The future of L&D - 5 things you need to know

The latest UK Learning Trends survey shows that confidence in L&D's ability to meet business needs and support corporate objectives remains positive. 65% of Learning Managers predict their function will have an improved impact on corporate performance in the coming six months.

Written by Peter Casebow
Published 24 September 2015
The future of L&D - 5 things you need to know

Compared to previous results, the latest survey shows renewed attention on improving organisational efficiency and a broadening of L&D activity to include the development of middle managers alongside strategic leadership development initiatives. Furthermore, informal learning and social media tools continue to play an important role across the learning landscape, with respondents predicting an increase in both these areas. To hear my views on how learning has changed and is likely to change in future,take a look at my short video on the Future of Learning.

Based on the survey findings, we highlight below the top five areas of importance for L&D practitioners and offer tips on how you can ensure your L&D department is addressing the areas which matter most.

1. Organizational efficiency should be your primary driver

Maintaining organizational efficiency remains the primary driver for L&D, ranked above all other issues at 67%. This emphasis on efficiency demonstrates a more commercial, results-driven approach to learning provision. Given the challenging economic conditions, L&D is increasingly being judged on its ability to provide value for money. Ensure that your L&D function remains cost effective by:

  • Establishing success measures well before learning delivery.

  • Having an ongoing commitment to measurement and evaluation of learning activities.

  • Presenting senior business leaders with strong evidence highlighting where and how L&D has made a difference.

2. Don't put all your eggs in the leadership development basket

Leadership development remains at the top of the L&D agenda, with 45% of Learning Managers citing it as their main area of focus. However, the gap between leadership development and other areas has closed. For example, the development of middle and senior management, talent management and performance management initiatives have all seen a renewed focus. These three areas are ranked equal second in terms of importance at 35%. You can develop a broader spectrum of L&D activity and a focus on the most critical areas of your business by:

  • Clearly aligning L&D objectives to corporate goals.

  • Working with senior management to identify business critical areas/roles and developing bespoke talent management strategies for these areas.

  • Prioritising learning activities in relation to their overall business impact.

3. Ignore social media at your peril

The latest Learning Trends survey highlights the expanding role played by social media across the L&D landscape. 56% of Learning Managers predict an increase in the use of social media tools in their L&D solutions in the coming six months - an increase of 10% from the previous survey. As interest in, and demand for, social media to support learning gathers pace, L&D's role should be about encouraging the use of relevant social media tools to ensure they have a positive impact on the overall learning experience. L&D can help to build a strong case for social media to support learning by:

  • Encouraging the right conditions for social learning to flourish, particularly with line managers.

  • Highlighting examples of where social media is currently working well to support learning.

  • Developing internal wikis, blogs and other forums where people can ask questions and share useful information.

  • Leveraging social networking tools such as Yammer and Twitter to boost internal collaboration.

4. Harness the benefits of informal learning

In the survey, 57% of learning managers highlighted increased budget support for informal learning - an increase of 10% on the previous survey. More organizations are beginning to identify and harness the benefits of informal learning. As traditional, face-to-face learning delivery comes under pressure from financial and efficiency perspectives, informal learning has become more prevalent. Is this perhaps an indication of a shift away from top-down learning towards the natural flow of learning in organizations? L&D can promote and encourage informal learning by:

  • Encouraging a culture of 'learning by doing' and trial and error, where people are not penalised for mistakes.

  • Recognising and championing the existence of informal knowledge and information bases.

  • Encouraging cross-working and collaboration between different teams and departments, to share knowledge, ideas and expertise.

5. Be confident in L&D's ability to deliver

An interesting issue that emerged from the latest results is that L&D practitioners are cautiously optimistic about what the future holds. For example, L&D's ability to meet learning needs remains consistent, with 46% seeing no change in this area. L&D's impact on corporate performance is also positive, with 65% saying it will improve in the coming six months. Perhaps most tellingly, 60% feel that L&D's status as a key strategic contributor to the business will improve in the next six months. Keep your L&D department's activity closely aligned to corporate performance by:

  • Ensuring that L&D's interests are recognized and championed at a senior level within your business.

  • Keeping up-to-date with what your competitors are doing from an L&D perspective and monitoring the latest developments in L&D practice.
This article first appeared in Training Zone.

The UK Learning Trends Index is run every six months. Now in its third year, we ask over 250 L&D professionals for their views on the key issues affecting their industry. If you are a senior UK L&D professional and would like to take part in the next survey, then please contact Stef Scott

About the author

Peter Casebow

Peter Casebow

Former CEO, Emerald Works
Peter has been working in Learning and Development for the past twenty years, becoming the CEO for Emerald Learning in 2017. He writes and speaks internationally on leadership and management and the development of high-impact learning and development solutions.

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