The Trends That Will Shape Learning & Development in 2016


Now that we’ve welcomed in the New Year, we’re looking ahead at what we expect to be the influential trends in the L&D space during 2016. As both workforce preferences and learning become more digitally oriented, technology is still top of the tree when it comes to priorities for 2016. Let’s look at some of the top trends impacting our planning efforts and how learning pros can increase success in the year ahead.

Learning & Performance Analytics:

With one-third of all data projected to exist in the cloud by 2020 and big data moving to the forefront of business, it is undeniable that mapping learning data to business performance is on the minds of Learning & Development pros. In fact, as we look at the findings from our recent research conducted with Human Capital Media, we found that close to half of all learning organizations are using both HR and business data in their analytics. However, most of these organizations do not know how to harness data to show the impact of learning on business results. Data analytics, when used effectively by the L&D function, can improve learning effectiveness, increase employee engagement and retention, and demonstrate impact on revenue. Best practices for utilizing learning analytics in 2016 will involve hiring or outsourcing to analytics experts, mapping out goals in advance of implementation, creating a framework that integrates the right data sources to support business motives and developing reports and dashboards that clearly show the impact of learning efforts. Moving into 2016, learning analytics will no longer be a ‘nice to have,’ but an expected part of the L&D and HR functions, to show contribution to overall business success.

High Consequence Training:

To increase preparedness and effectiveness of the workforce in high risk environments where failure carries a huge cost – sometimes to survival – high consequence training is crucial. Industries that self-identify as operating in high consequence environments include energy (oil and gas, utilities, etc.), aerospace, financial services, hospitality and manufacturing. For these industries, a different set of training solutions is required. High consequence training allows them to prepare not only for the expected, but also the unexpected. As organizations face an ever increasing set of external and internal threats, the need for training that provides the workforce with the knowledge and skills to act with confidence, speed and agility within regulations and compliance standards also increases. By training workers in advance using highly realistic and immersive methods, such as simulation and augmented reality (AR), the workforce is able to gain experience in a variety of high risk situations, without the fear of failure. If your organization operates in a high risk arena, high consequence training should be a top consideration for 2016.

Mobile Learning:

With nearly two-thirds of Americans owning a smartphone and 74 percent of companies currently allowing or planning to allow employees to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), the need to offer mobile training solutions to the workforce is increasing. The on-the-go workforce is used to tapping and swiping their way to more information, and if your training solutions aren’t mobile-accessible, employees may find their own solutions to training challenges. If one of those solutions is watching a video on YouTube about a topic that’s related to compliance, this could create more challenges.

According to, 50 percent of the workforce holds a job that offers some telework capabilities. The research also states that 2014 had the largest increase in work from home employees since the recession. By providing mobile learning options to “surround” learners with access, your employees will be able to better address situations that arise during the workday using relevant, approved content – whether it is a core training course or quick instructional refresher session. Clearly mLearning is on the rise as an effective means to present training to all workers, regardless of their physical location or device.

HTML5 and xAPI:

As the learning landscape evolves, HTML5 provides the environment for learning professionals to develop training courses for a wide range of platforms, and the Experience API (xAPI) provides the standard for the capture, analysis and customization of learners’ experiences in those environments. The combination of HTML5 and xAPI is the technology behind custom mobile apps, games, instructional videos, social media, informal learning activities and advanced simulated learning environments. The xAPI allows for learning paths to be customizable to each specific learner’s needs, and allows workers to learn at their own speed. It also provides the ability for more visually engaging solutions, advanced tracking capabilities and is proven to promote overall retention rates. With mobile learning on the rise, so are HTML5 and xAPI compliant solutions. They are a key foundational component when planning a mobile strategy and provide highly customizable options for innovative learning solutions. We have already seen a significant increase in demand for these solutions and accompanying consulting services, and expect to see this demand continue to rise in 2016.

These are some of the top trends we see on the agendas of L&D organizations in the new year. We will revisit these topics throughout 2016 and will update you on new trends as we see them. What do you think will be the most important advances in L&D in the year ahead? Share your thoughts on our LinkedIn page or reach out via Twitter.