Tech trends come and go, but L&D (learning and development) professionals have to know how to cut through the noise. Keeping a pulse on the next big thing is crucial for steering company time and resources in the right direction.

Every year since 2014, Don H. Taylor, Chairman of the UK-based Learning Performance Institute, asks over 1000 L&D leaders worldwide one question:

What will be hot in workplace L&D this year?

Hot L&D trends for 2018

The L&D Global Sentiment Survey conducts this poll throughout the global L&D community and, in Don’s words “differentiates from trends which are a flash in the pan, thorny issues that just won’t go away, and trends which have moved from being hot topics to being part of our daily work.”

We wanted to give you a preview into the results, so we chatted with Don to get the inside scoop.

Here’s what corporate learning trends to watch out for in 2018 — from the winners, to the losers, to what may revolutionize L&D in a way we’ve never experienced before:

L&D Global Sentiment
Survey 2018

Personalized/ adaptive learning11.9%
Collaborative/social learning10.11%
Artificial Intelligence9%
Consulting more deeply with the business8.51%
Microlearning7.84%
Showing value7.06%
Virtual and augmented reality6.87%
Next generation learning platforms6.58%
Curation6.24%
Mobile delivery5.71%
Developing the L&D function4.5%
Neuroscience/cognitive science 4.5%
Video4.35%
Games/gamification3.39%
Other2.23%
MOOCs1.21%

The winners

While their stranglehold on the “hottest” position is waning, personalized/adaptive delivery and social/collaborative learning remain entrenched in 1st and 2nd place respectively. Both, however, continue to evolve and grow in terms of new technologies and innovative approaches which ensures the continued interest and attention of L&D.

The surprise?

Taylor points to microlearning’s drop to 5th place on the survey, after climbing to 3rd place last year, as a bit of a surprise — at least on the surface. He explains that when a new technology explodes onto the scene, it often becomes very hot and top of mind. Then, people move on and focus on the next big thing. But, that doesn’t mean the technology isn’t working. It just means the attention has shifted to the next hottest thing hitting the market. Now that people are familiar with microlearning, Taylor says that “hopefully, this means the people using microlearning are doing so because it’s right for them and not just because it’s the latest thing.”

Holding steady

Slightly farther down the list, but still holding steady for the last few years, is consulting more deeply with business and showing value at 4th and 6th place respectively. Taylor sees an important takeaway here: although L&D professionals view demonstrating value as important, they’re just not sure how to do it. “We’ve moved from an era when training was simply something done to people,” explains Taylor, “to an era where people are crucial to the business.” This shift has drawn more internal attention on the L&D function. But the issue is, no one — management nor L&D — know how to measure this value. Taylor argues the answer here is performance consulting, but he also adds, this will require both a re-think of L&D’s relationship with management and a brand-new set of skills for L&D professionals.

The inevitable

A decline in votes can happen for two reasons. The topic has either become more mainstream and therefore less hot, or it’s something L&D feels is important but isn’t quite sure how to fit into their programs.

Mobile learning fits into the first category — it fell from 1st place to 10th. On the surface, this drop may seem surprising but Taylor believes it was an inevitable tumble. “It’s a reflection of the fact that while in 2014 smart devices were the latest, hottest thing, today they are a part of our everyday lives. We learn through them all the time.” So, the fact that it is so familiar means it’s no longer deemed hot. “Which is as it should be,” adds Taylor.

The loser

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are one of those ideas L&D has been unable to find a way to use. MOOCs clung to the bottom of the list in 2018, just as they did last year — this is a big change from 2014 when they were near the top. Despite the obvious value in having access to free courses from leading academic institutions, Taylor says most L&D professionals are unable to find high-quality courses that are the right fit for their organization. And, he adds, employees are simply too busy today to help themselves.

The revolutionary

Really, the true value of this survey is to silence the noise in the marketplace. It can help L&D determine which technology trends and approaches are worth paying attention to and, more importantly, what has the capacity to revolutionize L&D.

As someone who has run the Learning Technologies Conference in London for 18 years, Taylor has seen fads come and go. But, nothing comes close to having the revolutionary impact he predicts one corporate learning trend will have: artificial intelligence (AI).

It dwarfs everything else. “I can honestly say, I have never seen anything with as much disruptive power for the way we work, and the way we live our lives, as AI,” he says. L&D roles like manual curation of content will likely become redundant, but it also has the capacity to expand our ability to personalize learning and create learning paths for individuals. Chatbots, algorithms for personalization, and smart content recommendations will become part of the L&D norm. “It will entirely alter our perception of learning resources, and with that, the nature of what it means to be in L&D,” predicts Taylor.

The survey offers a glimpse into what global L&D leaders see as important, but it also provides insight into what’s already commonplace or simply not useful despite an excess of hype. It all comes back to the question of value: “If we’re not producing courses, what are we doing?” Taylor asks. He foresees L&D placing a bigger focus on working closely with the business to improve performance — with AI being the driver for much of that improved performance.

Laura Martin

Author: Laura Martin

Laura loves nothing more than to roll up her sleeves and dig in. She’s a process person: give her a blank slate of a business and watch as she takes it from obscure to renowned—and beyond. It’s exactly what she did when she launched Axonify’s strategic marketing efforts and put the company on the map. As VP of Marketing Laura’s a big part of why we’re so personable and charming, and her verve fuels our push to shake up the learning space with leading-edge thinking.

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