In the wake of the pandemic in 2020, we saw the mass movement of learning into digital with learning technology providing the only way to adapt to lockdowns and enable organizations to support the tremendous upheavals to work, operating models, and business practices.
Two years on and the pandemic is still a key disruptor, and it looks like being so for a long time to come. Once again, there is a backdrop of uncertainty as we look at the learning trends for the year ahead.
So, what should learning teams be thinking about to both insulate themselves from the risks, and help them seize the opportunities, that a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world brings?
Here are my top seven trends to watch in 2022:
1. The commercialization of the learning function – it’s all about value
This is not about treating your learning function as a profit center and it’s not about internal recharging or thinking of your internal team in terms of profit and loss. This is about developing the business acumen of your learning team to drive value.
One of the many interviews I have carried with L&D professionals this year was with a lady who had just taken on responsibility for learning having worked in marketing and sales for years. Two things stood out that relate to business acumen.
If you know marketing, you will have heard of the AIDA model: Awareness-Interest–Desire–Action. Whilst many learning professionals would apply this model to the adoption of learning, this L&D professional saw it as the application of learning to drive outcomes. She set up a range of measures to pilot, test, and prove her learning approach – at speed – to deliver specific business results. Without any L&D experience, her commercial marketing brain leveraged learning to deliver measurable commercial success. Her uncertainty was whether she knew enough about learning. For many L&D professionals that uncertainty might be around having the commercial nous or business acumen to deliver exceptional business results. If that’s you, then start to develop your performance consulting skills. One in two L&D leaders are under more pressure to show their value add which is why thinking commercially is a priority.
2. Intelligence-led – not data-driven – learning makes the difference
Much has been written about the importance of data-driven learning over the past year. The alliteration is a very tempting way of helping the phrase stick in our minds. It can also be found in HR – “data-driven HR” – . . . in fact you could use the data-driven label in any business function. But the label misses an important point.
Yes, the data is the foundation, but it’s the intelligence we glean from the data that really matters. Data is just that, data. How it gets used to inform decision-making is what makes the difference; it’s the intelligence that it brings to decisions that’s critical. Intelligence implies we have the right data and that we are connecting a wide set of data sources to validate and infer and enable better decisions. Just look at the potential opportunities for learning teams: emotionally intelligent learning journeys, intelligent skills assessment, intelligent learning design and intelligent project prioritization. To have intelligence means you adapt and respond and that is why I think intelligence-led learning is important. Data is the foundation, but intelligence will enable you to make better decisions that will positively impact your stakeholders, learners and the L&D team.
3. Digital learning fatigue and a more humane approach to hybrid learning
The switch to digital learning has resulted in a boom for self-paced e-learning and virtual classrooms. Good as those things are in what they do, what is often missing is the human connection to motivate, activate and sustain learning. With an overreliance on knowledge downloads in virtual classrooms and learning approaches that can feel isolating, it’s not surprising that digital learning fatigue is growing amongst corporate learners.
More than half of our Digital Learning Realities 2021 respondents said digital learning fatigue was a growing problem in their organization. Now some might think that switching from e-courses to e-resources might be the way to solve the problem but I think they are missing the underlying problem of how we harness the energy of others to power learning. We need more humane learning design and more humane learning journeys. That means using a variety of approaches including, flipped classrooms, action learning sets, peer-to-peer and expert-led coaching, practice and rehearsal.
4. Personalization becomes the biggest driver of the learning experience
By harnessing data and intelligence, personalization has the potential to become part of the antidote to digital learning fatigue. Personalization not only adapts learning experiences to the individual and optimizes their time and focus in their learning experiences – by tailoring courses dynamically to their role and prior expertise, for example – it also supports their future career aspirations. But it doesn’t stop there. Talent mobility and the personalization of the employee experience – the MeX (My Experience of the Employee Experience) – is something to watch across all HR systems. 2022 is going to see personalization become one of the biggest drivers of the employee experience and learning needs to lead the way.
5. Creating a unified learning experience continues to be a challenge
Do you go LXP, or do you go LMS? Is learning embedded in your workflow? Or is learning a part of your talent mobility system or Cloud HR solution? When you want to have a specific portal for a specific change program – how do you manage the content, audiences and touch-points for learners? And how do you adapt to a learner’s context, trigger engagement in distanced blended learning programs and integrate multiple sources of your own resources and off-the-shelf content?
The challenge here is to unify how you manage the learning experience and learning regardless of whether it’s about career development or just in time learning. L&D teams need to be able to manage the resources, courses, skills and campaigns across all these various contexts but it may not be possible to have one system that can manage them all. It will most likely take an ecosystem of solutions to deliver the diversity of experiences you need to deliver. And creating a unified learning experience may be more about your ability to connect the backend of those solutions rather than the front end.
In 2022, managing the ecosystem of learning platforms, contexts, journeys, content, analytics and intelligence is going to become an even thornier problem and providers that are able to do this are going to be in demand – especially if they connect easily in the ecosystem.
6. Skills, Skills, Skills
2022 is going to be another year of accelerating change and organizations will need to develop the right skills in order to cope with the ongoing transformation of work, working, leading, teaming, products, markets, technology and innovation in thinking.
How we connect people to the opportunities for interesting projects, gigs and work – and the mentors and learning that will help people bridge into the work they aspire to do – is part of the strategic role of learning teams. This is where L&D needs to step up and influence the business. Often labeled Talent Mobility – it’s a strategic imperative to retain and attract talent and learning underpins it. Sadly, all too often it’s an agenda L&D teams are reacting to rather than leading. In the year ahead this is something learning professionals need to be more proactive about – especially across the HR silos of recruitment, performance and recognition.
7. It’s time to get the “Curious Advantage”
Finally, if there is one stretch goal for every learning team – regardless of sector, maturity, or responsibility – it should be thinking about how to stimulate a richer learning culture across the organization. This will need curious learning professionals. Curiosity is going to continue to get bigger so read the book The Curious Advantage and be inspired. Your organization’s future will probably depend on it.
About the author – David Perring
David has been a learning professional for over 30 years. Over that time, he has always been at the forefront of learning innovation and has retained a strong sense of optimism, energy and passion for transforming organizational learning and performance.
Today, he holds a truly unique and privileged position. As Director of Research for Fosway Group, he independently explores the experiences of practitioners and suppliers to understand the realities of what’s happening in corporate learning, talent development and HR. Inspiring change by sharing what truly makes a difference.
You can contact David via @davidperring and find more of Fosway’s research via @fosway or www.fosway.com.
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