8 Trends You Need to Know Now

Article excerpt

The famed baseball player Yogi Berra once said, "The future ain't what it used to be." How right he was.

Change in the business world continues to occur at an unprecedented rate, which, in turn, is driving change in the workplace. The rate and depth of change are causing workplace learning and performance professionals to rethink what they're doing now and what they should be doing in the future.

An ASTD commissioned study, "Mapping the Future: Shaping New Workplace Learning and Performance Competencies," has identified eight existing and emerging trends driving change in the workplace, plus significant implications these trends have for workplace learning and performance practitioners.

The trends section of the study includes interviews with, and input from, focus groups and more than 100 thought leaders and practitioners in the learning and performance field, a review of more than 30 research studies and articles related to trends affecting the profession, and survey responses from more than 2000 workplace learning and performance professionals, mostly ASTD members.

1. Drastic Times, Drastic Measures

Uncertain economic conditions are causing organizations to rethink how to grow and be profitable. Although no one has a crystal ball to predict future economic conditions precisely, a preponderance of data suggests that the U.S. economy will experience slow to moderate growth over the next few years. Uncertainty exists due to the war on terrorism, additional costs associated with higher levels of security, and the impact terrorism is having on economic stability and financial markets. Several sources indicate a likely prolonged labor shortage, translating to a return to a seller's market for talent. Those conditions will cause corporations to continue to look to improve efficiency, productivity, and service quality with decreased budgets and continued cost controls.

In addition, there will be a greater focus on innovation as organizations look for ways to redefine their business models. To grow, organizations must discover and put into action new sources of value. That means a radical rethinking in addition to doing more with less. Phil Harkins, CEO of Linkage, describes this shift: "Over the past decade, the world (and especially the U.S. economy) has been focused on efficiency and effectiveness. It will take more focus on people and creativity to get organizations to the next level. Our profession is at risk if we don't learn how to help organizations create and innovate. Learning and performance professionals who do that will be the heroes. Right now, they are the pioneers."

2. Blurred Lines - Life or Work?

Transforming organizational structures are changing the nature of work for employees and learning professionals. Organizations continue to evolve in hopes of finding the most efficient structure to succeed in the current volatile economic environment. Changes include streamlining structure and becoming more flexible, networked, flat, diverse, and virtual - a blurring of lines between work and home, and where and when work occurs. More employees are telecommuting full- or part-time. Many people are overworked and are expected to be available nearly 24/7. The number of dual-earner families has increased. People are trading time for money, and that is affecting stress levels and the quality of family life. People want to be living while they're working, not just working for a living.

Outsourcing is more commonplace for functions not considered core to the business. In some cases, that means human resource operations. BP is just one of hundreds of global corporations singing the praises of business-process outsourcing (BPO), in which entire business tasks - such as human resources, accounting, and claims processing - are outsourced. Some companies want to offload learning. According to Michael Brennan, corporate learning program manager for industry analyst IDC, corporate executives rate training as the function they'd most likely outsource - ahead of sales and marketing, HR, finance, and accounting. …