Learning and Development: 3 Shifts in 15 Years

By |2023-06-05T07:35:46-04:00June 5th, 2023|Talent Development, Trends|0 Comments

empty learning space

Workplace learning and development (L&D) looks very differently today than it did in 2008. Perhaps more than any of the other areas of organization development we’ve explored in the Brighter Strategies anniversary series, L&D has experienced significant disruption during the past 15 years. In this article we’ll consider three shifts that have transformed the learning landscape in organizations across the globe.

Changes in learning delivery

Fifteen to twenty years ago, the process for accessing professional development was difficult. Face-to-face formal learning was the only modality widely available. So, people would spend hours searching for a reputable training provider within a 60-mile radius. Then, you had to confirm that you could afford to be away from work for two or three days at a time. Finally, you would prepare a compelling business case to ensure that your supervisor would approve the program and your travel expenses.

Once you arrived at the workshop and sampled the stale pastries and weak coffee, there was a lecture-heavy couple of days. Classroom trainers at that time were lecturers, downloading their knowledge to the room rather than facilitating learning among attendees. After the formal program ended, you would take the thick training binder back to the office, stick it on a shelf and rarely reference it again.

How learning has changed!

Fifteen years ago, if you couldn’t get to the workshop—perhaps prohibited by the costs or time investment required—you missed the learning opportunity. We were debating the merits of e-learning rather than adopting it. Today, low-cost, easy-access learning delivery abounds. In-person training largely has been replaced by virtual training, micro-learning, videos, podcasts, and even immersive experiences.

Changes for learners

Not only has the how of learning shifted, but the who has, too. Learning and development used to be an organization-driven experience; learning experts told the learners what they needed to know—no questions asked. Today employees are in the driver’s seat. They own their career development more than ever before and seek employers that offer competitive professional development opportunities that will help them grow. According to “Why Learning and Development Is Now a Competitive Differentiator” by Forbes, employees consider a vibrant L&D department a key part of what makes a company a great place to work.

Employees also have greater access to learning. A decade and a half ago, besides onboarding, organizations created most L&D programs for rising leaders or current executives only. Now, multi-level training opportunities exist for the frontline through the senior leadership ranks. Organizations are shifting away from high-potentials and toward democratizing learning for all.

Differences in learning styles

The ways in which employees learn have improved. Due to neuroscience research, we better understand how people’s brains best absorb and retain information, and we design and deliver training based on these evidence-grounded strategies. Lecture is no longer king of the classroom; L&D professionals today have a robust toolkit from which to create high-impact learning experiences. For example, the adoption of blended and mobile learning has helped to increase learner engagement and performance. And learning accessibility is taking the L&D field by storm as organizations work hard to ensure experiences are diverse and inclusive.

Finally, the field has increased its understand of adult learning preferences. Pedagogy now considers a variety of learners, and L&D has grown hyper-personalized, per employee demand. Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching explains that “research on how people learn indicates that people learn best when they use multiple modalities to think about, practice, and encode new content and skills.” L&D is becoming more creative and nuanced when considering learning strategies for its diverse learners.

Changes with learning transfer

The last major L&D shift to occur during the past 15 years is about the what—the knowledge, skills, and abilities learners gain as a result of development. Training professionals have grown much savvier about learning transfer.

The training manual collecting dust on the shelf has been replaced by cohorts who help to extend learning gained through a formal event. These groups facilitate transfer and retention by providing a community for learners to process and reflect, share ideas, and gain new insights before and after a program.

Learning done in the flow of work (also called workflow learning) is a recent trend taking L&D by storm. Considered by some the evolution of performance support, workflow learning includes any learning solution so deeply embedded in a work process that it does not require employees to stop working to learn. According to HR Forecast, workflow learning takes the focus off training and skills mastery because employees gain access to information whenever they want it. Examples of workflow learning solutions include AI and digital coaching.

Workflow learning is designed to achieve learning transfer immediately and to support long-term learning sustainment. Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher in their Talent Development Leader article, “Workflow Learning Has a Mistaken Identity” explain: “Learners need to experience immediate success and move rapidly through the transfer phase to transition from whatever level of skill mastery they have achieved to the beginning stages of job competence. As they do so, they are most certainly learning in the workflow.”

Final thoughts                                                                               

Learning and development are critical for any organization on its journey. As we know so well: The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. Organizations that adopt a growth mindset and use L&D to evolve will be primed to thrive through any future workplace transformation.

Brighter Strategies is pleased to partner with dozens of organizations to build capacity through learning. We work collaboratively with you to design a comprehensive plan that equips your organization’s leaders and employees with the L&D strategy and tools needed to establish patterns of success. Contact us today to learn more.

Capacity Building: A Blueprint

Capacity building, or organizational development, is the process by which organizations obtain, improve, and keep the skills, knowledge, tools, equipment and other resources needed to do their jobs well or better, on a larger scale, to a larger audience, with more impact. Every organization is different, but any building project needs to start with a solid blueprint.

Capacity Building: A Blueprint eBook
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