By: Surya P Mohapatra – founder L & D Global

Every year, I pen down my thoughts on the Global Workforce Learning Trends. I have been consistently doing this for last 5 years or so. This has been an interesting journey for me as I have very closely watched the L&D space evolve over the years. The changes in the last one decade have been truly transformational, disruptive and nothing less than revolutionary.

Before we talk about the learning and development trends for 2019 and beyond, lets first understand what is happening to work, workplace and our workforce in our business environment. Here are a few trends that we see today:-

  • The make-up of the workforce is changing. Gen Z workers are expected to comprise 36 percent of the workforce by 2020. Four Generations have already started working together.
  • The workforce today include full time employees, part time employees, contract employees. freelancers and people working for multiple employers (at the same time).
  • With life expectancy on the rise globally, senior employees will work longer putting off retirement.
  • By 2020, more than a 3rd of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be skills that are not yet considered crucial to today
  • We shall see high unemployment on one hand and acute talent crunch with unfilled jobs on the other hand.
  • Many professionals will face mid-career crisis. Large number of people in their mid-40s will become unemployed.
  • With demand for niche skills increasing, employee retention would become a major challenge.
  • Rising productivity with stagnant wages will be the new phenomenon. We would see economic recovery with declining upward mobility.
  • Men and Machines have already started working together at the same workplace.
  • Today Workforce is truly global, virtual and mobile spread across countries and cultures.
  • A large number of workers don’t come to the workplace. Many employees work from their homes (sometimes even in remote/far away locations.)
  • The concept of 9 am to 5 pm office hours are slowly going away.
  • Organization Structures are Changing. Hierarchical Structures of the past are breaking down   Self Empowered Teams are Emerging.
  • Increasingly employers are using data analytics to select, hire, develop, engage and track their employees

The aforesaid workforce trends are actually going to shape the future of L&D. L&D needs to respond to each one of these trends to stay relevant and survive. In my 2018 predictions, I had talked about the beginning of the end of the learning function. What I had actually meant by that was if L&D teams do not respond to the vicissitudes of work, workplace and workforce, there may be a big question mark on their very existence. This bitter truth is going sting us even more acutely in 2019. While the average organizations are stuck in the predicament, the Best-in-Class organizations are already gearing up for this reality check.

So what trends are we going to see in Best-in-Class organizations in the learning and development space in 2019?

1. Shift from Content centric learning to Learner centric learning

In 2019, we would see increasing customization of content to suit individual learning needs. Learning will become highly personalized. In the past, learning used to be curriculum driven. While laggards will still persist with the same old approach, best-in-class organizations will have their learning interventions tailor-made to suit individual needs basis the employees’ experience, background, career aspirations etc. Personalization of learning will be possible largely through deployment of disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data. AI tools like ChatBot, Virtual Mentor etc. would revolutionize the way employees learn in organizations. Organizations will use artificial intelligence and Big Data in their L&D solutions to better understand their employees’ learning behaviours. This will help them to personalize their learning services even more accurately.

2. Change in the Learning mix

The composition of learning mediums used by Organizations has started seeing a significant change. Formal instructor-led classroom training hours have been steadily decreasing. At the same time, online virtual learning hours are rapidly increasing. According to an ATD Study, in 2008 average percentage of formal classroom training hours was 64%. In 2015 it came down to 49%. The trend is continuing in 2019 and this percentage will be significantly come down while percentage of e-learning hours will see a steep rise. We shall also see a change in the composition of 70-20-10. The quantum of formal learning (10%) will see a decline and that of experiential learning (70%) will increase. This will badly impact training vendors and training providers. They would see a decline in their revenues in the next 2-3 years.

3. Making Learning Accessible on Demand

Earlier we talked about workforce demographics and how they are undergoing a paradigm shift. With roles becoming more global, mobile, virtual and dynamic, L&D practitioners would need to provide employees on-demand 24/7 access to ‘learning’ anytime, anywhere, on any device at the fastest possible speed. A recent Gartner study found, “The effortless learning experience has the greatest impact on learning application and digital learners value it the most.” Building micro-learning or byte-sized modules and deploying them on a dynamic LMS will augment ease of access and ease of application significantly.

4. Use Learning as a Retention Strategy

Organizations are locked in a bitter talent war. However, best-in-class organizations will have an upper-hand in this battle. It is because L&D teams there would continuously strive to build capabilities of their employees. Employees love to work for organizations which enable their personal and professional development as well as foster their career growth. This becomes a strong employee retention strategy for such organizations. Employees there get to find opportunities not only to build capabilities needed for today but they also see opportunities to build their capabilities for the future. This drives employee loyalty and stickiness in a big way.

5. Using Immersive Technologies

Use of Immersive technologies in learning will become increasingly popular. Technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will take learner experience to a different level. While in organizations, the Gen Y and Gen Z employees will quickly embrace these technologies, Gen- X employees will also take a lot of interest in them. AR and VR technologies will replace traditional classroom and online courses with lessons taught, practiced and experienced in a simulated environment.

6. Delivering Business Results

Business leaders will expect to see L&D driving business impact. L&D leaders will lose their seats at the table, if they don’t deliver clearly measurable business outcomes. According to Charles Jennings, the former CLO of Thomson Reuters, the shift would be from learning as an input towards performance improvement (organization, team and individual) as an output.

L&D leaders in best-in-class organizations would continuously measure the impact of their interventions on revenues, profitability, cost, productivity, efficiency, utilization, CSAT, ESAT, Talent pipeline, Talent Mobility etc.

7. Agile Learning Organization

If L&D teams are going to drive learning agility in organizations, they themselves have to become learning agile first. Best-in-Class organizations will build agile L&D teams. L&D teams in average organizations will remain stuck in traditional, run of the mill approaches. However, their counterparts in best-in-class organizations will experiment with new ideas, explore new tools and technologies and try different methods and approaches. Such leaders will learn from their mistakes quickly and will not be afraid of making mistakes. Such teams would always invest in their own upskilling and reskilling. Noted Executive Coach, Randeep Singh Sisodia says, “L&D professionals need to hone up their research skills as understanding capability gaps will need to span out to wider spectrum of Customers, vendors and even investors.”