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The Future of Learning: How to Deliver Tomorrow’s Great Learning Experiences Today

Artificial Intelligence, immersive experiences, big data analytics… the future of learning can sound scary, but it doesn’t have to! This post from Learning Consultant, Gareth Jones, looks at the future of L&D and explains what training professionals need to do today to better deliver the learning programs of tomorrow.

The Future of Learning: Trends to Prepare L&D Pros for Success

1) L&D Has to Prove Its Value

There are two profound trends that are shaking the foundations of how L&D develops the capability of organizations. Yes, there’s new learning tech to exploit, like the above mentioned Artificial Intelligence and big data. But the energy of most L&D departments is being poured into deploying the ones they already have.

The learning revolution we’re in now is less to do with hardware and much more about taking a forensic approach to driving business performance. If we’re successful in this endeavor, we will finally consolidate L&D’s position as a valued strategic partner to senior executives.

This requires new skills and behaviors, including the ability to use accurate and insightful data to drive decision making. The challenge for L&D business partners is to be able to move from being treated as ‘order takers’ and step up to the role of performance consultants.

2) Great Learning Experiences Require an Immersive Environment

The second trend once again involves consolidating what we’re good at: designing and delivering engaging learning programs. What is crucial now is to develop the ability to facilitate highly immersive learning environments.

There’s been a lot of talk—often at a conceptual level—about ‘learning organizations’ and the significant advantage they enjoy in bottom-line performance.

What we’re seeing, certainly in more mature organizations, is the L&D department taking responsibility to facilitate and support the development of a rich, immersive learning environment. As we move to bite-size learning, it’s our role to make sure that subject matter experts can create learning nuggets rapidly and at low cost, and ensure learners have these resources at their fingertips.

If someone is struggling with a task and the resource isn’t there at the moment of need, the opportunity is lost. We have to create a learning environment inside the corporate firewall that is as rich and responsive as Google.

Just-in-time support is one component of the learning ecosystem. The responsibility is also falling to the learning department to support peer-to-peer learning. They have to sharpen the coaching skills of line managers but also to seed and support learning between work colleagues.

They also have to replicate the experience of YouTube as the Millennial generation makes video-based learning a core component of our solution mix.

A person using a camera to record video for learning

There is one more responsibility the L&D department has in the modern learning organization and that is not to fall victim to the Field of Dreams refrain: ‘If you build it, they will come’. The days of ‘fire and forget’ are over. L&D must support the rollout of new solutions with a sophisticated marketing and communications campaign.

Understand the Future Shape of Your L&D Team

So if L&D needs to think differently to prepare for the future of the workplace, what skills are needed? Briefly stated, we believe that the new skills required to deliver tomorrow’s learning function include:

  • Performance consultants who are capable of diagnosing the root causes of business problems and write smart learning objectives that will genuinely move the needle on the critical business KPIs. They must then be able to use data to analyze the effectiveness of the training and the difference the solution has made to business outcomes.
  • Learning Experience Architects who can design the optimal learning environment, drawing on both formal and informal methods of learning. They will work with content curators who have the curiosity to surface content that links to the business challenges of the moment.
  • Storytellers and videographers who can work with subject matter experts to capture and share their knowledge and wisdom using video
  • Data analysts equipped with the skills to extract and correlate learning and business data. This role is critical because it will be the analyst, working with complex competency frameworks, who will, over time, identify the tasks that will be taken over by AI and the march of the machines!

An AI-stylized lady looking at learning data to symbolize the future of learning
Plan to Succeed With Transferable Skillsets

In the future, there will continue to be a demand for core skills such as instructional designers. It’s also true that face-to-face classroom sessions and workshops will remain part of the learning solution. So too, for the face-to-face trainers who enjoy being the ‘star on the stage.’

However, as we move towards more complex learning blends and in particular, create and manage learning ecosystems, the required mindset/skillset is rapidly changing. The new behavior requires the trainer to be in the background, making connections, stimulating the creation of new knowledge, seeding thoughts and ideas, enabling others to share their learning.

They also need to be far more knowledgeable about what makes the business tick. They should be concerned about the difference they’re making to financial, marketing, and brand metrics. They will need the behaviors of the entrepreneur—good communicators and networkers, risk-takers and passionate about the business outcome.

Most importantly they have to move away from the belief that training is an act of faith. They need the dispassionate independent approach of the analyst, always looking for and using insightful data to drive their decisions.

Finally, the trainer will be moving rapidly between the classroom, discussion forum, AR environment, video production platform, etc. bringing their pedagogic expertise but also requiring a higher level of technical knowledge than has been the case in the past in the past.

The transferable skills required fall into two areas. The first is the ability to focus on strategic goals. As the pressure mounts on L&D to justify the investment in learning, it will be essential that managers, in particular, are focused on delivering business results. To take a phrase used by a customer we’re currently working with, ‘they need to be performance outcome-focused’.

The second underpinning ability is to be a digital thinker that understands learning. Our industry is in the grip of the digital revolution that has transformed other sectors such as retail and publishing. We’re about to experience how the introduction of digital productivity platforms into our space will de-skill our craft roles such as content production and empower the consumer. We have already talked about the importance of data. It’s essential that people in our industry are ‘digital natives’ in order that they can keep pace with the change.

A futuristic shot of London

As learning moves from one-off events and towards a continuous process that L&D supports and facilitates, it will be essential they have within them the capabilities of the marketeer and communicator.

Want to know more about the future of learning? Read our ebook, ‘Creating the L&D Team of the Future’.

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