Learning Trends: Here Today and Tomorrow

The future of enterprise learning will see today’s trends become the norm.

Every year will see changes in how we work and lead. Things will be dramatically, tremendously, overwhelmingly different. You, your department and your organization ultimately will have to navigate this intense change and ensure your own success.

The following trends will likely change much of the learning leader’s job:

Big data: There are three areas to watch. First, improved program instruction. User data will reveal where people get stuck so program adjustments can be made. Second, real personalization will be possible. Systems will learn and adapt to the way learners like to learn, how well they learn, and how well their performance and results improve. Third, recommendation engines like those used by Amazon.com and Netflix will track the topics learners prefer, what others in similar roles are learning, and recommend programs and experiences. Learning leaders will receive instant, actionable information about employees and improved performance.

Mobile: Mobile will be ubiquitous. Everyone will have knowledge access anywhere, anytime. We will have wearable, always-on connections via smart devices.

Social: As we create organizational cultures that support open knowledge exchange, we will see social learning occur in ways we never imagined.

More flexible learning management systems and Web-based authoring and content management systems will become easier for anyone to use, including content experts. Accordingly, the need for structured programs will decrease.

Technology as an adjective for learning will drop away.The push toward higher performance and greater innovation will dilute the different approaches to learning, delivery and access.

Innovation will lose its distinction and simply become the nature of work, commonly used to accelerate change in all areas of business and learning.

Design: Design-centered thinking will influence much of what we do. Rob Campbell, former CLO of health care information provider Cerner, is one of the foremost “design thinkers.” Not in instructional design, but as an ethic dictating one’s approach to solving problems, based on creativity and a laser focus on the end user’s experience. For example, Campbell got doctors to learn to use new software by using data his team learned about the doctors’ preferences and time allocation.

Design firm Ideo has helped define this ethic. Once focused on high-tech products for Apple and others, Ideo has extended design thinking to entire systems, such as a private school system for Peru. Staff were charged with developing a curriculum, designing physical spaces and even drafting a business model. Designers visited Peru and interviewed more than 90 teachers, administrators, parents, students and other stakeholders to probe for as many ideas as possible.

Learners will become hungrier, more engaged, more passionate knowledge consumers. We will all be more attuned to learning and to gaining expertise. Work will be designed by smarter leaders in smarter organizations and we will have better tools and methods to enable learning in ways people prefer — by connecting more with others, with humor and with more direct connection to our results.

Learning, talent and HR: While these will increase in importance to the organization and the CEO, the learning function will change, with fewer standard learning programs, more experiences and mentoring, more performance consulting and more culture change initiatives. These titles and roles are becoming a sort of corporate musical chairs. Who will emerge as a winner among the CLO, chief talent officer or chief human resource officer remains to be seen.

“The Internet of Everything.” Cisco’s theme was announced in January and describes devices and connections embedded in everything we touch. Kelly Lake, learning and performance strategist at custom learning company Aptara, speaks of digital expansion for learning — the connection of all digital devices at work to support learning and performance. For example, a badge from Sociometric Solutions is embedded with sensors to track a person’s interactions and speech dynamics. Based on data collected at a Bank of America call center, workplace changes resulted in more calls handled and higher job satisfaction.