L&D in 2020: looking forward to the year ahead

Reading time: 5m

AuthorNatalie Ann HolborowDigital Content Specialist
Reading Time5 minutes

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again, when strings of tinsel are glittering around desk monitors and the last of the L&D events are closing their doors until next year. In between sprucing up the office with fairy lights and pulling on our Christmas jumpers, we’ve been reflecting on some of the key L&D trends in 2019 and looking ahead to what 2020 holds in store.

Technology is here to support, not replace, our people

It dominated keynote talks across the main L&D events and is now the second hottest topic in this year’s Global Sentiment Survey by Donald H Taylor. We were spoilt for choice with discussions concerning AI and automation, and it’s clear that the wider adoption of AI is set to transform the learning industry as we know it. At a time when society seems troubled by the threat of takeover by technology and a genuine fear that ‘robots will take our jobs’, the L&D industry maintains a positive outlook on what this means for the workforce of the future. In fact, the Global Sentiment Survey revealed that less than 1% of respondents viewed the emergence of new L&D technologies as a threat.

“Don’t fear intelligent machines, work with them.” These were the words of Garry Kasparov in his opening keynote at the CIPD Festival of Work. According to Kasparov, this is not about competing with technology; it’s about finding ways to facilitate the critical partnership between humans and machine intelligence. He reiterated that some of the most valuable human qualities in the workforce cannot be replaced by robots – for example, teamwork, critical thinking and creativity. These are the skills we need to focus on developing.

Meanwhile, over at the Learning Technologies event, both Marcia Conner and Daniel Susskind dispelled the myths around automation and robotics in their opening keynote. The audience was prompted to think about ways to ensure that L&D keeps abreast of developments to stay relevant in the ever-changing workplace. Again, the focus was on reskilling to enable our workers to harness technology, rather than perceive it as a potential cause of unemployment.

The role of the L&D practitioner is changing

With the changing workplace comes a shift in the way we see the modern L&D function. Once a primary concern for learning managers, LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report reveals that today, budget restraints are no longer the predominant concern. In fact, talent development teams are now enjoying greater investment than they have done in recent years. The C-suite is recognising that in order to future-proof their businesses, they need to equip their people with the skills required for new roles.

Modern learners want empowerment, autonomy and choice in their learning experiences. As learner requirements shift, and informal learning content becomes more widely available and on-demand, we should be responding with a less prescriptive approach to learning delivery.

The role of the L&D practitioner has thus had to change accordingly: for example, they are now having to develop skills such as curation, coaching, collaboration and data analysis.

It’s all about the data

Another topic taking centre stage this year has been data analytics. This forms a key part of each of the following:

Learning analytics allow practitioners to track and analyse the activities of learners. Even informal learning efforts can now be tracked in learning management systems (LMS) with the help of xAPI – something which has until now been notoriously difficult to measure. However, at a time when technology is advancing to give us a far wider scope of learning analytics, how can we pinpoint the right data in order to gain the insights we need? This is an area in which L&D struggles.

Data storytelling

has been prominent this year, with events and webinars dedicated to helping L&D practitioners interpret and present relevant information coherently to business stakeholders. Along with AI’s ability to analyse large sets of data and offer more personalised learning experiences, L&D leaders appear to be genuinely excited by its potential to align learning activities more closely with organisational goals.

As Laura Overton, award-winning industry analyst, stated at this year’s Learning Technologies Summer Forum: “We need to think differently. It’s about data literacy – our ability to read, work and analyse data.” Remember, select the relevant data and keep the focus on evidence, not just numbers.

We can’t mention data without noting a particular highlight of our library of L&D books in the office this year. Krystyna Gadd’s book, ‘How Not to Waste Your Money On Training’ is an invaluable resource for any L&D professional who feels their budget is being drained on unnecessary training. Taking the fear factor out of data and analytics, it’s a compelling and strikingly visual resource that helps its readers analyse problems and propose targeted and effective solutions.

And if you haven’t already, now’s the time to pop it on your Christmas list.

Learning gets personal

There’s a genuine buzz around the potential for personalised learning and adaptive delivery to transform learning experiences. In today’s age of YouTube, Amazon and Spotify, people have come to expect personalised recommendations based on their shopping, viewing and listening habits. Why should learning be any different?

Personalised and machine learning moves away from the outdated, ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Instead, it offers unique pathways individually suited to a person’s role, skills and career aspirations. With repetitive tasks increasingly being carried out by automation, it’s now more crucial than ever that we develop those intangible skills and qualities unique to humans.

Learning technologies continue to evolve – for example, digital behaviours can be tracked and assessed, and content recommendations tailored to individual learner activity. Naturally, this has sparked discussion around the LMS vs LXP debate this year. At the Learning Technologies Summer Forum, David Perring of Fosway reminded us that, ultimately, there is no platform definitively ‘better’ than the other – it’s entirely dependent on context.

When learning content is geared towards individual needs and skills requirements, the degree of relevance is increased. The result? Higher learner engagement and, in the long-run, a healthy boost in organisational performance.

In summary…

We’ve covered only a small selection of the trends and hot topics in the L&D industry this year. We could go on and list the findings around video content, mobile learning, gamification, virtual reality, and learning culture – but with a brand-new year stretching out ahead of us, expect to see some fresh content from us on some of these themes in 2020.

We end the year at a tipping point in the industry, with increased budgets and executive buy-in. Technology is evolving to provide us with the tools we need to develop the skills for the workforce of tomorrow. L&D is stepping towards centre-stage to play a crucial part in future-proofing our organisations.

We’re excited to see what 2020 brings, and our team are constantly working hard to make sure Thinqi remains at the cutting edge of key developments. It’s our goal to provide the best modern learning experience and to equip our customers with the tools they need to reach peak performance in an age of high-frequency change.

Until then, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us here at Thinqi!


We're always exploring key trends in the learning and development world, so keep an eye on our blog and social media channels to see when new insights are published:

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