What will be hot for L&D in 2020?

Don Taylor is conducting his 7th annual global sentiment survey regarding what is hot in workplace L&D. Join in!

Don Taylor is conducting his global sentiment survey of learning and development professionals. His 7th annual survey contains one required question – “What will be hot in workplace L&D learning in 2020?”.

He reports that now having 6 years of survey results is providing clear trends and response patterns. In an email soliciting respondants for this year’s survey he points out:

  1. Not every trend or technology that is hot makes it to mainstream adoption
  2. There are two clear groups of respondents – early adopters and folks who are more cautious before they will jump on the bandwagon,
  3. It can take time for a fad to reach widespread adoption,
  4. What leads a hot trend or technology to more to widespread adoption is “intricate, messy, and absolutely fascinating.” (Don is working on a model that he hopefully will share soon.)

Take a couple minutes to answer Don’s survey at http://bit.ly/GSS20GenM. After you answer the question and/or an optional question (What makes something hot?), you’ll see the aggregate responses for this year.). Answers are anonymous.

Feature Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When Will We Learn?

How well is our learning organization tranforming to meet the demands of the modern workplace?

 I recently was doing some digging though content I previously created on blogs and wikis and came across a post I wrote in Learning Circuits Blog that I feel deserves a revisit.

Back in July 2006, I wrote We’re #3! We’re #3! in which I suggested that training departments, at that time, weren’t the home of the best training in organizations when it came to helping employees or customers learn what they needed to learn. I suggested that IT and Customer Service, on average, did a better job of meeting their audiences’ needs. I also pointed to Sales, OD and Finance employee training as perhaps better than what training departments were producing.

Comments in reaction to my post pointed out that IT Help Desks and Customer Service teams often fell short of helping those who called them. But my general point that the training department might not be the home of the best training within an organization was supported.

I provided a long list of practices that are found in IT and Customer Service for developing their own employees and helping customers. A summary of those practices would be:

  • They diagnose the immediate need of the learner in real time
  • They provide a response at the moment of the learner’s greatest need for that response
  • They provide a proposed solution as quickly as possible
  • They check in with the learner after they have had a chance to implement their learning to see if the need was resolved
  • They track the question, the answer provided and the result – in detail
  • They maintain a knowledge base of previous responses to learners’ needs and the effectiveness of the response provided
  • They maintain a practice of sharing best practices and peer-to-peer learning
  • They provide feedback to parts of the organization that might be able to solve the situation that created the need or better anticipate future needs
  • They constantly gather feedback from key stakeholders regarding their performance
  • They do very little of this through a pre-designed curriculum of courses.

I suggested that learning professionals might have a lot to learn from the practices used by other parts of the organization to better serve our “customers”, key stakeholders, and organizations better.

Yet 13.5 years later, only a small percentage of L&D teams are implementing more that a few of these best practices. Why?

With all the talk about being learner-centered, building a culture of learning, self-directed microlearning, etc. You’d think we’d be further along than we are? What’s the hold up?

Here are some thoughts as to why we aren’t making the progress towards the change we as an profession have been advocating for over a decade:

We don’t want to or don’t know how to change. We’re comfortable with the paradigm we’ve been using. We’re used to providing wide swathes of knowledge and instruction to prepare employees for the situations they may face in the future. We work with SME’s and do research to provide the ideal corpus of knowledge and set of skills they will need to know.

We haven’t developed the processes needed to provide immediate solutions at the moment of need.

  • Do we understand the day-to-day work well enough to suggest appropriate solutions?
  • How well do we understand the strategic objectives of the organization and how the target audience fits into them?
  • Do we identify ourselves as problem solvers and pain relievers?
  • Do we understand how various parts of the organization currently learn what they need to know?

Our stakeholders keep demanding or expecting standard training. The way we’ve done things in the past is the only way they ask for us to do things. We, in turn, in our order taking tradition, build what they ask for. After all, they often hold the purse strings to the funding we need and the access to SME’s and the target employees to be trained.

We aren’t used to pushing back when their requested solution may not be the best solution to the problem they are trying to solve.

  • Perhaps we don’t know their business well enough to suggest an option that will work better.
  • Maybe we don’t have the knowledge of their work or understanding of organizational strategic goals to build a compelling argument for a different approach.
  • Or we haven’t developed a business relationship of trust in which they understand and appreciate our professionalism at what we do.
  • We lack the awareness of different ways of organizing learning solutions or the tools to deliver them.

We lack evidence that shows we are effective or don’t see the need to promote what we do. We’re happy to keep doing what we are doing rather than rocking the boat. Neither we nor our stakeholders truly understand what the other does, so we keep focused on what we do and don’t challenge each other. We’re comfortable with the status quo.

We aren’t created evidence based solutions that can be pointed to as changing individual performance and driving organizational strategy.

  • Do we gather evidence that we are adding value to the organization?
  • Are we providing managers with the tools they need to support their employees who are involved in our solutions? Are we holding them accountable?
  • Do our solutions form an ecosystem of learning that builds a culture of collaborative, work-based learning?

Obviously, the these thoughts are not equally applicable from organization to organization. There are learning professionals who are successfully changing and are becoming better partners to their organizations. But as a field, we are lagging.


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?

Feature Photo by Suzanne D. Williams provided by Unsplash.

Retooling for the Future

Connie Malamed does a nice job of defending we Learning and Development professionals in her blog post, Retooling Instructional Design: 7 Ways Learning Professionals are Preparing for the Future. There has been a massive wave of change that has often left us subject to criticism that we’ve fallen behind or obsolete. Connie points out that many of us have been working at changing our methods, approaches and tools in order to prepare for new ways of doing what we do.

