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Three Key L&D Themes for 2020

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Nick Ramsay

Out with the old, in with the new! As we kick off the New Year, it would be great if I could peer into my crystal ball and predict every trend that my clients are going to be interested in 2020.  

But even if I could, would it matter? Trends and technology for technology’s sake won’t help my customers engage any better with their learners in the long term. 

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the news that 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. Melinda Gates says to focus on a keyword instead of specific goals (and if it’s good enough for Bill Gates’ better half, it’s good enough for me!). So this New Year, instead of focusing on flash-in-the-pan trends, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about 3 key learning and development themes I believe will be important in 2020.

1. Effectively measuring the impact of learning

Corporate training budgets have been on the rise these last few years, but whilst enjoying greater funding, L&D decisionmakers I work with are also under increased pressure from the C-suite to demonstrate meaningful results. Expectations for corporate training outcomes are evolving beyond one-off demonstrations of comprehension. Organisations want their learners to leave a training course and be able to apply what they’ve learned during the flow of work. But defining impact can be tricky.  

Impact is in the eye of the beholder 

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Stakeholders approach the question of impact from different perspectives. For training managers, measuring impact can be about gathering long-term data on individual learners’ performance so that they can support personnel who require further intervention. For departmental decisionmakers, results may not be about the learners themselves, but measuring changes in customer satisfaction, health and safety incidents, or financial performance, depending on the industry. For the learners themselves, impact may be a more subjective reporting of their own confidence in a role over time.  

Impact is also about timescale as much as outcomes. If you hand learners an evaluation at the end of a rousing two-day training, they may rate it highly. But if there’s no follow-up support, ask them again in 6 months about whether they’ve been able to apply what they were taught and you may get a very different answer.   

In order to develop measurement tools that matter and are useful to organisations, don’t start by crunching numbers, start by engaging stakeholders at all levels about how they would define the success of learning outcomes.  

2. Align learning to the objectives of your organisation  

Learning design shouldn't happen in the confines of a single departments’ objectives. For organisational training to create meaningful business impact, the objectives of discreet training resources need to be linked to broader organisational goals.  

At Junction-18, we make it a priority to learn about the business mission, because to us, good learning isn’t about box-ticking requirements. Done right, it’s an opportunity to reinforce organisational culture and empower employees to understand how and why their actions contribute to the mission and values.  

Organisations that treat their L&D departments as siloed from the rest of the business are likely missing out on opportunities to build trust with employees.  

3. Create content that learners care about 

This is a timeless theme in learning and development. Regardless of changing technology, the best L&D professionals I know are engaged in a never-ending mission to push themselves and their organisations to provide content that enriches their learners’ development.  

To do that well, learners need to continue to be the central focus. L&D can take a few cues from marketing here. Think of your learners as your customers and engage with them on a regular basis about what they need and want in order to better perform in their roles. If you become out of touch with what your customers want, how can you produce content to satisfy their expectations?

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At the same time, take proactive steps to identify what they need from results and data, such as client satisfaction ratings or compliance breaches. We all have blind spots, and learners don't always know what they don't know. By combining both perspectives, we are most likely to meet all learners’ needs and wants.

Finally, if you are engaging external vendors to help you create learning content, choose one that treats you like a partner, gets to know your learners, and cares about understanding your organisation’s needs before proposing solutions.  

If these themes are on your mind this year, email me at nick.ramsay@junction-18.com and let’s have a conversation about how we may be able to help you and your learners in 2020.