Seven ways workplace learning will change in 2018

Angus McCarey, CEO of Hive Learning, shares his top seven predictions for workplace learning in 2018

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future,” the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr once said. That seems especially apt in the rapidly-growing digital learning industry which, it has been estimated, will be worth £135 billion in 2018.

What we do know is that lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative, and the way we deliver it is something we discuss on a daily basis with our clients.

These are seven topics that are dominating our plans for 2018:

1. More focus on good habits

For many people, the biggest barrier to progress at work is not the acquisition of knowledge but bad habits. According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for approximately 40% of our behaviours on any given day.

James Clear recently surveyed more than 5000 people to identify the biggest challenges faced when it comes to building better habits. Among the most common answers were, ‘We don’t have time’ and ‘We stop believing in our ability to change’. As James says, “The problem isn’t you. The problem is your strategy.”

Matthew Syed, the world-renowned thinker on the science of high performance and a Hive Learning board adviser, concurs with this view.

“Practising something enough means eventually it becomes ingrained in your sub-conscious,” he says. “Practice, based on scientific evidence, is the key to success.”

Digital support for behavioural change is growing by the day. Apps like Strava and MyFitnessPal provide motivation to millions of athletes worldwide so it makes perfect sense for the same approach to work in business.

When an organisation is able to influence, embed and sustain positive behaviour change, they and their team benefit — so we’ll see more and more companies adopting learning products that support habit creation.

2. More micro, less macro

While macro learning involves a significant time commitment, micro learning activities typically take less than 10 minutes. Until recently, micro learning was primarily used as part of a more developed learning course, but technology now allows us to control what and when we’re learning, which has made micro learning increasingly popular with our clients.

Macro will still have its place. Josh Bersin has identified scenarios where macro and micro learning might apply; early in a role, we need macro learning to get started, enabling us to understand the role, the company, the systems. As we develop in that company, we’ll use micro learning to continuously update our knowledge.

Most learning interactions will be micro in 2018, so your personal and company learning strategy needs to be micro too.

3. More agile learning

Organisations know about the need for agile learning, but how many have accepted it as part of their standard strategy? How many organisations in reality send their teams on a 3-day training course and then never refer to that training again?

Agile learning enables teams to access relevant content quickly to help deal with, as one client put it, ‘Oh sh*t’ moments. It requires a concerted effort from leaders to evaluate the needs of their employees on a regular basis and, crucially, it needs to be easily accessible to employees who can only give a small fraction of the typical working week to training.

By shifting from courses to resources, to quote Nick Shackleton-Jones, you provide continuous learning opportunities – and companies who embrace this agile approach to digital learning will see the benefits in 2018.

4. More APIs, less lonely LMS

A year ago many were predicting the death of LMS. Fosway Group found that over 60% of customers felt their LMS provider was failing to provide good service and only 25% thought their LMS showed innovation.

But the LMS, which was largely designed in the early 2000s, is evolving. As Josh Bersin puts it, ‘LMS vendors, like chameleons, are simply changing their stripes’.

Driving this change are APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), which link new technology with legacy systems like the LMS, by allowing applications to communicate with one another.

For example, an API enables you to play a YouTube video directly in your learning app without leaving the platform.

Like Google and Facebook, APIs can also track your digital activities at work to make all learning experiences as relevant and personal as possible.

The LMS will become less visible to learners, hiding behind APIs, so look to the new generation of API products that can drive everyday usage.

5. Less learning on messaging platforms

Messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Slack are reinventing the digital experience at work, but they have limitations as learning platforms. They do have a role to play — being easy to use and mobile friendly makes them useful when ‘quick fix’ answers are required — but they do not have the structure to encourage learners to build on what they know.

They can be a distraction too. Given how time-poor employees are, anything that threatens to disrupt focus by encouraging incessant use of messaging apps is an obvious threat to productivity.

There are more questions than answers at this stage, and the signs are that if you tried running a learning programme on these platforms in 2017 you won’t be repeating it in 2018.

6. More democratic content

Donald Taylor, a leading L&D analyst, recently conducted a survey of L&D leaders and found that the number one growth area is the topic of personalisation. Each employee’s learning needs are unique to them and the role of HR is now to personalise user learning journeys.

As a result, the emphasis has switched from designing programmes to designing experiences. Collaborative learning, which enables employees to use the vast experience and knowledge of their peers, offers an extremely effective solution.

On the Hive Learning app, a group of 300 senior leaders generated more than 4000 learning interactions in a month. We have found that this collaborative approach is 50% more effective at making learning stick than the traditional learning model.

Instructional design still has a role to play — if the L&D process is decentralised too much there is the threat of learning agendas not aligning with company culture — but bottom-up content creation is growing hugely and will continue to do so in 2018.

7. More mobile learning… at last

We’ve been talking about mobile learning for years, but the reality is that effective mobile learning is only just starting to happen.

We surveyed 50 organisations and found that just 3% of them have already developed a mobile platform for learning. However, 75% said that they would be using one next year, having seen the positive impact mobile learning can have when you get it right on every platform.

Sir Clive Woodward, Hive Learning’s co-founder and Chairman, has for many years used the 3D learning system (Discover, Distil and Do). Now, by adding digital into the equation, 3D has become 4D… and 4D learning will be a real game-changer for businesses in 2018.


From micro to mobile, these are the seven big developments that we believe will shape digital learning in 2018. And by driving behavioural change — in particular the habit of learning — we can ensure that the next 12 months in this fast-evolving industry are as exciting for our clients as they are for us.

Angus McCarey is CEO of Hive Learning, the learning app for teams and organisations, designed to make learning stick.

Through an intuitive, mobile-first platform, Hive Learning gives organisations the opportunity to deliver learning that is bitesize, immediate, collaborative and practical. It is purpose-built to drive engagement and effect a step change in learning behaviour.

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