News & Blog

The evolution of learning and development in 2021

News & Blog

Editor’s note: As we ended a difficult and unique year and entered a new one, the Training Industry editorial team asked learning leaders to write in with their reflections on 2020 and predictions for 2021. This series, “What’s Changed and What Hasn’t?

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our personal and professional lives forever. As we reflect on the past year, both the good and bad, one bright spot that’s emerged among job seekers and employees is the insatiable appetite to continue learning new skills.

We can attribute this spike to a variety of factors. One is a direct result of the pandemic: Many businesses were forced almost entirely online, creating an intense need for workers to become digital experts quickly. Furthermore, the job market is ripe with opportunities for careers in technology, such as software engineers, JavaScript developers and cloud engineers. We are also seeing rising demand for salespeople, registered nurses, tax specialists and customer service specialists. These opportunities have more workers than ever looking to upskill for their next role or learn a new skill set to pivot careers.

Given the unknowns that lie ahead as we start 2021, there is a real opportunity for employers to learn from the trends of last year. Many employees want to continue to learn and grow in their current role, and virtual learning is poised to help employers meet this growing demand in a more scalable way. Even when in-person activities resume, job seekers and employees will continue to embrace online learning as an effective way to learn new skills, thanks to its ease of use and capacity for personalization.

Here are a few predictions that can help learning and development (L&D) professionals as they look to imagine what virtual learning means for their employees in the year ahead:

Learning Will Be Part of Everyone’s Job

This prediction comes from Justin Black, head of people science for the Glint platform. Black believes that learning is the rocket fuel that drives business acceleration. Tomorrow’s skills are being invented today — and people are hungry to begin learning them. Black predicts that organizations that invest in reskilling, upskilling and internal mobility will reap the rewards of a competitive workforce.

Additionally, people who have opportunities to learn and grow at work aren’t just equipped with the right skills; they’re also armed with the right mindset to “#alwaysbelearning.” This mindset is a win-win, because learning feeds employee engagement, which supports productivity, retention and financial performance in a virtuous cycle of success.

Content Curation and Personalization Will Be an Opportunity and a Challenge

With the uptick in learning content comes the challenge of finding the best content that fits learners’ individual needs. Doing so will be one of the most important opportunities and biggest challenges for online learning platforms and L&D professionals to solve this year.

The questions to answer internally are, “How are we curating high-quality content?” and, “How are we making personalized recommendations for our individual learners?” If you have clear answers to these questions, you’re on the right track.

Continuing Education Will Be a Perk, Not a Chore

Employers have offered ongoing learning and continuing education opportunities for a while, but at times, these offerings have felt more like a chore than a benefit. The learning material was more focused on skills that helped employees continue to do their current job than on providing a foundation for future growth. As hiring becomes more skills-based, continuous education opportunities will also shift to open up more constructive ways for workers to grow into their next dream role.

As a result, learning content will focus less on what employees need to know to maintain the status quo and more on new topics that will help them expand their skill sets. Like other benefits, such as paid time off or a gym stipend, a continuous learning program will be a perk that smart companies use to retain talent. It’s another win-win: Companies have more skilled, motivated employees, and employees cultivate skills that will help with long-term career growth.

In the same way that we share recipes, TV shows or books recommendations with one another, one day soon, “water cooler talk” will include courses and new skills. For those conversations to happen, companies this year (and beyond) must provide employees with the latest learning tools so they can stay ahead of the curve and prepare for the jobs of the future.

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