New survey reveals Top 2017 Corporate Learning Trends

If you follow Don Taylor—long-time veteran of the learning space and Chairman of the Learning and Performance Institute—you’ll know that, for the past three years, he’s surveyed L&D professionals from around the world to get a pulse on what they think will be the “hot trends” in corporate learning for the coming year. And, if you follow us, you’ll know that we like to feature Don and Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify, in our first webinar of the year to talk about the survey results and share case studies that highlight these trends in action. Let me tell you, it is ALWAYS an enriching experience.

Don’s survey always asks the same question: What will be hot in L&D in the coming year? So, with nearly 900 voters from 60 countries, and now four years’ worth of data to work with, Don had a particularly abundant amount of information to draw from this time around. He revealed some very interesting insights, and I’d like to share three of those with you now:

1. The personal trumps the collective

For the first time in three years, L&D professionals chose “personalized/adaptive delivery” of training over “collaborative/social learning” as the top learning trend. What’s exciting about this is not just that it moved from second to first place, but that it’s been part of a trend over the past three years:


The drop in rank for “collaborative/social learning” doesn’t mean it’s not important, but that it’s simply becoming more accepted and, therefore, less “hot.” On the other hand, the ranking improvement of the “personalized/adaptive delivery” of training is likely because we can now deliver this sort of learning experience, thanks to algorithms and more advanced training technology. Clearly, learning leaders are seeing the potential of this trend and saying, “We ought to be doing more of this.”

We’ve got a great datasheet on personalized and adaptive learning that you can check out here. We’re also big proponents of social and collaborative learning, having created an entire tool dedicated to helping employees share and access the knowledge they need at the time they need it. You can learn more about that tool here.

2. L&D talks loud, but doesn’t want to put its money where its mouth is

This result was definitely one of the more interesting highlights from the survey. Respondents placed more importance on “showing value” this year than they did last year, and those same respondents were more likely to also place importance on “consulting more deeply with the business.” What we can draw from this is that, while learning leaders say they’re more interested in the business side of learning, they’re not ready or sure of how to do this. We know this because only 5% of those who voted for “showing value” also voted for “developing the L&D function,” which is what companies will need to do if they’re hoping to show the impact of training on the business. So it doesn’t look like they’re quite ready to commit the resources they need to follow through.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to prove the impact of training on the bottom line, you’ll want to watch this webinar we ran on this very subject.

3. The rise of business-focused analytics

Every year, Don sends out the survey with 15 predetermined answer selections and also gives respondents the option to fill in whatever they think might be missing in an “other” section. Then, he asks respondents to select their top three answers. The “other” option can reveal really interesting insights, and this year was no different. Here’s a word cloud that Don put together to visualize the results from the survey:

This image shows the full picture of what learning professionals think is important over the next year. “Digital” is an obvious one. “Performance” is somewhat related to “showing value,” which I mentioned above. “Integrated” is interesting because it shows that L&D is thinking more about how training can be woven into daily work activities.

But I’d like to pull out two words, specifically, because I think they’re both important and revealing of another trend that we might see Don put on his list for next year. That’s “business” and “analytics.” Here at Axonify, we know the importance of measuring the impact of learning on the bottom line and validating the important role training plays in the business. It’s exciting to see the L&D community at large starting to also understand just how powerful it is to be able to finally track the ROI of training. And we look forward to the continued move from just thinking about it to making it a required part of the training process.

These were just a few of the incredible insights that Don shared with us over the course of the webinar. Carol then brought home what these trends actually look like in action through the three case studies she shared. She talked about how Toyota was able to increase its Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) and how its dealer reps were selling, on average, 2 more vehicles per month after implementing a learning platform that delivered personalized and adaptive training. Carol also explained how a modern approach to learning not only brought a huge 95% voluntary participation rate to training among Ethicon’s sales reps, but how the company also increased its sales reps’ confidence in product knowledge by 50%. Finally, she highlighted how Walmart has seen a 54% reduction in safety incidents since implementing an employee knowledge platform, which is a great example of how you can show the business impact of training.

I strongly encourage you to watch the entire recording. The Q&A section was lively as ever, and the conversations that the webinar participants had in the chat was also very informative. Check it out here.

Which trends are you most excited to see come to life in your organization this year? Which trends do you think should have made the list? Tell us below!

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