The top five workplace learning trends in 2020

The Learning and Development (L&D) world is changing fast.

A few short decades ago, training took place as part of structured programmes – usually within a classroom-like setting. Today, workers are upskilled remotely via podcasts, video links and webinars.

The technology isn’t all that’s changed, though. The shift towards more agile workplace learning has been even more significant.

2020 is bringing trends that threaten to disrupt the way HR departments coach their people, including greater alignment with business goals and a fresh focus on data.

1) Data literacy

Ten years ago, digital literacy was on every employer’s radar. Now, it’s the ability to digest data that’s really turning heads.

We live in the age of Big Data, when many a corporate decision is informed by analytics, algorithms or datasets. In fact, more than 97% of organisations are investing in data-driven initiatives, according to New Vantage.

At the same time, the public is still woefully underskilled – so organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) are stepping up with specialist development schemes. Expect to see more of these in 2020.

2) Microlearning

On average, just £300 per employee is invested in L&D initiatives in the UK, according to a 2018 report from, and a staggering 1 in 3 businesses set nothing aside for training.

With HR departments struggling to secure buy-in, microlearning is becoming a popular way to introduce learning in a time and cost-efficient way. This type of training is often easier to digest and memorise, too.

3) VR tools

A new, virtual world is becoming a reality – and the technology isn’t reserved for gaming. In fact, it’s making immersive training easier than ever before.

If your industry is hazardous or high-stakes, this type of workplace learning allows employees to try out testing scenarios from the office. This means they can face fears or seek feedback on performance in real time.

4) A motivational focus

Productivity is almost always a core business goal and motivation makes for willing workers. Bizarrely, the ‘m’ word has often been neglected in learning and development circles – until now.

Generous development packages are now viewed as a company benefit – and the very best plans put stimulation at their core. Some providers, such as motivational speaker bureau Speakers Corner, focus on connecting businesses with talented speechmakers for a straightforward dose of motivation.

5) A rise of ‘learning cultures’

It’s been called many things: learning in the flow of work, on-the-job training or simply experience. In 2020, employers are returning to this more simple form of training and injecting new life into it.

The premise is simple: rather than sending workers on intensive courses, incorporate mentoring into each working week. Recognising that continuous learning cannot be substituted, high-flying companies such as Google are formalising the process.

This helps line managers to keep track of milestones that can otherwise slip under the radar, but which are vital to driving employee development. This approach makes it easy for training to happen across departments as well as inside teams.

It looks like this L&D philosophy will only become more relevant as we move through the 2020s. The industry’s future will be defined by lifelong learning, so the ambitious are embedding a culture of continuous information exchange into the heart of what they do.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felip