New Decade of L&D: Answers about what lies ahead


While 2020 may not have started out the way anyone imagined, this new decade promises exciting trends for those who work in L&D.

To highlight what we can expect, Inkling recently held a live webinar entitled “New Decade of Learning & Development: What’s Here & What’s Coming?” Our guest host Dani Johnson, co-founder and Principal Analyst at RedThread Research, studies “people” trends to help organizational leaders make better decisions about their employees.

When forecasting the direction L&D is heading, Dani sees three main shifts emerging around how organizations see employees, how L&D teams do their job, and how technology is used.

The webinar included a live Q&A, and Dani was kind enough to answer all attendee questions. Below are her responses to the questions we didn’t have time to address during the webinar itself.

New research on responsive organizations

The first five questions revolve around a shift in how companies view employees and new RedThread research that Dani shared. This study uncovered a correlation between companies that invest in developing employees (rather than hiring externally) and those more likely to be “responsive” organizations, i.e. better able to respond to external disruptions and opportunities.

To arrive at its findings, RedThread segmented organizations into four levels, with Level 4 representing the most responsive organizations.

Q: How did you segment organizations across the four levels?
A: Organizations were segmented based on what we called a “responsivity” score, which consisted of questions around how well organizations are able to innovate, respond to the market, and meet business goals.

Q: How many organizations participated?
A: Approximately 350 organizations took part in our research.

Q: Do you feel the Level 4 companies were already focused on the areas you outlined for success in the future, or is it that they are just spending more time?
A: Wherever organizations focus, they also tend to spend more time. The model is additive, so organizations at the higher levels are doing the things at the lower levels to a much greater extent already.

Q: How can employees get employers to buy into this way of seeing their staff?
A: In our experience, this change is often led from the top. That said, employees have more power than they often claim. Continually pressing on managers for development experiences, feedback, and stretch assignments (particularly in situations where the employee has thought through possible solutions or asks) is useful to the employee (get what’s needed) and the manager (receive help prioritizing development of the team).

Q: Love the new study. I assume there is a depth to it that shows economic benefit and how to adapt to that methodology?
A: Absolutely. Our final report will be published around May 20th, but we’ve been conducting roundtables with leaders and publishing the results. They can be found at https://redthreadresearch.com.

Technology use in L&D

Dani explained the three L&D shifts she anticipates in the decade ahead, and the third shift focused on how we use technology. The following attendee questions probed further into this topic.

Q: What research or experience with augmented, mixed, or virtual reality have you done or seen?
A: I’ve done and seen a lot, as this topic represents an interesting area that’s been around for about 30 years. Originally, AR and VR were geared more towards replicating dangerous situations so that employees could practice in safety. However, prices have come down recently, and we’re seeing different sorts of applications: customer service, diversity & inclusion training, and public speaking, etc. While there’s a place for AR, VR, and the like, it shouldn’t be used for everything. In many situations, it’s still cost- or environment- or equipment-prohibitive and can be replaced by other types of learning experiences.

Q: What are the best technologies used for nudges?
A: We’ve seen a lot. The best depends on what you’re trying to do, as they have different purposes. Some that have recently been reviewed by us include humu, Arist, and Loop. Many of the larger players are also building nudging capabilities into their solutions.

Q: Can you give me an example of an application for “coaches on the shoulder”?
A: cultivate.ai comes to mind. They look at your email data and help you understand and respond to employees, based on your communication and engagement trends with them.

Q: Where can we access the information you shared on ecosystems?
A: You can find it in a report called the The Rise of the Learning Tech Ecosystems from RedThread Research.

How we tackle the decade ahead

Dani’s presentation inspired great questions from attendees while also clearly outlining what trends we can expect in the years to come. It’s an exciting time to be part of an L&D organization, and opportunities abound to shift our perspectives on how we see employees, how we do our L&D jobs, and how we use technology.

Discover more about upcoming L&D trends and hear firsthand from RedThread Research’s Dani Johnson by watching the full webinar.