TalentLearning & DevelopmentHRD Thought Leaders on L&D in 2020

HRD Thought Leaders on L&D in 2020

Gathering perspectives on one of the most pressing issues faced by leaders this year.

In this special end-of-year series, our panel of renowned HR experts and influencers dissect some of the most pressing issues brought to light by recent events. In this edition, L&D in 2020 goes under the microscope.


2020 has been a revolutionary year for HR. From strategic overhauls to technological transformation, additional visibility plus new demands for support, leaders in every sector have experienced significant change, with progress only set to continue in the time ahead.

That said, not every leader has had an identical experience; regional differences, organizational culture and employee needs are all variable factors, meaning that each leader essentially has a tailored set of challenges and opportunities to respond to.

To that end, learning from peers, picking up actionable tips and discovering first-hand experiences are vital to refining strategies for 2021.

Jill Christensen

Employee engagement expert and best-selling author – @JillSpeaker

Lack of learning and development, and a career plan/the ability to move up, is one of the main reasons employees tender their resignation notice.

Managers must partner with employees to develop a robust plan for each worker that fulfils their innate need to learn, grow, develop, move up, and realize success (however the employee defines that). A great place to start? Include it in performance management and it won’t be forgotten.

Chuck Heaton

People & culture expert and senior HR consultant

2020 has seen a massive upskilling effort to convert company systems to support remote work. A multitude of platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype and Webex have become the go-to systems companies rely on daily to maintain operations.

If your L&D strategy did not incorporate online learning, it does now. This upskilling effort will continue into 2021 as organizational digital strategies will require real-time, on-demand L&D.

Jon Ingham

Author and consultant – @JonIngham

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I think L&D in 2020 has been about getting to grips with understanding and influencing how people learn and perform. There are many different aspects of this, including curating content and experience, AI based personalisation, and more.

Personally, I don’t think the training course is going to disappear, but it can certainly be delivered in a more effective way, and in a remote environment this really is a necessity.

For example, in my Strategic HR Academy, rather than spending time talking with (or at?) a group of people, my courses are pre-recorded / assembled, questions and activities are provided through study groups and learning forums, and the time we do get together on Zoom is used for sharing participants’ insights, and discussing application of my inputs within their own organisations. Building on L&D in 2020, I’d suggest more HR leaders should consider these flipped training courses during 2021.

Heidi Lynn Kurter

Leadership expert, workplace culture consultant and Forbes senior contributor – @HeidiLynneCo

As companies have plunged into the digital workplace faster than they were prepared for, L&D in 2020 has opened up new opportunities and required employees to adopt new skills. Older workers especially, have struggled to adapt as quickly as the newer generations. For this reason, companies have had to create learning and development opportunities to get workers up to speed on new skills.

Additionally, very few employees are highly effective remote workers. This is because they lack the self discipline of working from home without an in-person team or manager holding them accountable. While they may have added exceptional time management skills in-office, that’s since changed as they have members of their family, pets and even deliveries interrupting them on top of trying to stay focused.

Companies are realizing in order to keep their workers engaged they need to change the way they educate them. In 2021, gamified learning and simulation games will play a major role in how employees learn and companies develop their workers. These are highly effective ways to not only educate but keep employees engaged and hands on throughout their learning.

Additionally, the newer generation of workers are placing emphasis on understanding their career journey within a company. For this reason, companies will be tasked with creating career paths for their employees and investing in their development to equip them with the skills they need to advance if they want to retain them.

Terence Mauri

Global disruption thinker, author and speaker – @TerenceMauri

HR and business leaders must first master the new logic of competition and change faster than change itself. Transformation leader, The Brightline Initiative says: ‘transformation has to be top of any organisational agenda. Every company must dedicate itself to change as an ongoing process, not a one-time event’.

The 20th century was about scaling efficiency and doing things right, rather than doing the right things. The winners of tomorrow will scale intelligence, with the race to reskill and upskill being a top leadership priority. I call it ROI. Not return on investment, but return on intelligence and return on imagination. Every organisation says it wants to outpace disruption with capability, which requires the cultivation of a learning mindset at both the individual and organizational level, and another look at goals and the setting aside of both time and financial investment for learning. Today, just one in three HR leaders say they are investing in future learning, workforce upskilling, and reskilling as part of their strategy for the future of work.

Data aggregators such as Humu can help quantify the impact of emerging technologies on existing jobs, and matching skills from one job family to another to identify transferable skills. Further, the use of digital twins (or “mirror worlds”) and scenario modeling is on the rise to support workforce strategy design and planning. By visualizing scenarios, companies can bring to life the implications of choices on the bottom line and on the workforce.

The key takeaway: In 2021 mental retooling needs to happen at scale throughout the enterprise. It’s now no longer just about return on investment. It’s about return on intelligence. Royal Dutch Shell, for example, recently announced it is expanding an online program to teach AI skills. So far, 2,000 of its 82,000 employees have expressed interest or have been approached to participate. Is your organisation in a perpetual state of beta?

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