Originally Posted by Forbes – via forbes.com – December 23, 2020
The digitization of learning and development (L&D) went into overdrive when the pandemic hit and 2020 has seen corporate L&D catapulted to the top of the business agenda. It’s been a revolutionary year, to say the least, and for many learning leaders, more of a white-knuckled ride.
In light of the accelerated transformation of learning, and with the industry forever changed, what can we expect to see from L&D in 2021? Here are five trends to look out for:
1. Rapid Reskilling
The cataclysmic shift to remote work called for the immediate upskilling and reskilling of entire workforces, often disparately located and speaking multiple languages. That’s a far cry from just 12 months ago when learning leaders were planning for skills gaps two years in advance. The pandemic has removed the luxury of time, and with new knowledge being created faster than ever, it’s also deterred leaders from spending months creating learning experiences that have a short sell-by date. That’s no bad thing given that far-in-advance L&D planning has always seemed nonsensical.
The order of the day is agility, and it is this — not forward planning alone — that will dominate L&D conversations in 2021. Agile learning methodologies that focus on speed, flexibility and collaboration are the future of L&D. This is the approach that will enable leaders to better manage the revolving door of perpetual skills gaps by ensuring people are rapidly reskilled for the benefit of work and business performance.
2. Performance Over Skills
L&D has finally taken its rightful seat at the head of the table, but not without creating increased pressure on Chief Learning Officers and others who hold responsibility for learning to demonstrate its tangible impact on the bottom line. It’s a growing trend that will see learning design become increasingly scrutinized for its ability to drive business performance, with a welcome secondary consequence being the end of reskilling for the sake of reskilling.
In line with this, we can also expect to see a continued rise in the number of transformer CLOs as the traditional remit of skills development is replaced with a longer lens focusing on overall business performance. Although this is still an emerging trend, it will soon become a deafening drumbeat as L&D programs are widely redesigned to drive performance ahead of skills.
3. Corporate Learning Will Be An Everyday Thing
There will also be a marked uptick in learning “on the job” or “in the flow of work” next year as more and more business leaders realize the significance of integrating learning into people’s everyday work as a means of developing applicable skills.
This will signal the final nail in the coffin for scheduled Thursday afternoon “sit-down-and-do” learning — and it’s the beginning of L&D becoming an everyday activity where people are actively engaged in searching for the trusted answers and knowledge they need to satisfy their curiosity and perform better at work.
4. Integrating Virtual With Digital
When the first wave of Covid hit, some L&D teams went into reactive mode as they scrambled to make the transition from classroom learning to a digital-first model. The transformation to digital has been rapid in all areas, but the progression in L&D over the past 10 months is arguably greater than that seen over the last 10 years.
So with the L&D department now having more time to take stock, the key question is this: What should holistic learning look like next year?
The good thing, if you’ll excuse the pun, is that leaders have been quick to learn what does and doesn’t work in this pandemic. There was, for example, the quick realization that constant Zooming can be draining and disengaging for learners and so it’s been known for some time that simply switching to a virtual classroom is not the solution.
Instead, the answer lies in marrying the best of a reimagined virtual L&D with the best of digital learning — and striking the right balance in these terms will feature high on the business priority list next year. There is more to this than just achieving the optimum blend, however, because any integration of virtual with digital must also be underpinned by learning in context and inflow and, crucially, it must support remote learners’ heightened demand for value and social interaction.
5. Learning Designed By Data
Perhaps the biggest — and most far-reaching — L&D trend for 2021 will be the mainstream adoption of data in corporate learning design. Yes, progressive companies have been doing this for some time, but next year this will become the standard approach.
The overarching benefits? Business leaders will be empowered to ask the right questions at the right time in order to understand what matters most and design learning solutions with both learner and organizational outcomes in mind.
At the same time, and armed with data-driven insight for the first time, more and more organizations will swap stand-alone learning for a culture of continuous learning for the benefit of work — as characterized by active engagement and tapping into tacit organizational knowledge. The result? A self-perpetuating cycle of learning success that can be iterated when needed and which will positively transform the world of corporate learning.