8 Future Trends in Learning and Development for 2019

What are the future trends in learning and development HR professionals need to be on top of? What are the specific learning trends for millennials?

Over the last 10 years, the learning and development (“L&D”) industry has been forced to be incredibly responsive and adapt to rapid technological and generational shifts.

In the last 10 years alone, technology has drastically changed the way we can learn. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, chatbots, peer-to-peer learning, on-demand learning and mobile learning are disrupting the world of work. These learning trends were unthinkable ways for employees to learn in previous times but now they give us new options for how we learn.

We’ve also witnessed a significant generational shift in the modern workplace. According to research conducted by Catalyst, the largest group in the global workforce today is Millennials, those born between 1980-1994. The next group to keep an eye on is Generation Z (“Gen Z”), those born between 1995-2010.

These Netflix-YouTube generations have their own preferences for how they want to learn and it’s definitely not the traditional classroom approach.

There are unique learning trends for Millennials. They want learning to be self-directed, independent, on-demand and accessible anytime, anywhere.

Leading organisations are already embracing these technological and generational shifts. According to a study conducted by LinkedIn, since 2017, 59% of talent developers are spending more of their budget on online learning and 39% are spending less on instructor-fed training. They also found that mobile learning has been increasing 5% year on year.

These are positive shifts, but are all organisations moving fast enough? According to Deloitte, “many L&D groups are taking positive steps such as adopting agile and self-directed learning models and acquiring new libraries of content…14% said this evolution wasn’t happening fast enough”.

As somebody who, as a leadership coach, workshop instructor and online course creator, uses both in-person and online methods of training, I regularly see learning and development departments who are resistant to implementing new learning methods.

In an attempt to help organisations change their approach to learning  and get a more thorough understanding of how current generations want to learn, I’ve compiled the below list of eight learning and development trends for 2019 and beyond.

These trends are  helpful in understanding the learning trends for Millennials and Generation Z in your organisation.

1. Blended Learning

Blended learning

Blended learning is the first learning trend for Millennials. This is the method that many high performing organisations, such as LG, are adopting. This is the concept of taking traditional classroom instruction and layering it with other methods such as online learning, social learning, augmented reality, virtual reality, and one-on-one coaching to create a more engaged learning experience.

Since we all learn in different ways, offering a variety of options for employees to learn makes sense. Some people (usually extroverts) may thrive in a group or classroom setting, while others (usually introverts) may get more out of online training or one-on-one coaching.

When planning your learning programs for the next 12 months, think about how you can augment traditional classroom training and seminars to provide your employees with more modern, flexible and accessible options.

2. Social Learning

Social Learning, Learning and development trends

Social learning is the second learning trend for Millennials. Much like open office plans, social learning, or peer-to-peer learning, has enabled learning to become a more collaborative experience and less of a top-down approach. Social learning allows employees to share content with each other, recommend resources and get help or information when they need it.

Digital tools are heavily relied upon to make social learning a reality. Some organisations are leveraging chatbots which employees can utilise to ask questions and get advice on how to handle specific issues in real-time.

For other organisations who do not have the technical capability, simple discussion functions like what are used on online learning platforms are enough to encourage collaboration between learners.

Given that social media, in particular LinkedIn, has become a part of our everyday work habit and we’re accustomed to communicating and sharing information with others digitally, social learning would be easily adopted by employees. It’s definitely one of the learning trends for Millennials and Generation Z that you need to consider.

With 23% of organisations planning to offer social learning in the next few years (Udemy for Business, 5 Workplace Learning Trends and 5 Predictions for 2019), it’s definitely one area that all learning and development departments should be looking at.

3. Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning, learning and development trends

Self-directed learning is the third of the learning trends for Millennials. Traditionally, companies have directed their employees and decided on what they should learn and how they should learn it. This is changing with Gen Z and Millennial employees.

These generations want a more self-directed and independent approach to learning. In fact, they expect it and often look for this when deciding whether to take a new job.

They are used to having autonomy and decision-making power when deciding what to watch on Netflix or who to follow on Instagram. It’s only logical they would also demand this in their L&D programs.

Talent developers need to tap into this, especially if they want these generations to be engaged with their learning and development. It can start by sitting down with each employee and creating an individual learning plan based on their career goals, responsibilities, preferences and needs.

It’s extremely important to find a balance between how the employee prefers to learn and what they can easily incorporate into their schedule.

Offering a large library of content in the way of online courses, in-person workshops, seminars, case studies, interviews, podcasts, books and other resources that the L&D department has curated is a great start to enabling self-directed learning in your organisation.

4. On-demand Learning

On-demand learning, learning and development trends

On-demand learning is the fourth of the learning trends for Millennials. According to a 2018 study by LinkedIn, the biggest challenge for learning and development is getting employees to make time for learning. This is where on-demand learning in the form of online courses and video lessons can help eliminate the need for busy employees to take time away from their primary job for learning and development.

