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HR to face sea change in online learning software and accent on teams

Deloitte predicts far-reaching trends for HR, including innovations in learning, an expansion of artificial intelligence, and an explosion of real-time feedback and analytics.

A new "YouTube style of learning"  for employees will pick up speed at companies this year and shake up the traditional model of corporate training, according to a report by a top consultant.

The advance in online learning software is among 11 key predictions for 2017 in the report by Bersin by Deloitte, the Oakland, Calif., research group of the human capital management (HCM) business at Deloitte Consulting LLP. Online learning software is already the focus of some fierce competition among vendors.

"In 2017, we will see a real revolution start to happen," in learning and development, the 38-page report said.

Workday Learning, Oracle Learning Cloud, SAP Jam, SumTotal's new platform, Saba, Cornerstone OnDemand and fast-growing companies like Grovo and now LinkedIn Learning are coming to market.

"These platforms are video-optimized from the start -- they bring together the consumer-like experience of YouTube with corporate features for learning management," the report said.

Report identifies key trends

The report, "Predictions for 2017: Everything is Becoming Digital," forecasted and described other key trends, including culture and engagement as top priorities, the challenges of organizational design, real-time feedback and analytics to explode in maturity, the emergence of a new generation of performance management tools and the rapid commoditization of artificial intelligence or machine learning.

In an interview, Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte and lead author of the report, said the learning and development industry is under a huge amount of stress.

Almost two-thirds of the companies surveyed by Deloitte Consulting are still stuck in an older model of corporate learning and have yet to deploy the latest in video online learning software.

"Until recently, corporate LMS [learning management systems] have been designed for the old model of e-learning -- they typically have difficult-to-use interfaces, and they view video as an afterthought," the report said. "Most big companies are burdened with very complex learning management systems that house all of the company's compliance training, critical tracking of completions and arcane business rules built up over decades."

Wal-Mart buys Workday Learning

While the report predicted learning and development will continue to struggle this year, progress is also underway. Leading vendors are offering online learning software that supports and manages video and allows employees to create and share videos for training or educating colleagues.

Workday released new online learning software and announced this month that the product was purchased by Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the U.S., along with Workday HCM, Recruiting and Planning.

The Oracle Learning Cloud, designed to be the YouTube of learning software, was introduced in early 2015, and Hyatt Hotels Corp. is using Saba Cloud to train employees with short videos.

Bersin singled out AT&T, which uses Udacity online learning software to teach technical skills and takes a newer approach to employee training. Bersin said AT&T uses an "always on" learning model that encourages and forces everyone to develop themselves on a continuous basis.

People analytics vital for business

Bersin said people analytics will become an important operational business function. People analytics will become central to almost everything in management, leadership and HR, with every program, incentive, structural change or organizational challenge informed by data.

"Business leaders are saying, 'OK, I want all my people data to make sense to me in terms of the business problem I have. I am going into a new country or a new city. How much is it going to cost to hire people? How many candidates am I going to have to interview? What kind of turnover am I going to have? What kind of sales productivity am I going to have? Why do I have low sales productivity in this group versus this group?'"

One of the most important trends will be in the design of organizations, Bersin said.

The report said teams need to be smaller, flatter and more empowered, and leaders need to be more hands-on.

Teams can improve

To improve teams, goals need to be updated quarterly, not annually, and goals need to be transparent and shared publicly. Software should deliver real-time dashboards and reports, so all teams can operate with the same insights and perspectives, the report said.

Companies don't run like hierarchies anymore. HR departments and managers have to redesign their entire work practices around networks and teams.
Josh Bersinprincipal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte

"Companies don't run like hierarchies anymore," Bersin said. "HR departments and managers have to redesign their entire work practices around networks and teams."

Employee engagement, or a worker's emotional connection to a company that can fuel extra effort , will remain a challenge. Employee engagement levels are basically the same as 10 years ago, the report said.

A big trend will involve how companies deal with engagement, with more adopting always-on listening tools -- like feedback apps -- to monitor engagement, such as pulse surveys, exit and stay interviews, and anonymous networking applications.

The "world of feedback apps," according to the report, includes CultureIQ; Kanjoya and TINYpulse for pulse surveys; IBM Kenexa and Qualtrics for traditional engagement surveys; Workday for quick feedback; Workboard for work environments; BetterWorks and Zugata for performance management; Limeade for well-being; and Officevibe for anonymous network applications.

According to Bersin, feedback applications can work if leaders pay close attention and take action on suggestions by employees.

AI goes mainstream

Bersin said almost every job in 2017 will be affected by artificial intelligence, which includes technologies such as speech recognition, natural language processing, sensors and robotics. AI is going to be part of most software, he said.

New mobile phones can listen to voice and identify stress, for example, while smart software can diagnose disease and recommend drugs, and robots at manufacturing plants can see better than eyes.

"AI learns through the data it collects," he said. "The software is designed to learn, analyze the data, whether it be text or voice, and then use the data it received from you to decide what to do next. It is a fundamentally different way of designing software. "

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