a structured manner. Small group projects post-programme, and group assignments pre-programme, can help leverage this. Also, social learning platforms like Yammer or Jam have become common. The coming year will see a push towards increased and more active use of this. Enhanced features like ability to support embedded content and video sharing will support this.

Widening focus on technical skills and deep focus on soft skills: Skill building, both technical and functional, will assume a significant portion of the learning agenda across many sectors. And there will be deep focus on soft skills building. With increased automation and digitisation, key skills like critical thinking, decision making and collaboration are assuming added significance, and organisations need to focus on building these capabilities.

What does this mean for the learning professional?

The learning agility of learning professionals needs to be at its best; they need to be on the lookout for what is happening inside so that they can pick up the live needs and also what is happening outside so that they can offer the best solutions. Networking will be a key skill and they need to shape up as learning architects, who can build robust learning solutions that are effective, engaging and efficient.

(The author is head, learning & development at Cipla. Follow her on twitter @hemalakshmit.)



  1. An interesting and insightful article Hemalakshmi Raju. These trends, however, pose a challenge for HR practitioners who now need new skills set for them to remain relevant.

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