In every industry, businesses strive to stay ahead of the game, but this is more difficult in industries constantly evolving and changing industries. For almost a century, the learning and development space has remained consistent; no monumental shifts have upended the industry. Sure, new IP models, tools, and assessments have emerged, and videotape has evolved to computer-based delivery, but the industry has been relatively stable, as has its market’s needs.
In the last 20 years, however, things have moved at lightning speed pace largely due to transformative technological advances. Of course, this is true for most industries. But unprecedented events have set the L&D industry apart, notably 9-11 and COVID-19, as well as the 2008 recession to some extent. What has emerged in L&D is greater dependence on and demand for easily accessible, short-form, and less expensive offerings.
So how can we recognize what future trends might we look like as L&D evolves? What have we learned from the past that can inform and prepare us for our future or the VUCA future (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity)? For example, the COVID-19 experience forced most training suppliers to convert face-to-face learning programs to online or virtually led platforms. Failure to do so has resulted in many vendors going out of business and others having to bootstrap their operations to stay above water. What will the next transformation be and when will it present?
Such changes will likely derive from technology already in development or early implementation. Virtual reality (VR) will continue to emerge in learning applications. Artificial intelligence (AI), while sometimes scary, is filtering into our daily lives and will certainly impact how, when, and why people learn. And as a result of VR and AI, processes and programming around gamification and simulation will dramatically advance.
How can we prepare for the inevitable changes in learning and development? First, we must understand the most likely origins of these changes. Start with the three industry drivers: content, delivery, and instruction. Each has undergone considerable change since the industry formed nearly a century ago. Suppose the recent past is any barometer for the future. In that case, new changes will most likely come from the delivery of products and services, which will then influence how content and instruction are embedded into the industry’s continuous learning platforms.
Add the changing nature of the workforce and workplace, and the prediction picture gets even more complex. The general population is aging; the workforce is shrinking and becoming more technologically savvy; four-year college attendance is declining because of questionable ROI and cost; the workplace is shifting to more remote spaces and learning hours are pivoting from largely in-person to online; and advances in neuroscience about how the brain processes information are influencing our content and delivery decisions.
What are you doing to prepare for the evolution of the industry? What are you still holding on to that might not fit the future learning environment? What are you doing to anticipate the possibilities of the future?