She provides a list of 7 ways learning professionals have been working to meet the demands of the modern workplace that is evolving quickly.

  1. Acceptance of Evidence-based Strategies
  2. Focus on Human-centered Design
  3. Adopting UX Techniques
  4. Use of Agile Models
  5. Creating Learning Journeys
  6. Applying Learning Analytics
  7. Designing for Newer Technologies

I wholehearted agree with Connie on these 7 trends that are at the core of what learning professionals will be doing now and in the future. I do feel she slightly missed the mark on #6 and #7. And I would add a #8 to the list.

Applying Learning Analytics

While she does indicated we are making more data driven decisions, she only mentions “the value of learning analytics for continuous improvement.” While this is true, it’s not a huge change from what we’ve always done in evaluating the effectiveness programs. Big data is enabling faster, more responsive analysis, but it’s not the game changer when it comes to Learning Analytics.

The real power of Learning Analytics comes in our ability to use data to:

  • make predictions of what is needed and what will work,
  • we can combine learning data with business data to determine true business value from learning activities, and
  • we can use data in real-time to provide truly personalized learning experiences in the flow of work.

These are the game-changing promises of Learning Analytics that will enable us to get in-sync with our business unit colleagues and finally demonstrate our real value to the organization.

Designing for Newer Technologies

Here I feel like Connie over simplified by limiting her discussion to the impact that virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and conversational interfaces (I’m guessing she is referring to Chatbots and other tools that take advantage of voice recognition and Natural Language Analysis) are having on.

She is right that learning professionals are leveraging the latest technologies. I’d even argue that this is a trend we’ve been at the forefront of for decades dating back to pre-internet days.

She correctly points out that we have an awareness that “a new tool will not magically solve a performance problem.” Yet we fall for the bright shiny new toy as quickly as others. There are all kinds of new technologies emerging (artificial intelligence, machine learning, xAPI, geo-presence, sensors and other internet of things devices, image recognition, pattern recognition, robotics, and more) and the “old” technologies are still viable (ink on paper remains a great, cost effective delivery mechanism for learning) depending on the solution needed.

Designing for Newer Technologies really points to the necessity to determine which technology:

  • resonates with our learners (irregardless of whether it is a “learning” technology or not),
  • can deliver the best learning experience for the given need, and
  • does so in a cost effective manner.

Be Marketers of Learning

Connie does touch on a bit of this trend when she discusses using personas and conducting learning campaigns. But I believe it should be called out separately. One, because there are numerous learning professionals and organizations who are starting to do this and, two, I believe it is vital to our successful transition into our future state.

We need to be champions of individual and organizational learning. The evangelists of a new learner centered, lifelong culture of learning that is supported by senior leadership and frontline managers. The learning journeys that Connie discusses need to supported with well articulated marketing campaigns.

Like our Marketing colleagues, we need to have an intimate knowledge of who our audience is. Who are the thought leaders? Who are the saboteurs? Who are the influencers? Who are the campaigns of change? What social networks already exist? Can we leverage them to help or will they resist?

Finally, we need to target managers and provide them with the meta-learning tools and the evidence that they are working that will lead to a conversion experience about learning.


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?

Finding the Right Tech for Learning – Where Ever It Is

Surfing – the (bad?) habit of clicking on a link in a webpage just to see what’s on the other side.

From the first day I came in contact with the internet, I was a surfer – sometimes to my detriment as I’d wander around the web aimlessly with little to show for the effort other than a couple wasted hours. But then there are the times I’d come across a find. Like today.

I clicked on a link on a Microsoft page and found this marketing content regarding a professor in Australia doing learning the right way. David Kellermann at University of New South Wales has cobbled together a learning environment that should be a model for how learning can, and should, happen given the existing, available technologies.

While his project is for a university audience, I believe the lessons that can be gleened from this project are just as applicable to workplace learning.

Now Microsoft, of course wants you to know that he’s done it with only their technology (and with their support). But I think the real news is the process Kellermann took to build it. He started with a simple solution of using Microsoft Teams to connect the 500+ students and teaching assistants in one place along with his content.

From there Kellermann added tools that helped better fill his goal wanting to move the students from “500 islands” to a single team, working together no matter where they are or what their individual situations might be. He now has a system that is creative, simple, collaborative, and individualized.

He uses AI tools that help students ask questions and identify content that meets their learning needs. He’s offers his lectures and notes in a way they can be searched by students, TA’s, and AI. The system can accommodate learners with different needs (autism, blind, deaf, etc.). Student/TA communication is improved by tools that can route questions to the right TA.

But the lessons I gleened from this :

  1. Have an unwavering focus on what motivates your learners (and what decreases their motivation).
  2. Understand how your learners learn in the real world. HINT: They don’t go to an LMS or a training class.
  3. Look to technologies your learners already use and either use them or mimic them.
  4. Work iteratively. Work in manageable chunks.
  5. Experiment. If you find a technology that you think might work to meet your goals – try it, test it, and, if you like it figure out how best to incorporate it.
  6. Understand what various tools can do. You don’t have to be a programmer, but you do need to know how the tool can enhance your ability to to meet your goals.

He admits it’s a lot of work, but he is motivated by a very inspiring mission:

I’m just trying to be a good engineer and create a good system that solves a problem, by rethinking education end-to-end and using AI to enhance humanity and make our interactions richer.

David Kellermann, University of New South Wales


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?