Prediction: Learning will go to where work happens

Posted by Julie Hiipakka on December 3, 2018.

As organizations struggle with the fundamental challenge of defining and enabling productivity, HR functions such as rewards, performance management, and leadership are facing the need to shift mindsets and approaches. Learning and development teams are at the same crossroads.

There is increased recognition that people are teaching themselves to do new things to adapt to changes in their personal or working lives. Yet they tend not to define this activity as learning because it’s happening naturally—and pretty much invisibly. At the same time, this phenomenon is not necessarily improving the day-to-day experience of people at work. Employees are overwhelmed and disengaged; they increasingly crave and expect their organizations to help them succeed with experiences similar to what they get as consumers.

The good news? The technologies that help stage learning and experiences, create conditions, and augment performance are more pervasive and accessible. In the year ahead, L&D leaders will seize the opportunity to do different things at scale to make learning in the flow of work prevalent.

L&D leaders will (finally!) stop building and measuring “training” as discrete programs.

For years, many L&D leaders have focused on building training that’s pushed out to employees in offsite locations, or on topics tangential to their actual work. This old approach isn’t effective, and yet many have failed to let go of these habits.

L&D leaders need to realize that learning activity does not predict business outcomes, and they should acknowledge that the metrics of learning hours and course completions don’t share the full picture of what learning is and the impact it delivers. Confronted with this reality, L&D leaders will start to build less training and spend less time measuring participation. However, L&D professionals have banked their careers on building training, so the thought of not doing so is a major shift. What will they do instead?

L&D leaders will facilitate learning in the flow of work for workers and their organizations.

In 2019, L&D leaders will focus on enabling the systems and processes to help workers perform. Using the principles and elements of design thinking, they will gain a deeper understanding of workers by observing and talking with them to better appreciate the complexity and mix of tasks workers face. Through this process, L&D leaders will then partner more effectively with business leaders to identify—and remove—obstacles to performance. L&D will be better able to document the employee and worker experience through the development of personas and journey maps, which will aid in the ability to offer potential solutions that more directly speak to the issues at hand.

L&D will shift to using performance data instead of learning metrics.

As mentioned earlier, historical training metrics don’t give the whole picture of what learning is. So, what does? Quantitative and qualitative performance data shared in real time helps employees, teams, and units learn what works and doesn’t on the fly. For instance, salespeople could use an app on a mobile device to see where they are against their sales goal during the last hour of their shift, or call center workers could see their average call handling time. In 2019, it’ll be much more commonplace for organizations to make that data transparent and usable by all.

Focusing on and sharing performance data reduces complexity for workers. Individuals, teams, and organizational targets can orient toward the same outcomes, limiting the mental clutter of goals that feel unrelated to what the business is trying to do.

Organizations will recognize, leverage, and celebrate the learning happening organically to make it more prominent.

L&D leaders will support their organizations in highlighting enterprisewide how learning is happening in the flow of work. xAPI and learning record stores, for example, capture evidence of that learning, however it happens, and make it visible to individuals and their organizations. This must be complemented by reflecting mindfully—to help individuals recognize what was learned from those activities and how it impacted the individual, team, and organization. Rituals that celebrate natural learning—talking about learning from mistakes, rewarding measured risk-taking and experimentation—can be encouraged by L&D and embraced by business leaders to create a learning culture.

Looking Ahead

L&D leaders are ready to really understand how people are doing their work day-to-day, help the workforce understand how well they are doing, and then provide them with the tools and knowledge to do even better. How organizations are making this shift will be a focus of our research in 2019. Stay tuned for more!

Every day from November 27 through December 7, Bersin will be sharing perspectives on the most timely, relevant, and interesting developments for HR professionals to watch in 2019. Check back daily, or visit on December 18 for a consolidated report with all of the predictions.

Julie HiipakkaJulie Hiipakka, is vice president and learning research leader with Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Leave a Reply