Building future workplaces

A Retro Look at Learning & Development: Preparing for the Future

Future Skills

The new role of Learning & Development in the post-pandemic era.

A retro look at Learning & Development

There is no doubt that technology will be the backbone of everything Learning & Development will do going ahead. It was slated to take fruition in a few years to come – Covid19 just accelerated it. The context of this technology can be examined through the life cycle of learning and development in any organisation.

Traditionally, learning & development has played a role in providing either remedial interventions of preparatory ones. For example: employees struggling to use a skill at work as part of their current jobs would partake in a remedial intervention.

These Learning & Development interventions would be found in any part of the employee lifecycle from the time they commenced a new role in an organisation right up until the time they separated. Employee induction programs, skill building training, leadership & management development, etc. are some examples of such contextual L&D interventions.Learning & Development

L&D Systems

What has changed?

If you think the pace of change in the workplace has been fast lately, a new report published by Dell Technologies says things are about to get a lot faster.

A 2019 IBM survey showed that, in the future, behavioral skills will be the area with more significant gaps than digital skills.

What the Learning Function of the future will need

“People will change their habits, and some of these habits will stick… there’s a lot of things where people are just slowly shifting and this [pandemic] will accelerate that,” said Susan Athey, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, in a March 2020 article published by The Washington Post, “The New Coronavirus Economy: A Gigantic Experiment Reshaping How We Work and Live.”

Chief Learning Officers will now need to redraw the L&D framework for their organisations with digitization as the main construction material. Some of the facets of the new L&D Avatar mentioned below will be worth considering.

Buildingblocks of the new learning function

Humanizing Digital Learning

While digital learning itself had arrived a long time ago, the challenge ahead is to humanize digital learning. Merely appointing e-learning courses to employees will not be sufficient anymore. Using technology to leverage social learning tools as we continue to stick to adult learning principles will be a key role to be played here. The 70-20-10 principle will need to be re-packaged using tech-enabled methods. The traditional face to face learning (10%) will no doubt be converted to ‘on demand’ e-learning or virtual instructor-led training courses. The 20% – learning with and through others will have to be using social learning platforms like e-Coaching or e-Mentoring. The 70% development through on-the-job application will need to be relentlessly self-governed with employees being given productivity tools to enable such application.

The library of training programs will also need a massive overhauling as we come together to look at new challenges of a new business era. Dell has issued a report arguing that 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented.

In the wake of this reality, our traditional training and development courses like influencing others, decision making, communication skills, etc. will need to be replaced by more pertinent and contemporary skills like virtual empathy, virtual teams, virtual leadership, virtual change management, etc.

Informal & On-Demand Learning Tools

The CLO will need to pivot the focus on making learning self-directed and informal. Building an organisation culture that places trust on its employees to know what they need to learn and prudently use the resources provided by the company will be the key.

More and more instances are seen where employees do not want to learn by spending hours in a virtual or ILT format. The employees of tomorrow are looking at ‘solution-based learning’ where they want to learn on-the-go. This means the heavy burden of providing such on-demand productivity improvement tools will lie on the broadened shoulders of the learning & development team.

Holistic Well-being

More focus on equipping managers with skills on how to address employees’ holistic well-being. With WFH becoming a norm, L&D professionals will need to recalibrate their focus on not just developing functional skills but more holistic employee wellbeing interventions. Creating an environment and culture of psychological safety will be especially important.

Organizational Culture

At Boeing, work on organizational culture transformation was initiated after the two airplane accidents from 2018 and 2019. The change program was focused on building collaboration, innovation, safety, and pride in work, while simultaneously working on improving in areas such as transparency and integration. One traditional FMCG company is know to have moved away from its mechanistic organisation design to form agile ‘crack teams’ to respond to the VUCA markets in India. At Delta, the CEO is doing two town halls each month, and managers are doing two town halls weekly.

Developing the human capital to learn how to cope with agile environments and be ahead of the change curve will be one of the key shifts L&D professionals will need to create from a cultural standpoint.

Building Adaptability & Resilience

With agile ways of working comes the need for experimentation and failure. Waterfall methods for anything is passé. Businesses will need to learn to thrive on lean, MVP methodologies for everything they do. Ergo, developing adaptability and resilience will take center stage for L&D professionals as employees start ‘failing fast’ in sprint like work cycles.


Overall, there is a felt need to amalgamate the distinction between givers and takers of workplace learning and development. We moved from centralized learning to decentralized learning in the post millennium period. Now we need to move from decentralized learning to distributed, social learning systems. Creating a global open source platform for learning and development is the felt need of the hour and L&D professionals will need to up the ante. Long live change, long live human resilience – the future is here and its exciting!