I am optimistic about the future of L&D. Excited, even. Last year was rough for L&D as a function. L&D’s capability gap grew and there seemed to be a fair amount of panic in general. But it appeared to act as a wake-up call. Based on the conversations we have been having recently with learning leaders, I have reason to hope.
What changed? Mindsets mostly. You gotta think before you act (or you should, anyway), and we’re talking to a lot of learning leaders who are thinking differently. A few months back we published a report on L&D capabilities. As a part of that report, we talked about mindsets – how L&D people ought to be thinking in order to be effective in the future. The graphic below sums up some of those shifts in mindsets:
Siloed to Networked
We are seeing more L&D organizations realize that employee development is a team sport. Instead of overseeing all of the ideation, creation, execution, and delivery of learning initiatives alone, L&D professionals are building their networks and enabling learners, line managers and executives to work together to make sure that the right employees have the right skills and knowledge to successfully execute the business strategy.
Complacent to Curious
There appears to be less complacency in L&D in general. Sure, some of this newfound curiosity may be driven by the fear of becoming obsolete, but we are heartened to see L&D departments begin to search for new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things. Insatiable curiosity drives L&D departments to stay current on the latest and greatest trends and on market and industry forces – which opens up opportunities for new and better development solutions.
Piecemeal to Holistic
L&D leaders seem to be considering more holistic solutions that involve more than just an instructor-led or e-learning course. We hear more people talking about Bersin’s Continuous Learning Model and embracing multiple learning methods to reinforce new knowledge and skills.
Rigid to Agile
L&D professionals appear to be rethinking their dedication to efficiency – training the most people to perform the task in the most economical way possible – and instead focusing on more flexible methods to create training, providing more agile, less structured catalogs of training, and introducing methods that allow employees the freedom they need to fit development activities into their job.
Conventional to Innovative
And finally, we’re seeing a move from conventional L&D to more innovation. For a practice that has changed slowly in the past 100 years, the amount of innovation happening in this space is remarkable. For example, in the first half of 2015 alone, 2.5 billion venture capital dollars were invested in edtech startups. And the innovation isn’t all tied to technology. I’ve talked to leaders innovating traditional classrooms, university courses, on-the-job experiences, and coaching and mentoring.
So I’m hopeful. It feels almost as we have reached a tipping point. Enough of the L&D field are thinking differently about their work, and as a result, I think we’re going to see some pretty cool things this year. We’ll do our best to tell you about them.
 2015 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report, Deloitte University Press. http://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/human-capital/articles/learning-and-development-human-capital-trends-2015.html
 “Ed Tech’s Funding Frenzy”, Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/07/24/investments-ed-tech-companies-reach-new-high-first-half-2015