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What will the future of workplace learning look like?

The way we live, work and learn is changing faster than ever before. Technology has made possible some things in the workplace that people from 20 years ago could only dream about. Technology keeps advancing and it shows no sign of stopping. It’s actually accelerating towards the future.

Some say:

The future is already here; we’re living it.

But I truly believe that we are living in the present. However, I am excited about what the future will hold for us — for our daily lives and for our workplaces.

The future is tomorrow, the same as it is 10 or 100 years from now.

Leading companies must prepare for the future, no matter how far it is. There may be no magic ball for business people to check how the future will be like, but one trend seems to top everything else: companies will need more and more brain power and less and less physical stamina from the part of employees.

People matter. At the end of the day, all the technological advancements that have the potential to change the world — not just the business organization — mean nothing if people aren’t there to make sense of them.

Great ideas, creative strategies and innovative ways to solve problems are things that technology can’t do on its own. Technology is the most powerful tool people can use to achieve these outcomes, but companies need smart people in the first place if they want to keep a competitive edge in the future.

However, people aren’t born smart. They learn and then they become smart. And when they get smart, they learn some more.

Workplace learning and training programs will play a key role in determining successful companies in the future.

What will the future of workplace learning look like?

Based on the idea that professional development for employees — no matter their tenure in the organization — is a key factor in establishing the performance and profitability of a company, it’s safe to assume that L&D departments will have a crucial influence over this. They can support companies in at least three major areas:

  1. Developing a learning culture

    This is one of those things that is easier said than done. “Building a learning culture” is on everyone’s lips, yet clear actions on how to actually do it are nowhere to be found. The thing is, it all depends.

    Building a learning culture is not like building, well… a building. People are the building bricks of an organizational culture, but if you treat them like you would treat a brick, you’ll get nowhere. Each employee is unique in their own way, but they all have at least a spark of curiosity in them. Experienced employees can teach newcomers a tremendous amount and younger employees can teach their colleagues a thing or two as well.

    A great learning culture is one where this transfer of knowledge happens flawlessly between any organizational members.

  2. Going for personalized, on-demand learning

    This is like a dice with a thousand sides. Not six, but a thousand. If delivering personalized learning experiences only had six aspects to it, everyone would already ace this. But there are so many more...

    L&D professionals wear a lot of hats besides the most obvious one: creating training courses and other learning materials. The best ones must also know:

    • How the human brain learns
    • How to apply pedagogy elements to courses
    • How to design these in a visually pleasant manner
    • How to deliver courses — face-to-face, online, in presentations, in video format, in micro learning modules, and so on
    • How to market courses to employees
    • How to collect the most relevant learning data and make the most out of it
    • How many other interconnected things can affect the learning process and the learning outcomes

    All these aspects, and even more, contribute to creating personalized learning experiences for employees.

    Knowledge is a great source of power. If the right employee gets the right piece of knowledge at the right time through the right means — a personalized instruction, that is — they’ll be able to make better decisions at work and achieve better results for their organization.

  3. Preparing for disruptions

    With so much going on at the same time, embracing change and adapting fast to unexpected situations will be mandatory for businesses in the future, not just for individuals.

    Just think about how talent has evolved until now. Millennials’ expectations from the workplace are very different than those of Baby Boomers when they were the younger generation of the workforce. The working world will only continue to develop, and the generation following Millennials will only continue the trend of demanding flexibility in terms of working time and place.

    The gig economy is flourishing and perhaps “being an employee” will soon become a thing of the past. Everyone is running their business now, whether they know it or not. Some offer their services to multiple clients; it may be only a matter of time until those that have just one client (also known as an employer) will change their mind and their employment status.

    No matter how we’ll call them, businesses will still need to attract and retain the best talent. Professional development is already a top requirement of talented candidates. Since more and more people become aware that the only way to move forward within an organization, or simply in a career, is to keep on learning, this won’t become less important any time soon. So L&D people will have their hands full developing and promoting continuous learning opportunities.

Building a learning culture, providing personalized learning experiences to each employee and preparing for unexpected disruptions that will inevitably arise in the ever-changing business environment are three things that will become more and more important in determining companies’ success in the future and L&D professionals will certainly have a role to play in this.