Executive Spotlight: 2017’s Top 4 Corporate Training Trends

We don’t have a crystal ball, but we do have the next best thing: Apollo’s Chief Professional Development Officer Steve Rae. Equipped with over 20 years of experience in technology-based learning and human resource development, he regularly works with the world’s largest employers to address talent development and management needs through innovative learning solutions.  

These are the four top trends he believes will take center stage in the coming year:

1.) Online learning will become increasingly social

The fact of the matter is, we require learning models that reflect our everyday experience. More and more corporate training organizations have clued in to the benefits of social learning. A recent study by Bloomberg estimates 50% of companies already use social learning in some way and two-thirds are planning to implement it in the near future. And there’s good reason for that; social-learning promotes autonomy and self-direction, increasing overall learner engagement. Which is a good thing, considering we’re in the midst of an engagement crisis, with over 70% of employees actively disengaged at their jobs. But there is a problem.

Most online courses are isolated, lonely experiences. Learners do not feel the presence of other learners in the experience. In response, we predict 2017 will see continued development of social learning strategies, with more and more online professional development programs adopting a cohorted team-based experience.

Business people talking and writing notes on the post it cards

Online social learning provides visibility to other online teachers and learners for discussion, collaboration, friendly competition, and knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing in and of itself has become an integral part of life through social media. LinkedIn has emerged as a major facilitator of knowledge sharing between companies and employers alike. Along with continued socialization of corporate training programs, we predict increased adoption of the tools that support mentoring and coaching as companies take notice of the powerful knowledge and expertise they have within their enterprise, and look for ways to accelerate the informal learning that leverages that expertise organically.  

plant representing chart

2.) Gamification becomes a reliable assessment strategy

We’ve established socialized learning engages learners – but how do we measure that engagement? The short answer: gamification. The longer answer: the use of gamification in corporate training programs isn’t going away anytime soon. And for good reason. Gaming is an intrinsically self-motivated passage of time, with people worldwide clocking in 3 billion hours of gameplay a week. Over the years, fortune 500 companies have made strategic efforts to add the feature to their repertoires, wanting to leverage gaming elements like badges, levels, and experience points to increase learner engagement. Quoted in Forbes, Brian Burke, VP of Gartner, even suggests employee gamification applications now exceed customer-based ones.

However, its unflappable importance to engagement assessment will become increasingly important in 2017 as MOOCs rise in popularity and stakeholder demand for corporate training results increases as a result. All online learning courses should strive to efficiently impart knowledge and offer a form of evaluation to qualify their success. Students who are more engaged with the material are therefore more likely to achieve this goal. Gamification not only intrinsically motivates learners, thus engaging them, but it further succeeds in making that engagement assessable through use of digestible metrics like stack rankings on a leaderboard. These metrics qualify the success of learner engagement, and by proxy, the program itself. Which is critical in ensuring the algorithms and points schema support favorable enterprise outcomes.

3.) Content will conform and adapt to career pathways (which will become clearer)

After several years on the job, your chapter is closing and you’re looking to open another one. What comes next, and what’s the plan after that? How do you get to the next stepping stone and what skills will propel you there? An engaged worker is always looking to develop themselves, acquiring skills for the job they want rather than the one they have. The self-directed career is a reality, and companies that want to retain top talent are beginning to solve for this. AT&T recognizes the importance of clearly defined career pathways, empowering employees willing to develop themselves through career advancement programs. 2017 will see corporate training organizations follow suit, aided by big data.

For example, data mining companies like Burning-Glass provide an aerial view of the job market: which jobs are in demand and which necessary skillsets do they require. As the aggregate picture of career pathways becomes clearer, diligent corporate training companies who align content to in-demand pathways will benefit most. This will facilitate a critical component of long term engagement and performance:  building the career you value with an employer that values you.

4.) Continuous learning gets long-needed recognition

Daily Mail reports 50% of the jobs existing today will be obsolete in 10 years. Growing technology and automation demand continuous learning on part of the employee to remain competitive. The career oriented individual already knows this; the reality of increasing skills gaps will demand everyone else catch up. Inevitably higher learning will rethink what types of programs, outcomes, and pedagogies create value for employers. The standard four year model leaves something to be desired. Since 2001, the wages of university educated students as compared to those with a high school education have dropped significantly. Coupled with inflated tuition rates, a mere 16% of Americans believe a four-year education model prepares students for gainful employment.

Universities need to adapt in order to compete with nontraditional education programs. We predict an expanded curriculum in 2017 to include experiential learning methods, disaggregated content and programs, stackable credentialing, and the rise of combined learning and working programs, or “learnerships”. Everything from extracurricular research to on-the-job learning will form the aggregate higher-learning experience, and employers will have greater influence in getting what they want and need from Higher Education.


Ultimately, continuous learning requires that working and learning become more integrated and experiential; this will force companies to broaden their adoption of performance support solutions that provide knowledge and content at time of need rather than as a preventive measure.

The learning and development space is constantly evolving, propelled by technological advances and changes in higher learning. We at Apollo Professional Development are proud to usher in 2017 and facilitate another year of successful corporate learning and development strategy. Are we missing your top corporate learning trends? Comment below! We’d love to hear them.

About Apollo Professional Development

Apollo Professional Development offers a full range of employee education and talent management services to help companies build and sustain a future-ready workforce. With deep industry expertise and a focus on educational innovation, we use our global education network and the most advanced learning technologies to design and deliver cost-effective, scalable, and customizable learning solutions for corporations worldwide. Learn more.