It’s also a style of learning that Gen Z and Millennial generations respond to. When they can learn anytime, anywhere, they feel they have more control over their learning and it gives them the independence and self-direction they crave.

On-demand learning is also beneficial for the organisation. When employees take time away from their primary job to attend training, it costs the company in terms of downtime and travel time.

This can easily translate into thousands of dollars for a group of people to attend a one-day training session, not to mention the cost of hiring an expensive in-person trainer.

Because on-demand learning and online courses are so cost effective, any organisation, large or small, can easily integrate them into their learning and development plans. This is definitely a learning trend that is not going away.

5. Micro-Learning/Bite-Size Learning

Micro-learning, learning and development trends

Micro-learning is the fifth of the learning trends for Millennials. Micro-learning is a modern and effective approach to workplace learning. Scrolling through social media has shortened our attention spans and trained us into consuming information in short bursts.

This has fuelled the need for short, targeted, micro-learning modules that can be delivered in less than 10 minutes, preferably in video format.

Micro-learning enables companies to integrate learning into the natural flow of a workday. Since many employees complain in-person training is too disruptive, micro-learning allows them to utilise their downtime, such as transit time, waiting time or lunchtime with learning modules that have been curated for their individual learning path.

This represents a huge shift away from formal training which is delivered in a much longer format and is not easily integrated into a work day. The fact that more L&D departments are spending less on instructor-fed training and more on online training proves this shift is not ending.

6. Mobile Learning

Mobile learning, learning and development trends

Mobile-learning is the sixth of the learning trends for Millennials. Mobile learning is the ideal medium to enable micro-learning. Smartphones are so ingrained in our lives, many organisations are already understanding the need to harness this mobile phone addiction, particularly for Millennials and Gen Z.

Video lessons are the main format used for mobile learning. They are also the most effective as viewers typically retain 95% of what they learn when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when they read it in text format. If the video has added closed captions or interactive titling, this enhances the learning experience even further.

For companies, the ability for employees to learn on-the-go using their mobile phone, makes it easier for them to integrate learning into a workday and helps them get their employees to learn more often.

7. Mentorship and Coaching

Mentorship and Coaching, learning and development trends

Mentoring and coaching is the seventh of the learning trends for Millennials. These are ideal ways to reinforce and complement more independent and self-directed learning methods that are described above. They allow the coach, either somebody internal to the organisation or hired externally, to hone in on specific problem areas that the employee may be having.

This can be difficult to do in online courses as they are designed to reach a larger audience and are often more general in nature. But for some employees, such as high-potential employees, the benefits of assigning a coach or mentor often outweighs the costs involved.

Coaching and mentoring can help people achieve their goals faster, have greater job satisfaction, and increase retention rates. However, for the best results, the employee must be involved in the decision. This would especially be true if the employee is a Millennial or Gen Z and prefers a self-directed, independent style of learning.

8. Soft Skills Learning

Soft skills learning, learning and development trends

Soft skills learning is the eighth of the learning trends for Millennials. As we step into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, automation and artificial intelligence are disrupting the world of work as we know it. We are seeing many jobs become obsolete, and in order to stay current, humans will need to specialise in key soft skills that robots lack.

Skills such as social skills, collaboration, conflict management, communication, time management, storytelling and customer service are key skills to learn today and in the future.

However there is concern that the soft skills gap is widening, particularly with Millennial and Gen Z employees. These generations are tech savvy but soft skills poor. In a 2016 Deloitte study, 90% of respondents rated “soft skills a critical priority”, no doubt linking to the growing Millennial and Gen Z workforce.

Despite this, in most companies, the main focus for training and development still rests on technical skills, and soft skills are often a second thought.

Perhaps it’s due to budget constraints as most learning and development budgets are taken up by necessary technical skill training. If this is true, the case for online, mobile, bite-sized, on-demand training for soft skills couldn’t be stronger.

8 future learning learning and development trends for 2019

Millennials and Gen Z want learning opportunities. Gallup found that 87% of Millennials believe career growth and development opportunities are important when looking for a job.

These generations are also extremely tech savvy. They’ve grown up with Google, You Tube and social media. They’re used to getting the information they need when they need it. It’s because of this generation that the online learning industry is set to balloon into a $325 billion industry by 2025.

Companies have two choices when it comes to learning and development: they can stubbornly ignore the preference for online, mobile, and on-demand learning while watching their employees move to competitors.

Or they can be forward-thinking, open to change and adopt these modern forms of learning into their learning and development plans. Which will you choose?

If you would like to learn about new options for micro-learning, self-directed learning, and on-demand learning around soft skills for your workforce, then take a look at my popular video courses below. Click the image to visit my main video course page.

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About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox