Robots are slated to replace 40 percent of jobs by 2030, yet the cost of training workers continues to rise (now $1,252 per employee on average). And while buzzwords and trends such as “digital transformation” and “artificial intelligence” are reshaping how we think about training, managing, and retaining employees, there’s still a lot of confusion about the right approaches within business.  

Despite these contradictions, what’s clear is that eLearning professionals are recognizing that while their organizations are going digital, traditional training methods still permeate. With employees changing positions more frequently (the average tenure for a Millennial in one job is less than 3.5 years), as companies rely on cloud-based software that also undergoes frequent system updates, we need to move to more agile and contextual training methods to support the digital employee experience.

Work with brands such as T-Mobile, Intuit, Mastercard, and hundreds of others has helped us glean the big trends and opportunities for 2018. Here are the three big trends we can expect for this year and next—and what they mean for HR teams.

Digital transformation success will hinge on the user experience.

So your company is on a digital transformation journey. Core business systems—whether it’s in HR, finance, sales, marketing, or otherwise—are all becoming highly digitized. It’s a process that can be costly and time consuming, but which will ultimately deliver tangible benefits in speed and productivity.

However, all of these efforts are in vain if your employees don’t adequately engage and adopt these technologies. What’s the point of investing thousands of dollars in state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) software, for example, only to find that sales teams are still relying on Excel spreadsheets? And when system updates can happen at any time, today’s employees are constantly overwhelmed with all the changes and applications at their fingertips.

What’s clear is that providing a great digital employee experience leads to a better customer experience, particularly for roles such as contact centers, or other customer-facing jobs. For example, by delivering a frictionless experience when using the product, employees can more easily use the tool to help customers. When it comes to digital transformation, eLearning teams play a crucial role. By considering the user experience at the onset, you can implement the right training methods.

Training programs will gain deep analytics capabilities.

In the past, eLearning programs were measured by aspects such as employee attendance, meeting deadlines, or the “pass” rates of employees when conducting training online. The challenge with these approaches though is the same—how do you ensure that your workers have retained all the information, and will draw upon this newly-acquired knowledge at work?

Fortunately, today’s systems come equipped with analytics that can be compared over time. This wealth of data can help training professionals see at a glance who still needs to complete a task, send customized reminders to encourage completion, and even who is getting stuck when using a system to determine the right course of action. 

For example, consider the annual performance review, which typically requires multiple follow ups—for employees to complete the self-appraisal, to ensure manager meetings have been arranged, and to finalize the entire appraisal and sign off on goals. Using deep analytics, HR systems can not only notify laggard teammates on your behalf, but they can even guide users on how to complete the appraisal if that is what the system determined as the reason for the delay. In this instance, training professionals can also play a role in assessing the data and providing more individualized training and support.

Technology will adapt to user’s needs, rather than users needing to learn the software.

When it comes to eLearning, analytics has the potential to learn more about our specific roles, behaviors, and actions to personalize how we use business software. Contextually guiding employees on how to use any system will replace the need to rely on constantly updating FAQ documents when it comes to new systems, since FAQs are always changing and quickly become obsolete with each minor upgrade.

But if there’s one technology that will continue to dominate this year on into 2019, it’s AI. Whether it’s personal virtual assistants in healthcare or fraud detection systems in banking, there are a multitude of applications that AI is upending.

The savvy eLearning professional can use AI in addition to the analytics to proactively identify who is likely to stop engaging with software, and even provide a notification in the app to prevent any obstacles to greater engagement and adoption from occurring. This year, we can expect more traction in AI, with organizations looking at how to use to gain clear returns on their technology investments, allowing them to focus on more strategic business priorities.

It’s evident that trends in the next eighteen months will create an exciting time for the eLearning industry. From digital transformation journeys, more metrics-oriented businesses, and greater adoption of artificial intelligence and analytics, we can expect the role of training professionals in fostering the digital employee experience to take center stage.