How to future-proof your training business:
six key takeaways from the aNewSpring event in London

by Ger Driesen
14 June 2018


ow can a modern training business stay relevant in an industry that’s rapidly changing? And what skills, resources and technology do you really need? That was the focus of the event that took place in London on a sunny 7th June 2018. The participants joined a variety of sessions related to the central theme. Here are my six key takeaways:

1. How can technology help people learn

The participants were welcomed by Jan Jilis (JJ) van Delsen. He is based in London and represents aNewSpring in the UK. Marten de Prez, CEO of aNewSpring, told the story of how it all began. In his personal story, he explained how he struggled with dyslexia, especially when attending university. Because of this, and because of his curiosity and eagerness to learn, he went looking for the answer to the question, “How can technology help people learn?” That was, and still is, the main purpose of aNewSpring.

Key takeaway:
Your role as a training provider is to help people learn. Don’t choose technology just to tick a box, but think about how it can really help the learner move forward.

2. The entire world is personalised

Ger Driesen (that’s me) gave insight into the general trend of more personalised and adaptive services that are available in the world that we live in. He also explained how personalised services such as Google, Netflix and Spotify create user expectations about other (digital) services being more personalised and adaptive. This trend will also affect expectations related to training and learning.

Key advice:
The advice to training providers is to have a strategy in place to create and offer personalised and adaptive learning. The technology to do so is out there and easily available so the motto should be: ‘just do it!’

3. Innovation in training

Tom Bos was interviewed by Brant Seethaler

Tom Bos was interviewed by Brant Seethaler. Tom is Manager Technology and Innovation at NCOI, the Dutch market leader in professional training. The company consists of 20 brands and turns over 250M euro. Tom shared the marketing strategy of NCOI and the use of data. Data is really important to find out what resonates with clients and what does not. It is important to find and test new marketing approaches and initiatives. Both success and failure belong to experimenting. That’s why having good data is so important: data tells you what works and what does not and, thus, what to continue and what to stop at an early stage.

Key takeaway: One key point for me was that you have to try a lot of new things to constantly innovate. However, it is just as important to ‘fail fast’. If it doesn’t work, don’t keep pouring resources into it.

4. The importance of digital body language

Jo Cook of Lightbulb Moments introduced another interesting perspective: digital body language. Knowing that training and learning move towards online learning and virtual classrooms, trainers and facilitators need new skills. Digital body language is the aggregate of all the digital activity you see from an individual and a very important perspective for online learning.

Key takeaway: Being able to ‘read’ and use digital body language will be an important skill for many training providers as part of future-proofing their business.

5.  End-to-end delivery of apprenticeships and other skills programmes

Mark Dawe is the Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers. He had a really clear story to share about the apprenticeship levy. Based on numbers, he clarified why the levy doesn’t deliver what it is supposed to: the amount of apprenticeships declined.  He explained some of the misinterpretations of the levy that make the application of the levy seem much more complicated than needed and describes how this affects business and training providers. At the end, it seems all about clear thinking and creating programs and solutions that make sense. If training providers can help organisations with that, they can really benefit from the levy, and because of their flexibility, this benefit is much more than for institutions for higher education.

Key takeaway:
Apprenticeships create great opportunities for young people to get into work with the right skills because the education system fails them. Surprisingly, apprenticeships may also work for existing staff to up-skill or re-skill.

6. Results and outcomes of ‘speed dating’ with participants

After exploring different perspectives related to the future, it was time to tap into ‘the wisdom of the crowd’. I moderated a process to gather the ideas of all participants on how to future-proof their training business. Via a kind of ‘speed dating’ approach, all ideas were reviewed and scored based on their merits. This led to the following overview (including points scored):

21 points

  • Never forget about your audience (and adapt your learning to it).
  • Be open to innovation and base your change/innovation on research (f.i. neuroscience).
  • Adaptive and personalised online learning is important for the future of L&D.
  • Always keep an eye on industry trends where technology is advancing, for example, areas such as retail, gaming and virtual reality (VR). Learn about the successes and failures across them.

20 points

  • Look at emerging technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and the way of personalising or customizing


  • Understand the future needs of individuals/employees, make sure that the offer meets those needs and have access to resources to deliver world-leading training and development.
  • Keep the learner at the heart of the business and the programme design. Think like your audience when getting creative!

Key takeaway:
Never forget about your audience, use technology to personalise learning, and build something people want.

The conversations continued at the same highly engaged level during the drinks reception. A good way to celebrate the first successful aNewSpring UK event.

See you at the next aNewSpring event! In the meantime, sign up for my learning notes.


Ger Driesen

Ger Driesen, Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring
Think of connecting people, ideas and inspiration in the global L&D community and you’ve just created the perfect description of Ger Driesen. In his role as Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring he focuses on motivating and guiding professionals to build inspiring learning journeys. During his career he has had a variety of L&D roles, from consultant, trainer and facilitator, to L&D manager and entrepreneur. He’s also known as ‘the Dutch L&D trendcatcher’. Keep up with Ger on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Ger Driesen
Learning Innovation Leader