We at WDHB have the chance of working with some of the world’s most progressive corporate Learning & Development teams, and partnering with many forward-looking institutions active in education and executive development. This has put us in a privileged position to watch and participate in the evolutions of the L&D field.
This report is based on in-depth research into the trends in this field as well as interviews of a wealth of practitioners and experts counting amongst the most knowledgeable and passionate L&D leaders in Europe.
Browse through our 10 Key Takeaways
1 Design for a shorter attention span
Offer bite-sized learning nuggets
Not all learnings can come in bite-size and there is no doubt that multimodal, presential and spread-out learning curriculums will remain as relevant (if not more) than in the past. But it is worth thinking about which types of contents can be delivered efficiently in shorter, more regular formats. Bite-size learning doesn’t need to be limited to technical training; if designed thoughtfully, it can only support awareness-building, skill development and behavioral change.
Meet learners where they are
Mobile content and on-the-job learning are here to stay, so it is worth investigating innovative ways to design appealing content, or point learners towards existing channels. Thinking of on-the-job learning as an opportunity instead of a distraction from work means respecting users’ learning curves and designing for efficiency.
Design learning journeys for continuity
Bite-size doesn’t mean disjointed bits of content. In the attention economy, L&D practitioners’ challenge is to imagine cohesive formats that include various touchpoints and keep the learner engaged as they navigate autonomously between platforms and experiences.
2 Don’t fight the consumer platforms, use them
Don’t reinvent the wheel – Curate!
Curation has been a buzzword for almost a decade now. However, when it comes to L&D, it is a guideline as relevant as ever in order to ensure efficiency, cut cost but also to conform with learners’ habits and bring in continuity between learning in the personal life and learning in work contexts.
Cheat with pride: copy the best user interfaces available
Or adopt them, even. In digital learning, working with IT and legal in order to provide access to consumer platforms can remove many hassles while fitting with user expectations of a user-friendly and familiar learning interface. In offline learning as well, user experience becomes a key dimension and it’s worth benchmarking the leaders in this field.
It’s a peer era: find trainers inside the organization
The last ten years have gotten us all used to learning from self-taught experts, enlightened hobbyists, and peers in general. While L&D is a professional’s job, there is a huge value in leveraging peer learning and engaging homegrown trainers.
3 Rethink the provider-user relationship
Forget about employee retention, expand the learners’ pool
It’s no use lamenting the higher turnover of millennial and Gen-Z employees. L&D should rather focus its efforts on providing valuable learning and development opportunities to candidates, alumni, partners and freelancers who gravitate within its ecosystem, as this contributes to employer branding, to community management and to the overall updating of skills and competencies relevant to the organization.
Engage and support users in Do It Yourself design and delivery
Adopting the “prosumer” logic in L&D ensures maximum relevancy, it contributes to the visibility of the L&D function within the organization and to the identification of talent. It also adds more layers of learning, by teaching L&D professionals to develop new approaches, and upskilling employees in content and experience design.
4 Keep the essentials…
Don’t downplay the motivational dimension of L&D: it’s all about rituals
The more formal dimension of L&D shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of modernity. On the contrary, we should think of ways to reinforce the motivational as well as the team-building aspects of L&D – this is all the more important as digital learning takes precedence over offline programs in certain areas.
Focus on experience: make every program feel unique
User expectations are higher as we jump into the experience economy. The time and resources freed in content development (by curating rather than producing everything in house) should go towards a focus on delivering memorable experiences.
Remember that learning happens in communities
L&D programs have traditionally been thought of in cohorts. But thinking in terms of learners’ communities enables us to explore informal learning processes and to be more aware of what happens between formal touchpoints in the learning journey.
5 … But think wider
“Blended” is not a combination of platforms, it’s an intentional design approach
Calling the combination of classroom and e-learning “blended” is wistfully restrictive.Blended learning should be thought of as a purposeful design approach to L&D that seeks to adapt as seamlessly as possible to the user’s learning curve and provide the right content, in the right format, at the right moment and through the right platform.
