How the transformation of L&D will progress next year

This month, HRE is helping HR leaders prepare for the year ahead with a series featuring insights from industry experts, thought leaders and others about what we can learn from 2020 and the challenges coming in 2021. Read the series here.

This year has brought HR a host of unprecedented issues to navigate: employee safety concerns, engagement in a newly remote world, legal considerations and even the reshaping of the HR role itself. With all of that change just in the last few months, many HR leaders are looking to 2021 with a bit of trepidation: What’s next?

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Todd Moran, chief learning strategist at online learning platform NovoEd, thinks that the L&D transformation that started this year will continue to reshape the learning landscape in 2021. As organizations look to reskill and upskill their employees to remain competitive, learning will remain key–and companies have to ensure their employees are engaged in their L&D initiatives, Moran says. Here’s what else he predicts:

HRE: Compare L&D in large organizations today with a year ago. How will that continue to evolve in 2021?

Todd Moran, chief learning strategist at NovoEd

Moran: So much of the L&D landscape a year ago was centered on targeted initiatives and focused refinement. From exploring the addition of a new technology to their learning ecosystems to revisiting the balance and coverage of their current content catalogs, large enterprise organizations were, generally speaking, rather narrowed in their focus.

Fast-forward 12 months, and these same organizations have been forced to fundamentally and foundationally revisit their entire approach to learning and development. That forced re-visitation has radically accelerated design and deployment models, where a remote workforce is now the universal norm. And what’s more, that norm is here to stay.

See also: 5 ways HR can prioritize L&D in times of change

Whatever early days Band-Aid solutions large organizations cobbled together at the outset of the pandemic to mitigate a complete halt to learning and development activities will simply not sustain. Zoom fatigue is an absolutely real phenomenon, replete with a significantly lacking set of learner outcomes given the one-dimensional nature of video-conference-led training. So, the evolution of L&D in these entities means determining holistic ways to address learners and their needs using technologies that ensure full immersion, expansive collaboration and deep capability building.

HRE: What should be HR leaders’ first priority for 2021?

Moran: First and foremost, on the L&D front, HR leaders need to ensure they have the systems and technologies in place upon which to execute all of their 2021 initiatives. Even with a partial “return to the office” model potentially taking shape come mid-year, remote workforces will continue to dominate across large enterprises. Knowing that in-person training will be rare to non-existent for most organizations across 2021, digital learning and development will be crucial to sustaining employees. This ensures their engagement and connection to colleagues and firms, maximizing their professional growth, all of which translates to increased productivity and business performance.

Beyond those must-have enabling technologies, HR leaders should be prioritizing the programs and populations that are poised to have the greatest impact on their business. That means key initiatives around leadership, DEI and onboarding become paramount. Leaders, at all levels of the organization, are both the keepers and the carriers of culture. So, ensuring they are equipped, enabled and emboldened to drive alignment, growth and innovation across the enterprise is critical. And when it comes to a holistic view of what will truly sustain and expand an organization in these most challenging times, it is unequivocally diversity, equity and inclusion among the workforce. Lastly, new employees, in many facets, are the lifeblood of an organization, so ensuring a dedicated focus on onboarding with collaborative, immersive and cohort-based experiences means these new additions can swiftly become strong, contributing members to an enterprise’s mission.

HRE: What HR technologies and applications, particularly when it comes to learning, should vendors be working on right now? Why?

Moran: Enterprises are looking for learning solutions that deliver on engagement and impact for their high-value capability building–in an environment that fosters a sense of community and belonging. In-person learning is no longer an option for the foreseeable future; the promise of  Zoom and other video-conferencing solutions are not delivering on engagement and impact. And self-directed discovery through the LXP may be insufficient for deep learning and driving business performance.

See also: Changes to the L&D market

As a result, collaborative online learning technologies should be the critical focus now and into 2021. Global enterprise customers are seeking high-fidelity, collaborative online learning that enables them to run their leadership development programs, scale their onboarding, train their sales teams, expand their D&I efforts and make a sustained impact on the organization’s performance.

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As the learning ecosystem becomes more and more fragmented, it’s more important than ever that learning systems and experiences are integrated to one another, and most critically, into larger business priorities and goals. This will enable a more holistic learning experience that enterprises should be focused on heading into 2021.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].