Learning and capability building are important an agenda both for individuals and organizations. Continuous and life-long learning are often quoted as a success imperative by business leaders.
Learning and development teams must stay ahead of the curve and keep driving learning that delivers business impact. They need to don the design thinking hat and keep asking what is needed by the customers.
Looking inside to understand the real needs of the business and employees, from both the current and future perspective is important. At the same time, they also need to know the external scenario and understand what are the best and next practices that the industry is witnessing.
In this article, I attempt to outline some major Learning and Development trends that we are likely to witness in the upcoming year. Before that would like to dwell upon some fundamental principles. While the trends may change, these principles do not, especially at the same pace.
Fundamentals of L&D
I highlight four fundamentals here, and each fundamental is anchored to two elements. While applying any new trend, one must focus on designing it in such a way that it addresses both the anchors. That would ensure a holistic approach.
- F1 – Focus on the business and the learner– This is about putting the learner and the business at the centre. That would help in addressing real needs in an effective manner
- F2 – Focus on efficiency and effectiveness– Efficiency is defined by terms like scale, cost and speed; impact and outcomes define effectiveness. Holding both together is important
- F3 – Focus on why, what and the how– There is often a lot of focus around the how, which is learner experience, methodologies, and more; an equal and consistent focus on the purpose and outcomes is important
- F4 – Focus on the here and now and the then and there– It is the balance between the short and the long term. From the context of a learning intervention, here and now is what happens in the programme and focuses on the learner experience and knowledge gained; then and there pertains to skill application and its impact
I foresee a couple of trends for 2024; let’s explore them in detail below.
1- Technology will Continue to be the Disruptor
Technology is a disruptor and driver both for business and learning. With multiple technologies increasingly becoming affordable and accessible, they will be leveraged widely. Two specific technologies that I would like to talk about are –
- Artificial Intelligence, specifically Generative AI – this buzzword has hit the ground fast. The two-fold focus areas are as follows –
- Enabling learner – on one hand, it is on technical aspects like prompt engineering, where one should propagate informal methodologies like mentoring to cover scale with speed. Also, human skills like critical and analytical thinking are important, so that employees can use them responsibly.
- Usage in learning function – we will see Gen AI playing a significant role in aspects like content design and curation, assessment design, creating adaptive content, and more
- Virtual Reality – multiple learning platforms have started introducing courses with an AI mentor that makes live assessments of skills with real-time feedback. Similarly, VR for technical capability building can offer an immersive experience for critical skills.
2- Skills at the Centre
In a skill-based economy, skill-based organizations are an imperative. There is a renewed focus on skill building and assurance. The focus here is on a variety of skills-
- Technical skills – there is a sharp focus on technical skills in technology-intensive sectors like manufacturing. It will cover skills needed both in current and future context
- Behavioural skills – the importance of these power skills will continue. Along with the traditional ones, two important focus areas are around inclusion and well-being.
- ESG – Skill around Environment, Social, and Governance will assume added significance and will be mandatory for all in the evolving context.
3- Phygital, Best of Both the Worlds
We seem to be achieving the right balance between physical and digital. In the manufacturing context, just about 15 – 25% of the total learning hours were from digital means in the pre-covid context.
From there we are shifting towards a comfortable 40 – 50% of learning hours through digital. This trend will be sustained and should be leveraged. An approach towards thoughtfully selecting the modes will contribute to effectiveness.
4- It is Learning and Beyond
Expectations out of learning to fulfill larger talent outcomes will continue to grow. These include metrics about performance, growth, engagement, retention, and more. A proactive approach towards incorporating them in the design will ensure that we are satisfactorily addressing these needs.
All the above-mentioned trends place a key requirement upon all learning professionals. It pertains to their learning agility to be effective in this context. The ones who display this in abundance will emerge stronger and contribute to their business outcomes and growth.