Skip to main content


The future of learning and development: What HR needs to know

L&D has changed forever.

David Howell


Unleash Your Learning and Development Learning and development has changed as a result of the pandemic. Here’s what HR leaders need to know to succeed in 2021 and beyond.

  • Today, and with a range of options, CHROs can build a suite of applications tailored to the training and educational goals they have set.
  • But the pandemic has completely transformed the learning experience for employees everywhere.
  • Here’s a look at what technologies are working and what vendors, and HR leaders, need to do better.

Every smart business owner will know their workforce is a precious asset that must be nurtured to ensure long-term productivity is maintained.

Training and education have always been a component of HR support. And with a range of technologies and platforms available, world-class learning should be commonplace.

The reality, however, is that many enterprises struggle to design strategic learning and education with engaging experiences using innovative technologies.

According to the CIPD’s (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) People Profession Survey 2020, learning was a key people area for both employers (42%) and people professionals (36%) before the COVID-19 outbreak; however, training and development is no longer an area receiving immediate attention within businesses.

These results are also supported by EdCast, who concluded: “Despite the availability of cutting-edge learning tools and technologies and organizations recognizing the importance and benefits of using them in learning, over 75% of them are yet to make technology an ally in this journey of skilling and make a real shift from traditional learning technologies used in the past.”

Chief human resources officers (CHROs) can see that great employee experiences are now a commercial imperative. According to research from Adobe, C-suite executives are 33% more likely than other respondents to view attracting and retaining talent as a chief concern for 2020.

Focus is also turning to learning as a strategic function that can add capabilities and fuel transformation programs. CX leaders are significantly more likely to invest in training and skills development to accomplish their goals.

Speaking to UNLEASH, Jonathan Satchell, CEO at Learning Technologies Group, said enterprises need a new approach when using technology to deliver L&D initiatives:

“Organizations need to modernize their approach to L&D from traditional classroom learning which has been in use for years. The pandemic prompted an immediate and large-scale shift to online learning, but simply switching the channel of delivery is not enough. We’re even starting to see banks and financial institutions embrace games and XR (Extended Reality) immersive technology in their learning programs — something we wouldn’t have seen three to four years ago and hopefully a sign that business is beginning to engage seriously with the need for effective L&D.”

Technical solutions

Today, and with a range of options, CHROs can build a suite of applications tailored to the training and educational goals they have set.

According to EdCast, mobile learning has emerged as the top tech trend, with 65% of the organizations already implementing it and 17% planning to implement it within the following year.

Also, social learning, gamification, personalized learning experiences, and the use of AI are reported to be on the training development roadmap for 50% of the businesses surveyed.

Tools such as SAP’s SuccessFactors engage with a workforce and move learning to become an experience-led event.

Oracle’s HCM Cloud, designed to streamline the HR process, plus Workplace from Facebook, and services from companies including PeopleSpheres, TI People, and 360Learning are all shifting L&D functions to become multichannel, multi-faceted experiences that all employees can use to enhance their skills and expertise.

CHROs must also leverage the data they are collecting. Understanding how practical any given L&D application is must have a robust analytical approach. “A number of organizations are using Watershed, a learning analytics platform, so they can actually measure and prove the impact of learning,” Satchell.

“Visa worked with Watershed to develop a data-driven digital learning ecosystem that was accessible wherever an employee might be. Watershed has enabled Visa to provide personalized recommendations to users, better engage with learners regarding strategic business needs, and identify trends and correlations. Six months after launch, 80% of the company had interacted with the digital campus, and learning is now a core part of the organization’s brand.

The issue, though, is “that data storytelling for L&D can be a tricky business,” says Sarah-Jane McQueen, general manager at CoursesOnline.

“There are really good examples of L&D tools with great analytics such as Elucidat but there are practical challenges in measuring the effectiveness of learning programs consistently. Also, demonstrating how this aligns and supports achievement against wider business goals and objectives, which is crucial for the modern L&D function. Add to that a multiplatform or multichannel learning experience with an array of data sets and then the results are even harder to condense into a dashboard with one single source of truth.”

And new learning environments are also rapidly evolving for CHROs to take advantage of. Nestlé, for example, is one of those businesses using VR to solve the challenges they face when delivering learning and development to their employees. Richard Hess, the immersive experience lead at Nestlé, says, “It gives employees an environment to learn and the ability to “fail’ that is more impactful than in a traditional training environment.”

Justin Parry, COO, and co-founder of enterprise VR training company Immerse, add: “A recent PwC study found that employees who had participated in VR training said they felt 40% more confident to act on their training than classroom learners and 35% more confident than e-learners. Therefore, it is imperative that CHROs design experiences and not just learning events to ensure their employees are learning both more effectively and more efficiently.”

Integrated learning

As businesses moved to remote mass working, for CHROs, delivering the L&D strategy they have designed has proven to be challenging to say the least.

The conclusions from research carried out by the CIPD revealed that three in 10 (29%) employees don’t receive training to support their professional development while working in a ‘hybrid’ environment, according to new research from Lane4. Some 47% either didn’t receive training at all or felt like the training they received wasn’t helpful for hybrid working.

“Intelligent learning solutions that provide employees with engaging and tailored learning paths, are the solution for many forward-thinking companies as it enables them to meet everyone’s requirements while encouraging them to take control over their own learning,” says Agata Nowakowska, AVP, EMEA, Skillsoft. 

Nowakowska continued: “Employees can learn on the go, whether that means doing an eLearning module at their desk or watching a video whilst on their train journey home. Organizations can create a happier and more productive workforce. Indeed, businesses with a strong learning culture have around 30-50% increased retention rates than those that don’t. If we can create good learning habits right now, it will stand us in good stead to be able to carry them through into the future.”

Janice Burns, chief career experience officer at Degreed and former chief learning officer at Mastercard, also concluded: “The focus for L&D technologies in this new world must be on tracking all forms of learning, formal and informal, on-the-job, on-site, online and everything in between. Consolidating data from different learning opportunities and various technologies will be a CHRO’s biggest challenge in the coming years.”

What should a business’s learning architecture look like? Understanding the L&D aspirations of a workforce is central, followed by a detailed and agile delivery strategy.

Learning is now an experience that should be an integral part of work – no matter where that work takes place. Technology can deliver L&D programs in many forms, but CHROs also need to become data analytics experts.

Understanding how L&D technologies are delivering their outputs and how – via a feedback loop – can be used to influence how these tools are used in the future. This is critical for anyone connected to HR.

More like this

It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.