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2020 Learning Trends

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‘In man-machine symbiosis, it is man who must adjust; the machines can’t’~ Alan Perlis

The ability to constantly adjust and re-adjust is perhaps the biggest strength of humans. Go back to the invention of electricity or even the internet age that has us gripped for the past 20 years, we have learned to embrace change and make it work for us.

The smartphone era combined with the internet revolution has transformed the way individuals live and connect throughout the world. It has converted an entire generation of people into information-hungry, restless learners with fluid skillsets and the confidence to achieve anything they aspire for.

2019 was the year when Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning grabbed the most spotlights as it got elevated to the reputation of game changer and market-disruptor. The line ‘AI is coming’ was accompanied with a mixed bag of emotions – hope, fear, anxiety and most of all, panic.

But while we were debating on the ills and thrills of AI, it has quietly penetrated into the industry, inching its way into our mainstream lives. Companies like Uber, Ola, Swiggy and even Police departments have adopted AI-powered tools to make data-driven inferences for their fields.

Many others have incorporated machine learning in varying degrees and scope. In fact, as a Dale Carnegie Survey revealed, 70% people felt positive about shedding some of the routine, mundane tasks to machines.

2020 is the year that will witness organizations harmonizing this human-machine partnership and start to benefit from successful match making. A year that will be both promising and fragile in terms of people management, 2020 will ring in a decade of renewed vigour in leadership and learning in the role of catalysts of change.

L&D function has come to the centre stage of organizational needs and the new decade will further strengthen its role in the boardroom. From continuous skill mapping to finesse in customer experience, here are the 7 trends that will be big in the L&D space in 2020 –

1. Beyond the Boundaries of the Organization:
Learning & Development has become a key challenge for the emerging gig economy. As organizations look to hire more and more contingent and contractual workforce, L&D leaders & managers need to find creative and effective ways to bring these workers up to speed with the vision, skills needed and culture at the organization. From onboarding processes to learning essential skills that are required in the project and continuous performance management, HR will play a big part in the success of this new trend. Live Online training, Byte-sized learning will gain in demand as the gig economy becomes larger.

2. Rise of the Era of Soft Skills:
What’s the one thing no machine can ever do better than humans? Be human. The fact is that to be resilient in today’s world, one needs to demonstrate essential skills like creativity, emotional & social intelligence, leadership, communication and critical thinking. There needs to be a renewed focus on soft skills in both organizations and educational institutions. The Dale Carnegie Whitepaper on Organizational Agility talks about the importance of a socially intelligent workforce that is able to effectively collaborate, be creative and manage change as a prerequisite for an agile company. In fact, more than 7 in 10 people chose soft skills over hard (STEM) skills (73% vs. 27%) to remain competitive in the age of AI

3. Finesse to the Forefront:
With more and more organizations choosing to develop in-house learning platforms, the past decade has seen an influx of technology in learning. But if engaging and interesting are some of the key parameters that define the success of modern learning, then it is natural that L&D teams shift their attention to user experience and interface design. Applying design thinking while developing learning applications will be the next big thing in L&D simply because learning technology will have to evolve to become even more user-centric and need-sensitive. This will best be done when L&D teams start testing the efficacy of the solutions with their end users.

4. Learning to be Agile:
Gone are the days when people came with a specific set of skills that were set in concrete and defined their career trajectories. Today, in order to be agile, we need to be constantly evolving, so must our skills. It’s not uncommon to hear people working in roles that are not at all aligned with their degrees or educational skillsets. Agile skillsets help people to stay relevant. The upcoming decade will see ‘jacks-of-all’ outshine ‘masters-of-one’ as organizations reimagine job roles and look for people who can be easily re-skilled.In short, people who are not willing to learn, read and be informed face inevitable obsoletion.

5. Reskilling to the Rescue:
Lay-offs are hard on the workforce. In the longer term, they are harder on the organization. The cost of acquiring new employees and getting them ready to deliver is high and cumbersome. Organizations are likely to undertake large scale reskilling in the new decade to ensure that they have the workforce ready for their new job roles. In fact, many companies are re-investing the savings gained from automation into skilling the employees to be relevant. Indian organizations face the gargantuan task of reskilling almost 40% of the workforce in the skills of the future. The coming year is likely to see a big push in reskilling and upskilling for the future.

6. Shaping Organizational Cultures through Learning:
An organizational culture’s real essence is the unconscious thoughts that drive employees’ decisions & behaviours each day.These thoughts are based on shared assumptions, typically originating with a company’s founder, which employees have successfully applied to solve internal and external challenges over time. Aligning the culture to the environment in which organizations are now competing will be one of the key focusses of learning in the coming year or so. Learning will be expected to harness cultural elements that are well suited to achieving success in the current environment. Leaders too will play a big role in shaping the culture so as to ensure that they are not maladapted to overcoming the challenges they face.

7. Battle Ready L&D teams:
‘Everyone is getting ready for a big battle’. The only thing that helps you win the game is preparation and getting ready.

It’s time that L&D teams come into the forefront of an organization’s strategy and act as an important piece of the success puzzle. Even more than earlier, L&D teams will be expected to make data-driven decisions and become market savvy in their approach. Making sound predictions aligned with the dynamic needs of the market at large is a responsibility that has slowly but surely shifted on the shoulders of the L&D teams. Skill mapping, just like performance management will become a continuous exercise, keeping L&D teams on their toes in the coming decade. The roles played by L&D teams are set to evolve too. From traditionally being facilitators and LMS administrators, L&D teams will also need to have skills like marketing, design thinking, data analysis etc.

2020 in many ways will set the vibes and trends for the coming decade. Amidst vast sociological, technological and political changes, learning will make for a safe anchor for people to rely on for their future. While re-invention of learning has already begun in the last decade, the new decade will be one of finesse, rigour and discipline when it comes to people & skills development.