L&D trends in 2020

2020 will be the year learning and development shifts up a gear, says Tiffany Harper.

Reading time: 6 minutes

This is the era of the millennials. With increasing competition in the academic and corporate world, effective learning and development has become a key concern for all those who want to exceed and not be left behind.

Studies have revealed that millennial workers give more value to skills acquisition and career enhancement opportunities, as compared to financial rewards and compensation.

This puts organisations at risk of higher employee turnover, as employees tend to switch jobs faster if they don’t see opportunities for growth in their current role.

As a result, many firms have started to invest heavily in learning and development programmes designed to coach ambitious workers to utilise their maximum potential and boost their productivity levels.

The Compensation Best Practices Report published by Payscale in 2016 showed that 58% of companies strategised on raising the budget allocated for learning and development opportunities for employees in the coming year.

This rise in budget has along brought along a shift in learning and development trends. Here are the few top trends to consider for 2020.

Catering to all levels

For any L&D programme to be successful, it needs to have a clearly defined and definitely objective. The training course and its contents should cater to employees at all levels.

 A good course can be formulated with either a ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ approach. In top-down, the management dictates the requirements, whereas in bottom-up, the ground-level staff determine the primary goals based on their experience of dealing directly with customers.

Giving importance to frontline staff feedback helps to increase employee retention. It encourages these workers to play an active role in the company’s strategic decisions, so that organisational objectives can be in line with each employee’s individual goals.

This is turn brings about desired results in the form of positive ROI for the firm.

Virtual learning practices

The trend for coaching classes and L&D programmes conducted in corporate offices is changing from classroom sessions to web-based, virtually broadcasted learning sessions.

With the rise of so many other digital platforms, the trend to offer flash courses is declining

This contemporary approach incurs lower cost overruns and is convenient for both the instructors and employees.

Workers can access recorded webinars at any time, from any place, without disturbing their routine work schedules.

Conducting classes or webinars online also enhances digital talent among the staff.

Rachel Burstein wrote in Harvard Business Review that webinars are increasingly getting popular as an effective means of L&D in many for-profit organisations such as Procter and Gamble, Red Cross, LinkedIn, as well as professional associations like American Medical Association.

This does not mean that the trend for the conventional training methods is completely over. In some offices, sessions are still held in groups, where one trainer makes a presentation to everyone in-person.

But even in such sessions, whiteboards are usually replaced with smart TVs and other electronic devices.

User experience – the major concern

With so much information available on the internet nowadays, learners have a wide range of sources to choose from. Content is everywhere, but every medium gives a different user experience (UX) to viewers.

Companies are constantly struggling to enhance user experience to make their L&D efforts more effective.

If UX is not good, learners tend to lose interest within the first few minutes of a programme, wasting the costs invested in preparing it.

One way to provide good user experience is to keep it engaging and interactive.

Many companies are developing end-to-end L&D programmes whereby learners get a thorough chance to give feedback, ask questions and carry out assessments to test their learning at the end of the course.

Other ways to enhance user experience include the following:

  • Course elements should be easy to access.
  • Sufficient input control (e.g. buttons, drop-down menus) should be provided.
  • Informational components (e.g. progress bars, helpful tips) should be abundant.
  • Content should be relevant to the role of the employee.
  • Tone should be personalised.

Gerry Griffin, the founder of Skill Pill, writes in detail on these points in his article on tips for creating a learner centric experience.

Decline of flash courses

Flash courses, with supported interactive media, have been a popular training and development strategy in organisations for a while.

But with the rise of so many other digital platforms, the trend to offer flash courses is declining.

Companies that still plan to use flash-based learning in 2020 will need to convert and reformat their courses, which could significantly bring down the ROI.

The lines separating professional and private lives will get blurred and a lot of overlap will be found in people’s work life and personal time

All content will need to be reformatted into HTML5, and appropriate authoring tools will need to be used to create fresh courses.

As reported by Adobe, flash courses will become obsolete in 2020.

More real-time solutions

As employees’ learning approach changes, managers and employers get a chance to create more real-time L&D solutions.

This crossover of responsibility allows employers to assist their subordinates in getting quicker feedback to work scenarios.

Jane Jeffrey says in AustralianWritings: “Real-time learning solutions are developed to enhance the ability of the workforce to directly solve implementation problems in their respective roles, instead of waiting for past experiences to be documented at the end of every project.”

Blurring of professional and private lines

In the struggle to establish proper work-life harmony, the workers of today tend to make use of career enhancement opportunities during their leisure time.

This means in 2020, we’ll see the rising trend of people going through L&D programmes on the train, in coffee shops or even at home.

The lines separating professional and private lives will get blurred and a lot of overlap will be found in people’s work life and personal time.

The millennials are tuned to view life as a whole, and learning opportunities are ways for them to nourish this wholesomeness.

In her article, professional writer and organisational psychologist Karen Meager says: “Multitasking is a good way for getting things done.”

This is the concept that makes these millennials make the best of their time by doing multiple chores together.

Mobile devices to drive the way

The most commonly used ‘on the go’ approach to learning is using mobile devices. L&D courses that are easily accessible through mobile devices will be most popular.



Creative courses with swift interactions are quite effective in influencing work practices and behaviours.

Some of the methods that enhance learning processes with the use of mobile devices are as follows:

  • Features such as five-minute downloads.
  • Wiki-forums for individuals.
  • Instant transfers, of course, and work files.
  • Instant course and information uploads.

An employee of Cisco, Adam Grennan, states: “The ability to constantly innovate or disrupt markets relies heavily on the availability of mobile platforms.”

Gamification – the new evolution

Gamification is defined as the use of game elements in different non-game contexts. It helps in enhancing skills and knowledge of the person playing the game in a subconscious way.

This creates love towards learning among workers and rids them of the view of seeing training as a burdensome task.

Gamification as a means of learning opportunities is becoming the trend for 2020. As MIT stated: “Gamification has incredible potential for learning and education. It teaches people to practice persistence, attention to detail, risk-taking and problem-solving skills.”

In short, 2020 will be the year when learning and development will shift gear from being viewed as an isolated activity to a culture that’s relevant and beneficial to the needs of employees as well as managers.

It is better for more and more organisations to adopt these inevitable changes for more effective learning and development of the staff.


About the author

Tiffany Harper is a freelance writer based in New York.


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