A Look into the Future of Corporate Learning Departments

With budget planning season in full swing, most L&D executives are reflecting on the past year while also looking ahead to create plans that will maximize learning impact in 2017. Having just wrapped up our inaugural ExecConnect16 conference on Oct. 18-19 which brought together CLOs from leading institutions like Citigroup, Bose, and Dell as well as heads of executive education at leading business schools like MIT, Columbia, Yale, and Berkeley, we had a number of interesting conversations about where corporate learning departments are headed over the next few years with a couple of the most talked about ideas highlighted below.

Shifting to a learner-centered environment

During our university panel discussion on the topic of reimagining executive education, the group painted a picture of where executive education has historically focused and where they see it going in the next few years. Up until now, organizations would send individuals to in-person trainings, throwing as much knowledge at them as possible across a few days, and they wouldn’t retain the majority of what was being taught. Now, the ability to provide virtual training for longer durations (e.g,  6 weeks) significantly improves the embedding of learning. As one head of executive education said, “the big show is over” regarding in-person courses.

But it’s not just that virtual training is more possible now; executive demand for learning has shifted also. Executives’ lives have changed — we now live in a world where we are constantly busy and bombarded with information. Learners simply no longer want the scheduled full day or week-long training sessions that L&D departments are accustomed to delivering.

According to some of our recent research, we found that 90% of executives surveyed said that digital learning fit better with their overall schedules compared to in person training and, perhaps surprisingly, more than half of those executives think that digital learning is better, if not much better at motivating them to actually complete the program. While there could be a number of explanations for the findings, its clear that L&D departments focused on in-person training have yet to catch up with the way that executives would prefer to learn.

 “The Amazon Experience”

At another panel discussion focused on the topic of the future of learning environments at the recent CLO Breakfast Club gathering in Washington D.C., L&D leaders from institutions like Exelon, SurePeople, and Degreed circulated an idea affecting L&D departments they they called “The Amazon Experience.”

Whenever you look at products, or purchase anything from Amazon, they use that information to curate personalized recommendations for other products that you may be interested in with sometimes scary levels of accuracy. When applied to the corporate training world, its not hard to imagine that advances in digital technologies and analytics will have massive impacts in how and when learning occurs.

One of the biggest areas that comes to mind as a use case for the industry using machine learning is the ability to gather information about learners and make predictions for areas that they may need to focus on. LMS provider Pixentia predicted in a blog post earlier this year that “Interactive discovery tools will ask new users about their aspirations and interests, assess their knowledge levels, and recommend learning paths for a user to choose.”

Not only will we be able to pinpoint exactly what type of education people will need in an organization with high accuracy, but we will also have the capability to deliver it right when its needed as opposed to the traditional method of waiting to deliver training until specific periods throughout the year. In fact, one CHRO, a panelist at our recent conference ExecConnect16,  said “They used to talk about just-in-time manufacturing. Now it’s just-in-time learning.”

While its up for debate on what exactly the future will look like, let us know what your thoughts are and for more on the changes facing executive development and the L&D environment.