Work and workplaces were already undergoing massive change, and that was before the year that just was! So, what is now needed from an organisation design point of view? What are the people development and L&D priorities; what new skills do today’s workers want and how do they want to learn? These are big questions to which business leaders must find the answers. Their success and that of their people depends on it. In this article we explore at what people development plans might look like, the latest best practice and some key considerations.

Did you know?

A recent research study found:

  • A +159% increase in CEOs championing L&D objectives compared with a year ago
  • 64% of L&D professionals say reskilling the workforce has become an organisational focus (compared with just 40% saying that they had a ‘strategic, forward-looking approach’ to L&D in 2019, pre- pandemic).

And a separate study by Deloitte revealed that:

  • 53% of people said that between half and all of their workforce will need to change their skills and capabilities in the next three years.

These stats reinforce the fact that L&D is already high up on the people agenda for business leaders. And it is reassuring that they recognise the need to prioritise and ensure strategic alignment of their people development plans. The problem however is that the way in which most companies approach it is just no longer fit for purpose…

Spoiler alert! Most corporate training doesn’t work

Here are just a few stats that prove it:

  • 90% of new skills learned from corporate training are lost within a year (Wall Street Journal)Only 25% of respondents believe that training measurably improves performance (McKinsey)
  • 37% of traditional training leads to learned new skills (Association of Training & Development)

6 trends: The changing face of L&D programmes

Our workplaces, how, when and where we work and learn has changed dramatically over the last decade, often fuelled by technological advancements. The net result of this is that the modern learner is overwhelmed and distracted. This is typified by Josh Bersin’s findings that the average worker spends 25% of their time on emails and checks their phone 150 times a day! On top of that, we are interrupted around 56 times a day (Atlassian).Here are six notable trends on how and what modern learners want…

  1. ‘On demand’ or ‘point of need’ learning

Learning is needed at different times for the modern learner. Most commonly though, it occurs at the point of need. A person will seek out the information (probably through a Google search). The next common scenario arises at evenings and weekends. ‘On the job’ learning is just third on this list, which perhaps shows that modern learners may not be getting what they need from existing e-learning or LMS provisions. This point is further reinforced by the fact that just over a quarter of people do learning during their work commute.

  1. Increasing demand for ‘soft-skills’ training

This trend highlights how modern learners are more empowered and eager for self-led development opportunities, to improve and promote themselves. ‘Body language’, ‘Acing your interview’, ‘Negotiating your salary’ were some of the courses listed in’s top 25 over the last year. These were alongside ‘Emotional intelligence’, ‘Critical thinking’ and other leadership-themed subjects.

  1. Personalised learning journeys

We are seeing increasingly that people on larger development programmes expect to have a personalized journey which will cater to their needs. They want to be able to construct their own learning experience, learn at their own pace and tailor it to how they like to learn – i.e. through reading research or listening to podcasts by themselves. Within this though, they also want the opportunity to collaborate, discuss and share with their network and others undergoing similar development so we must make provisions to enable peer-to-peer learning and interaction.

  1. Engaging experiences

Learning has changed; it is no longer about the product of learning but more about the process of learning – the journey. This could explain why we have seen an increase in topics like gamification, active learning, adaptive learning, and microlearning. With technology, learning is no longer restricted to paper and pencil. Video games or video game elements, the internet, social networks, forums, communication apps, and augmented reality are just a few of the technologies creating more diverse learning systems. Technology can help to provide scaffolding to the learning or to make the learning process easier. It can create learning tools and platforms that provide more action and interaction. Learners are using social media to learn information, share it with others, and discuss it.

  1. Quality & relevance

People have always wanted content of high quality but what we are seeing now is they have no time for anything but exactly what they need. Perhaps reflecting the hectic nature and pace of work, they demand quality and relevance from any training. Think with Google reports that mobile searches that include the term “best” and “____for me” have grown by 80 and 60% respectively, in the last two years. People are hunting for the most useful answers for them/their context or challenge, and are stripping out what’s not helping them. And this point extends too to how the learning is accessed. So, when using technology – learners haven’t the time or patience to search hard for the content/answer they are looking for – so the platform needs to be intuitive/efficient or the learner will simply disengage and try something else.

  1. Inclusive & accessible

More than ever, learning content needs to be applicable and accessible to a global audience. Learning content curators in medium and large sized organisations must consider that the audience is likely of mixed ages, cultures etc – the diversity of the audience has changed exponentially.

Are your L&D plans getting to the root of the issue?

One big reason why L&D initiatives fail is that the training delivered doesn’t address the root issue. The scenario may be that a company has spotted a particular issue and concluded that they need training to fix it. However, addressing this ‘superficial’ problem probably won’t lead to the desired change if it is overlooking a deeper-rooted problem.

A case study example

Many clients have come to us with the same conundrum relating to the feedback culture. Often, they have delivered a ‘market-leading’ programme on giving and receiving feedback and found that nothing changed. In extreme cases, feedback became less frequent! Sadly, such training was doomed to fail before it had even begun because what was missing was a clear understanding of the real problem. There is a myriad of reasons why an organisational culture lacks feedback, and it is totally personal to that business. It could be a lack of psychological safety; a lack of time; a lack of belief; or a lack of will. Culture is complex. Which is why any change initiative can only be a success when it is centred on a confident diagnosis.

Make learning about the journey, not just an event!

Our experience tells us that changing behaviours can only happen when using the correct methodology or process. We know how tricky it is to change existing or develop new behaviours; some research puts the success rate for transfer (implementing or retaining what you’ve learned) at just 37% (i.e. 63% of learners walk away from training and do not achieve any change)!We drew lots on Robert Brinkerhoff’s Courageous Training Model when crafting our recommended approach to learning journeys that enable a higher knowledge transfer ratio. Brinkerhoff’s core idea is that 40% of learning transfer happens during pre-training events, 20% happens during the training itself, and the remaining 40% happens after the training has been completed.So, taking this on board, our belief is that the best way to ensure we create and deliver L&D programmes which truly change behaviour is to make sure the event isn’t the only focus of a learning journey. Below we’ve outlined our 5-stage approach:

ETS learning methodology

Need help designing your next L&D programme?

Whether you have in-house L&D teams or look externally for help with people development, if you only take one thing from this article, let it be this:

“There are no right answers to the wrong questions”

What we’re getting at is the need for that clear diagnosis up front, to give confidence that you are getting to the heart of the issue at hand. This is central to our own approach (outlined below) as it will ensure any new L&D initiative addresses the right things, and that it is well aligned…

  1. Run a ‘deep dive’ diagnosis, speaking with key stakeholders and reviewing available data to pinpoint exactly what is the root cause or challenge area that most needs addressing.
  2. Use this knowledge, and what we know of the organisation’s people and culture to strategize on how best this challenge should be approached – i.e. what support is need and how might it be best delivered.
  3. And, finally, create a tailored programme that fits and will lead to the desired outcomes.