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The Future of Employee Development

The 2020 journey brought with it a decade’s worth of change that radically altered our lives. Everything from how we buy and sell to how we meet, learn, and collaborate is different than it was this time, last year. Friends and family members are celebrating major milestones via technologies such as FaceTime and Zoom, doctors are practicing telemedicine, and churches are streaming Sunday services to their congregation. Like it or not, this is the world of today.


Admittedly, I have been slow to embrace these technologies both in my personal and professional life. I’ve greatly favored face-to-face meetings and live instructor-led trainings to virtual or web-based ones over the past several years. However, like many others, 2020 forced me to accept this virtual reality as an integral and necessary part of both my workflow and socialization (just ask my buddy LeAnne about the first time I FaceTimed her during the lockdown).


Things that worked in the 2010s no longer worked for us in 2020. While many companies made up for the loss of connectedness by implementing collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, how many equally embraced the new development needs these changes brought to their employees?

Things that worked in the 2010s no longer worked for us in 2020.

Just as there is an increased need for digital and virtual tools to deliver learning and to keep people connected, there is also a critical need for new skills to be taught. To remain relevant post-COVID, organizations will have to ensure their workforce is trained with the exact skills and tools necessary to help them succeed in this new era. Moreover, to thrive in the 2020s, strategically innovative learning plans will be a must.


More than ever, learning and development teams will be prioritizing reskilling and upskilling; however, for the first time in decades, the need for reskilling will bubble up to the top of the priority list for employees at all levels of the organization. As Ulrik Juul Christensen wrote in his recent Forbes article, “The pandemic has exposed the fact that L&D is not a ‘nice to have’; it is a ‘need to have.’” Without a solid development plan, the impact of 2020 will linger well beyond the current fiscal year.


The Future of Learning and Development


Many experts agree that although the number of remote workers will slowly decrease, we will ultimately settle in at around 300% more remote workers than in 2019. Some will embrace a hybrid work model, while others will remain completely remote. Regardless of the mixture of remote, hybrid, and office workers, one thing is certain: corporate training will never be the same.


Only about one in ten companies are expected to return to the pre-pandemic levels of in-person and instructor-led training. For the other 90%, this means alternative modes of instruction — such as videos, eLearning, podcasts, and virtual facilitation — will prevail. Additionally, just as buyers are demanding a more personalized solution, a one-size-fits-all development plan for employees will no longer suffice. Personalized, individualized learning plans will be crucial for individuals within the organization, as part of the company’s reskilling initiatives.

Additionally, just as buyers are demanding a more personalized solution, a one-size-fits-all development plan for employees will no longer suffice.

Watch for a continued emphasis on the development of soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, critical thinking, high-performance leadership, and diversity training; however, a reemergence of hard or technical skills is expected. As for sales training, the types of sales methodologies and skills taught will evolve, as organizations will be required to update their training programs to address the changing needs of the 2020s buyers. After all, not only is the way salespeople engage with clients changing, but the way decision makers buy is also changing. To succeed in the post-COVID journey, ensuring employees have the most up-to-date and relevant skills — while also having access to “just-in-time” content — will be crucial no matter the method of delivery.


For leaders in learning and development, the time to adapt, innovate, and think outside of the box is now.

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