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My Leadership Insights are rooted heavily in 15+ years of experience in the training and personal development industry. In my day-to-day life, I help both individuals and corporations empower their growth through knowledge and career education.

A Breaking, a Humbling and the Truth About the Training Industry During COVID-19

By Jeremy Tillman Oct 11, 2021
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Truth About the Training Industry During COVID-19

These last 18 months have been the loneliest and most humbling of my life and as you've probably read in my story, I’ve been through a lot.  I apologize for not sharing more, I’ve been on an island with my team and in my head trying to figure this thing out. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a seismic impact on the live in-person training industry. I’ve grieved over the business I built only to see COVID-19 cripple a large portion of TrainUp.com 

Not too long ago everything was trending up; the core marketplace business was solid and poised for growth.  Our live onsite training business went from an afterthought to thriving with 50%+ growth.  With our new KnowledgeFlo.com business line set to launch in late 2020 and having just won or finished 2nd in three straight HR tech startup events. We were poised for a big 2020 and finally crossing that $8M - $10M in sales mark.  

I had just finished speaking at a global people analytics conference in Australia on March 5th, 2020, wherein we were in final discussions to work with a multibillion dollar company headquartered in Australia along with 3 major deals in the US all close to closing.   

Then on March 11th, 2020, the COVID shutdowns began to happen and we not only saw every deal in the works back out but our web traffic died virtually overnight.   

"This too shall pass, right?" I had trips planned to India where our core development partner is located, and another conference in London in May. "Surely we’d be ok in May. It’s just a blip, right?" No sir/mam as you can see from the chart above, it was not, as we’ve remained virtually flat throughout the entire pandemic. Though many training providers have seen a healthy recovery with pivoting to virtual live,  From April to June 2020, HR wasn’t even thinking about buying traditional training. They were in crisis mode, furloughs, pushing things down the road. As deal after deal fell through, I kept thinking I really should let staff go and hunker down, right? But that’s just not in my entrepreneurial DNA so to speak.  

The live training vendors for as long as I can remember have been married to the hip to live in-person training as a primary means of delivery.  (Though some vendors like New Horizons, mainly tech had pivoted almost fully virtual), the traditionalists SkillPath, National Seminars, AMA, and so many more were locked into live and so were we.  Our entire SEO engine was built around it.  It was our silver bullet: 1000,000 free training seekers per month with zero marketing costs.   

Training providers were still mailing catalogs as a primary means of marketing. Once they reconciled they’d be mailing them to empty offices that too had to change. The in-person training industry struggled like never before. Every live training vendor was down, every in-person facilitator and instructor were looking for more work, training deals galore were abounding.  Suddenly we didn’t have the margins nor the inventory to compete in the marketplace resell business. Think Expedia with no flights or travel happening.  

So what did I choose to do? I chose the road of tech and innovation to try to fight our way out all the while oscillating between grief, depression, debt, and dollar menu deals. 

So where are we now? This story has to have a happy ending doesn’t it? Well while this isn’t Hollywood and we aren’t out of the woods just yet but I believe in the midst of tough times come new ideas, new ways of thinking and fortunately new ways of learning.  Thankfully we were already ahead of the game with our Brandon Hall Emerging HR Tech Awarding Winning TrainingFlo and KnowledgeFlo.com platform. We’ve long preached continuous learning, removing silos and learning together but now it’s time right before we are forced to shut the lights off to find out how ready the market really is for a genuine solution.  

Content, coaching, collaboration and true connection = the continuous learning community you’ve been seeking. 

In November,  our next generation collaborative and continuous corporate learning institutes will be launching. I’m also very thankful that most of my vendors and partners have stuck with us through thick and thin; that’s why I’m even more excited to make this happen, build back up and shape the future of learning.  

The knowledge and insights to help expedite growth and learning are out there and we are bringing them together in a way like never before. Companies, individuals and organizations need to train and up-skill faster than ever. We need training that works with metrics, outcomes and stories to prove it. Learners need flexibility and access to insights when they need it most. Imagine if we actually shared insights across sectors, dare I say even competitors because in the end we are all human and COVID has impacted us all.  We’ve always been at our best together and that’s what TrainUp.com is all about. 

We believe the TrainUp.com Institutes will allow learners to develop real skills faster in a more cost-effective and flexible way all the while helping each other and learning togetherWe couldn’t be more excited about where we go from here no matter how hard it’s been or how much lower we may dip; next gen learning impact is on its way. 

What I’ve learned is we shouldn't try to get through this alone. It's why we launched our early free learning center at the start of this crisis to give back. And though I've been too ashamed to even write this post, the truth about the training industry is it's been very very tough during COVID-19. Many providers are out of business and most training companies that don't or haven't innovated have little chance of thriving as before.  So I'll finish this post by saying though this has been the toughest, most difficult season of my life it's also paved the way for what could be the most rewarding and impactful phase of my life yet. Visit the TrainUp.com Institute pages for more info, sign up, share your insights and be part of shaping the future of learning, together. 

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My Leadership Insights are rooted heavily in 15+ years of experience in the training and personal development industry. In my day-to-day life, I help both individuals and corporations empower their growth through knowledge and career education.

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