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Confucius said: “If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher.” This quote might be 2500 years old, but it still holds true today and will be an effective way of learning over the next 5-10 years.

Learning in organizations in the future is impacted by different general and people-specific drivers. General drivers include such things as the increase in speed, globalization, complexity of today’s business – so learning needs to keep up there. Further general drivers are the change in technology such as those driven by SAP (e.g. cloud, mobile, big data, social media) and (hopefully) trends like sustainability, which has not yet entered the HR learning area.

HR-specific drivers include the growing lack of skilled workers and also the new values held by “Millennials”, the generation entering the corporate workforace in the coming years. They are not only tech-savvy, they are also motivated through quality of work, employer brand, lifestyle and – important for learning and development – their ability to grow.

So what will a learning organization look like in 5-10 years? Offerings need to be more personalized and tailored for the role and learning style, and must  still be engaging, interactive, relevant for the job and valued by management. Learning needs to be more in the moment of need (also called “electronic performance support”), segmented in smaller doses (also called “microlearning”) and be available on mobile devices.

To be more effective, formal and informal approaches to learning need to be balanced. The concept of the “learning organization” will be revamped and supported with new tools like wikis, blogs, and social networks where people contact each other to learn from each other and also contribute their own knowledge via blogs, videos, etc.

Important in this effort is to facilitate this change in the learning culture – especially between different generations in the organization. Open or freely available content in the form of MOOCs , perhaps mixed with social learning, is currently a movement in academia, where corporate learning practitioners need to check how they apply this “open” concept  internally or broker/ validate external open content and provide it to their internal learners.

In addition to trends like social, micro and mobile, learning management will remain important. First comes process integration: learning will be increasingly integrated into the talent,  performance, succession management,  and onboarding processes of employees as it will be key to success not only in filling a job vacancy, but also for individual employee career planning. Integration in other HR processes such as organizational planning or workforce planning will be needed; spreading information and insight across the organization is necessary for certain organizational units and will create learning environments for individual employees.

Compliance management will also become more important: new legal standards or risk-mitigation in fields like  health and safety make learning a business-critical process.

Learning analytics with tools like dashboards incl. using big data will evolve to measure success and value of learning and replace old models (e.g. Kirkpatrick ). Managing learning across the entire value chain from suppliers, employees, contractors, partners, dealers to end-customers will be another focus of learning in the future, as we move increasingly into a knowledge-based economy.

These are my thoughts on the topic of where corporate learning is headed, but I’d be happy to read your comments and experiences too.  Feel free to share them right here in the community!

(BTW: The source of this post was the question of a customer last year to write a statement where I see the future of learning) 

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