L&D in 2018

In General L&D by JD Dillon

It’s the end of the year. That means it’s time for “thought leaders” to grab a few clicks by predicting the future of their industries – well, at least the next 12-months worth of future. L&D is no different. For the past few weeks, I’ve been repeatedly told exactly how next year is going to play out for workplace learning professions. If you’re curious, here’s your future. Or is it this one? Maybe this one?

My personal favorite is Marc Rosenberg’s ‘I Predict More Predictions for 2018.’  He conveys just the right amount of snark while lampooning the ridiculous nature of industry predictions.

Sure, there are a few trends and conversation points that will carry over from 2017 and dominate the industry press (microlearning, self-directed learning, adaptive learning, xAPI, AR, VR, etc.). However, my problem with L&D prognostication is that the people declaring the future tend to be pretty far removed from the day to day of the workplace. Plenty of wicked neat and forward-thinking ideas are always being shared in webinars and conference sessions, but innovation moves A LOT slower in the average company.

Based on the thousands of conversations I’ve had during client visits and professional activities over the past few years, here are my 3 SUPER REALISTIC predictions for workplace learning in the new year.

A Few Will Leap

The big leaps forward won’t be based on 2018 decision making. Rather, they will be the culmination of projects started 2 or 3 years ago coming to maturity. They will be driven by forward-thinking L&D pros who have been putting in the work and preparing for their moment. These folks will have earned respect and trust within the organization and therefore have been granted the resources necessary to begin a true transformation in their workplace learning practices. They will be few and far between, but hopefully they will share their stories of success (and failure) openly so others can follow the path they blazed.

Some Will Take Small Steps

Perhaps these L&D teams have been given a mandate by their stakeholders – change or else. Or maybe these teams include tinkerers who are desperate to try new things but not necessarily change the world – at least not yet. These teams will have the courage to admit their limitations and look outside their bubbles to find help from willing partners, vendors and experts. The process may begin in 2018, but it won’t automatically ignite radical cultural transformation. Rather, these teams will find and solve a few small but meaningful problems. They will get attention and gain trust. They will pave the way for bigger, more impactful changes in the years to come.

Most Will Stay the Same

Regulations aren’t going away. Completions and scores will remain the prevailing currency of workplace learning. Stakeholders will still demand training to solve non-training issues, and we will have to compromise even if we know there’s a better way. Employees will continue to carry better learning tech in their pockets than we provide for them, and their ability to use personal devices will be limited by laws and unions. We just have to hope that the L&D pros within these status quo environments are preparing themselves and their teams to make iterative improvements whenever and wherever they can. However, for the most part, 2018 will look a lot like 2017 in these organizations.

I don’t mean to come across as negative or pessimistic. Once you’ve been in this industry for a while, you realize that, while thought leadership moves fast, adoption of fundamental principles tends to lag considerably. Transforming a business through human performance is a marathon effort, not an annual sprint. Find small, meaningful steps forward in the new year and build on them.

Home runs don’t win championships. Just get on base.