Expand access: develop high-touch L&D beyond executive audiences
We now have many tools and resources available to provide a wider audience with learning and development formats that used to be reserved to an executive elite. Let’s think of how immersive and experiential formats can be scaled efficiently, of how digital tools enable the dissemination of knowledge and the spreading of new practices.
6 Embody the organizational learning mindset
Enable awareness, support reflection
L&D has traditionally been associated with knowledge diffusion and with skills development. But in an era of widespread organizational transformation, awareness and reflection emerge as core drivers of change, and they should go hand in hand.
Go beyond content: focus on context and culture
Providing contents is easy, but the rising expectation is that L&D will act as a safeguard of context and culture, translating information into insights that are relevant in the organization’s context and actionable within its culture.
L&D is turning into a guardian of sense and purpose, educating individuals and teams on the importance of learning beyond functional objectives and ensuring that learning is used for personal growth and organizational development.
7 Advise on the future
Research and define tomorrow’s skillsets
The L&D function is in a good position to act as a think tank, developing research and foresight capacities to provide the organization with insights onto the skillsets that will be required in the future.
Help employees anticipate their future within & beyond the organization
L&D’s role as coaches and advisors to employees regarding their lifelong employability is increasingly emphasized as employees understand the need to reskill while being confronted to a fast-changing context.
8 Get ahead in technology
Don’t fight automation – focus on the craft
In L&D as in most functions, automation can be perceived as a threat. However it also means using the right tools and mindset so your routine can work by itself and frees up time. You can now focus on creative design and high-touch delivery.
AI is – slowly – coming
Well. It’s not there just yet. And there are many legal and regulatory aspects that might impede its development in the next few years, especially in Europe. However, many L&D professionals are already foreseeing the day when learning contents can be pushed to employees at just the right time as needs arise. We believe the slow emergence of AI is above all an opportunity to get ahead and start thinking how L&D can avoid the risk of resembling troubleshooting and maintain maximum relevancy.
9 Upskill your own team & lead by example
Ramp up digital competencies in your L&D Team
This doesn’t mean only to hire and train people to have digital development skills, but mostly to integrate L&D team-members with a strong awareness of how digitalization has impacted learners’ behaviors and expectations.
Integrate new profiles: Engagement specialists, Experience Designers & Data Analysts
New jobs are emerging in L&D, showcasing areas of increased importance within the function: user experience, community engagement and data analysis all ultimately lead to bringing more accountability to the function.
10 Drive the change
Develop an integrated learning ecosystem
Key elements for L&D professionals to work on now include learning efficiency, content creation & curation, experience design, spreading of the learning mindset, and learners’ self-awareness and reflection. But these should be thought of as an integrated ecosystem in which each element feeds onto the next, requiring tight collaboration within the L&D team and with other organizational stakeholders.
Challenge the status quo, including L&D’s place in the organization
L&D’s place within the organization might be evolving, but this shouldn’t be seen as a threat to its importance. Bringing more ambition to the L&D department comes with increasing its visibility and gaining autonomy as a corporate function. At the same time, decentralizing certain roles might just end up deepening and amplifying impact.
Articles to our L&D Report on our Medium Blog:
The Future of L&D According to Leading Practitioners
For our new report “The Future of L&D” about the state and evolutions of corporate learning in 2019, we interviewed leaders of some of the world’s most progressive L&D teams. Here’s a sneak peek with some of our favorite quotes on some of the topics we touch in our Report.
How to Future Proof your L&D Team
Learning & Development profiles today are at a crossroads between people-centric and data-centric profiles. A research project with leading L&D leaders revealed what the ideal mix is for their teams to succeed in the future.
Companies need to include Freelancers and Contractors in their People Development Strategies
With a new generation of workers less willing to commit and a wider variety of employment options gaining popularity, Learning and Development can’t solely focus on full-time employees.
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