Key Insights from the frontlines of the 2019 Learning Solutions Conference.

I attend a lot of learning and development (L&D) events. A LOT. For example, during the first three months of this year, I presented as part of ten industry conferences – both in-person and online. Attending these events is an awesome opportunity to share ideas and experiences with the L&D community. But the true value for me comes from the conversations I have with L&D pros, which provide me with real, practical insight into how the industry is evolving.

Industry analysts and professional organizations do a great job reporting on the latest trends and large-scale evolutions in workplace learning. But practitioners (like you) see how these changes are really impacting the frontline in the work they do every day. Immersing myself in the professional community keeps me grounded and shapes the ideas I share in my Axonify work. While I am ever-present online and partner closely with clients, conferences are especially important for me.

Last week, I attended my final event for Q1 2019, the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference and Expo (LSCon) in Orlando, FL. This event is particularly special to me because it was the first conference at which I ever presented. This time around, I delivered a session on helping employees develop a habit of daily learning. Once again, the conference experience helped me dig in to nail a few insights on the direction of workplace learning.

Microlearning is no longer new. It’s the expected way to deliver training.

For the past four years, L&D pros have been debating the concept of microlearning. What is it really? Can it really drive behavior change? The hype was huge. The conversation was messy. But, I’m excited to say we have hit an inflection point. Microlearning principles no longer seem up for debate. They work, and there’s plenty of proof.

At LSCon, I was part of a microlearning panel discussion. The experience was noticeably different than sessions I attended in the past. Frankly, it was refreshing! I didn’t have to argue my points or explain any of the basics. Instead, it was clear here that L&D pros have embraced the idea that training should fit into the everyday realities of our employees, especially those working on the frontline. Now, people want to talk about the HOWs and find practical ideas for executing a microlearning strategy. This progress should help L&D pros refocus their efforts on the many ways microlearning principles can strengthen their overall approach to workplace learning.

Data is shifting from concept to application.

L&D has been trying to catch up with their partners across the business for years when it comes to data. We all know that test scores, completions and surveys can’t take us to the next level when it comes to identifying problems and making an impact on results. But how do we get better? What data should we be tracking? How do we get access to it? Do L&D people have to become data scientists now?

Much like microlearning, I saw a clear inflection in the data conversation. LSCon included several examples of organizations using data in new ways to show the impact of learning on business results. Even the xAPI discussion, which has mostly been focused on tracking user data within online training content, has evolved into a more robust discussion about connecting learning to real-world behaviors and outcomes. There’s still plenty of work to do, but the industry has made a critical shift. The data conversation has changed focus – from content and learning to impact and results.

AI is the real deal.

L&D is rife with trends. It feels like a new concept pops up every two or three years and quickly dominates the conversation. Unfortunately, many of these trends pass before L&D pros can figure out how to apply them. And then, it’s on to the next BIG THING. When it comes to artificial intelligence, which is quickly gearing up to be that next BIG L&D conversation, this simply isn’t the case. Instead, as my discussions at LSCon supported, AI will have a huge impact on workplace learning.

But why is AI so different when compared to other L&D trends, such as social learning? Two reasons. First, AI is a discipline. There are really smart people who have been doing very advanced work on the topic outside the L&D space for decades. Second, as several people shared with me at the conference, AI is already having an impact on businesses. L&D won’t be the one to introduce the organization to AI. Instead, L&D must recognize the impact automation and machine learning are having on the workplace and apply the right techniques to support employees in their changing roles. AI is the key to supporting the scale and pace of modern business, and L&D pros are already starting to explore it.


I want to thank everyone with whom I spoke at LSCon, whether during my sessions or in the hallways. You really made the conference experience an outstanding one for me. While we discussed a range of topics, these three insights stood out as indications of clear progress within the industry.

There are even more great events coming up in 2019 that will give me a chance to further explore these concepts on a global scale, including the ATD International Conference and Expo in May, the Australian Workplace Learning Conference in June and Learning Innovation Africa in September. My full schedule is available online in case we find ourselves at the same activity. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the direction of workplace learning, particularly as it pertains to employees on the frontlines.

JD is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. His practical approach integrates science, technology, storytelling and pure common sense to enable employees, improve performance and drive business results. For 20 years, JD has executed strategies for global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company.

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