Learning & Development

Top Learning and Development (L&D) Trends for 2020

As we move further into a new year, many individuals and organizations alike are planning and implementing resolutions and annual plans for the coming 12 months. For many organizations, L&D efforts rank high on the priority list of 2020 goals and initiatives—and for good reason.


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In this feature, we’ll discuss the importance of L&D efforts for staying competitive in a knowledge-based economy; how L&D efforts can act as a retention tool, particularly for younger workers; the benefit of looking at industrywide L&D trends; and key L&D trends of 2020.

L&D Efforts Are Crucial for Maintaining Competitive Edge

We’ve said numerous times that the economy of today is vastly different from the economy of 100, 50, or even 20 years ago. Rather than being driven by the muscle of factory workers and farm laborers, today’s American economy is driven increasingly by the minds of knowledge-based workers. In this new reality, the greatest assets companies possess are not factory equipment and heavy machinery but the individual employees who make up their workforces.

Consequently, modern companies set themselves apart from their competition not by buying the top machines and keeping them well maintained but by recruiting and retaining the best employees and keeping them well trained.

L&D as a Recruitment and Retention Tool

L&D programs are also highly effective retention tools. This makes intuitive sense: Employees who feel like their organization is making an investment in their future with the company are going to feel like they have a future with the company; even if they aren’t necessarily currently receiving the compensation or prestige they might want, they have some confidence that the company is developing them for better things to come—at their current company or, potentially, with some other employer.

This is particularly important for younger workers. In terms of a company’s culture, learning, growth, and development rank number one on what Millennials find important in a workplace.

Industry-Level L&D Analysis

There are multiple ways to approach this process of goal-setting. Organization-specific need is, of course, a key input. If the company is performing poorly on customer service metrics, then it needs to focus some efforts on improving customer service. But companies should be careful to avoid setting goals and planning for the future in a vacuum.

It’s also important to consider what other organizations and industry experts see as key trends and areas of focus for training and development. This analysis provides useful insights on areas an organization may not have considered for its own staff, and it also helps define the competitive landscape to help ensure the organization doesn’t miss out on emerging trends and fall behind the competition.

Key L&D Trends for 2020

So, what are the key L&D trends to follow in 2020? Alex Rivas, marketing manager at Learning TribesSitel Group’s L&D brand, provided his input on 10 trends he sees as topping the list of L&D activities in 2020:

  1. User-generated content: Content created for learners by learners. Not only does this accelerate content creation, but it also creates a community of creative learners. There is a great deal of knowledge in the minds of your employees; how could you harness that knowledge so it could be shared throughout your organization?
  2. Content curation: The ability to aggregate, filter, and customize content. There’s also a lot of knowledge that exists outside of your organization. Identifying and strategically leveraging that content can help you ensure you’re staying on top of key trends and issues that impact your organization and your industry.
  3. Video learning: Video is becoming a mainstream training tool. With the proliferation of smartphone devices, video can readily be consumed on the go, no matter where employees may be. And, by offering both synchronous and asynchronous formats, employees can access this information when they need it.
  4. Mobility: Better, faster, and smarter connectivity is a boon to workforces as they grow and for workplaces that are increasingly dispersed—even remote. Mobile L&D allows employees to take learning on the go.
  5. In the flow of work: Informal training embedded into everyday work tools offers just-in-time access to important information—adapted learning that delivers the right content, at the right time, to the right person.
  6. Influencers: A new power driving employee decision-making. Work mentors can influence employees in their personal and professional lives.
  7. Data: The high value of information is not going to diminish anytime soon. Data allow training managers to personalize the training experience based on individual user needs and preferences.
  8. Open education: Welcome to the gig economy—the rise of nonsalaried jobs makes it necessary to rethink training methods. Platforms must allow training outside the scope of the company.
  9. Rewards: L&D professionals have an opportunity to incentivize knowledge and rethink training as a benefit.
  10. Emotion: The story of empathy—emotions develop memorization. Incorporate new formats, such as Web series and virtual reality. Tell a story to make an impact.

Key Themes from the Key Trends

There are a couple of key themes that can be seen from Rivas’ list above. The first is what might be considered the democratization of L&D. Support for user-generated content empowers anyone with something useful to share with a means to participate in the organization’s L&D efforts. Key to supporting this democratization are effective content curation and support for influencers and mentors.

Another theme that is apparent from the list of 2020 L&D trends is flexibility. Video learning and mobility are great elements to add to an L&D program to make content accessible wherever and whenever employees have time to participate in training. Incentivizing training through rewards can help encourage employees to take advantage of flexible learning opportunities.

A focus on L&D is crucial for any company looking to succeed in a modern knowledge-based economy. Not only is it essential for businesses to invest time and resources into cultivating their most important assets—their people—but L&D efforts are also highly valued by employees, particularly the younger generations that make up an increasingly dominant proportion of the workforce of today and the near future.

Companies that demonstrate a commitment to developing their staff can hope to see greater success in recruitment and retention than those that do not. In addition to a careful evaluation of internal needs, companies can gain valuable insight from reviewing industry- and economywide trends in L&D. Hopefully the topics provided in this feature can help kick-start or further develop the initiatives of companies eager to beef up their L&D programs in 2020!

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