College for America Blog

L&D Trends: What the Experts Talked About in 2018 … and What to Expect in 2019


Posted In: Workforce Insight

Jan • 23 • 2019

L&D Conferences 2019

Idea in brief:
We reviewed the programs of every major conference for talent leaders to identify the learning and development trends for 2018 and 2019.

It’s the season for articles predicting learning and development trends in 2019, but many of those are based on speculation. A better approach might be to look at what was actually on the minds of learning and development (L&D) leaders in 2018 as indicated by the themes, agendas and presentations of major conferences last year. What is the L&D world actually talking about when it gets together?

And, looking forward, what can be expected from those conferences in 2019?

This should provide a substantive sense of the trends in talent management, training and workforce development.

Links to all the conference websites we reference can be found at the end of the article. In cases where pages for individual sessions are still live, we link there within the article.

1. Virtual reality is changing the game

L&D leaders are keeping a keen eye on if, when and how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will shake up the industry.

In fact, eLearning Guild devoted an entire conference to the subject. The theme of the 2018 Realities360 conference was AR, VR and Simulations for Learning. It was keynoted by VR pioneer Jaron Lanier, and sessions included “Improving Your Bottom Line with VR,” which explored the effectiveness of VR as a learning tool, and Unlocking Human Potential with VR Simulation addressed the use of VR to improve soft skills.

VR and how it is trending in L&D applications also came up frequently at other conferences. For example, several sessions at 2018 Training magazine’s Conference & Expo featured sessions like “From Immersion to Presence: How Virtual Reality Can Revolutionize Your Learning” and “Next-Gen Simulations, Games and Virtual Reality.”

One of the keynote presentations at Corinium’s CLO Fall Forum, “Expanding Your Communications Strategy with AI-Driven Enterprise Video,” looked at how IBM uses AI to get more out of video content by segmenting it and making it more discoverable.

2. Making big data more manageable

Online L&D activities churn out large “data lakes” that potentially have a lot of value if professionals in this field can find ways to filter it for useful insights. (A recent white paper by Cognizant on labor and skills trends speculates that an emerging role will be the “data trash engineer” who can reduce data waste.)

Consequently, the opportunities and challenges of applying data science to assess learning outcomes showed up at multiple conferences. For example, Training magazine’s 2018 event featured sessions on “Using Analytics in Workplace Learning” and “Using Big Data to Spot Superstars, Slackers and Knowledge Gaps.”

Similarly, at eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference & Expo, one session asks “Data, Data, Data! What Do We Actually Need?

And at The Conference Board’s Learning & Development Summit, a session titled “The Bionic CLO: Using Technology and Data to Make L&D Better, Stronger, Faster” examined how CLOs can employ technology and data to match business needs with employee training opportunities.

In addition, one of the keynote presentations at the CLO Fall Forum explored how “Measuring Your Learning Impact with Learning Analytics” can produce real business results.

3. ROI matters

According to Training magazine’s 2018 Training Industry Report, the $87.6 billion that U.S. employers spent on L&D in 2018 is a 6.4% decline from the previous year. That is driven by a complex set of factors, including declining state expenditures (government agencies being a large segment of the surveyed employers) and the ongoing shift to less costly online training.

But it’s also true the C-suite scrutinizes L&D spending carefully. Therefore, finding ways to answer the ROI question was a topic at most conferences in 2018. There are too many to list them all, but a few examples include:

Further Reading: New Study Demonstrates the ROI of Education for Frontline Workers

4. Learning cultures are cultivated

Several conferences offered advice for L&D leadership on building a workplace culture and organizational mindset that values learning.

For example, “Building a Learning Culture” at eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2018 event explored “how making strategic choices when it comes to communication, change management, technology, leadership and the right measurement strategy can all work to improve your learning culture and help your initiatives succeed.”

At ATD’s 2018 International Conference & Expo, a forum titled “Training Experiences That Change the Workplace Culture” urged shifting from an approach dependent on random slogans to a philosophy that permeates the entire company at all levels.

Further Reading: 8 Essential Steps to Create a Culture of Continuous Learning at Your Company

5. Managers are the new teachers

L&D programs depend on managers to get frontline workers involved in the training process. But how can companies convince busy managers to become advocates for a learning culture?

That was the challenge addressed at the “Getting Managers to Coach” seminar held during Training magazine’s 2018 Conference & Expo. At the same conference, other sessions included “Create a Coaching Training Program Even Managers Love” and “Tapping the Inner Teacher: How to Turn Your Busy Leaders Into Teachers.”

Likewise, the Conference Board’s Learning and Development Summit in 2018 — with the theme Learning is Transforming — included a session titled “Leaders as Teachers: Strategies, Benefits and Challenges.” It explored the possibilities of the growing trend in L&D to augment or replace professional trainers with the active input of company leadership.

Other learning and development trends in the big conferences

The following topics showed up on multiple L&D conference agendas:

Gamification continues to be a topic of interest as it has for several years.
Performance management as a strategic guide for talent development.
Mindfulness and its role in leadership development.
Agility and responding to the rapid pace of change.
Culture awareness as a way to make learning more inclusive.
Microlearning and its delivery methods.
Brain science, psychology and behavior and how they impact the effectiveness of L&D.

A look ahead at L&D trends in 2019

Not every conference has publicized its theme or agenda for 2019 yet, but a scan of those that are available suggests some likely learning and development trends to watch in 2019. Many of the same themes common in last year’s L&D conferences are showing up frequently in 2019 events also.

But a few new intriguing subjects are jumping out also.

One emerging theme is managing employee learner motivation. For example, Corinium’s CLO and Influencers Spring Forum has multiple sessions on continuous learning, on-demand learning and self-directed learning. Two of the keynote addresses are on motivating employees to take ownership of their own learning. Other session topics will discuss learning platforms that facilitate a company-wide learning mindset, and how employees and L&D teams can work together to embed learning in the culture.

Another emerging theme is the role of wellness and well-being in employee learning and development. For example, “Big Potential: Realizing the Power of Well-Being and Interconnected Success” at Training magazine’s 2019 conference and expo describes the connection between happiness, potential and achievement. Another session titled “Reduce Stress, Increase Productivity, and Avoid Task Saturation” will discuss the interconnection of “mindset and skillset” to achieve success.

Another interesting theme is defining and building an L&D brand. (Think of it as somewhere between a corporate brand and a personal brand for the L&D function.) How is your company’s L&D unique and differentiated in the minds of learners? How do they feel about it, and how does that impact your success? For example, one scheduled keynote at The Training, Learning & Development Conference will argue that branding for L&D happens internally at an organization and externally within your industry.

As a close reading of these conference agendas shows, the current learning and development trends span emerging technology solutions, improving operations, changing the learning culture and refining an L&D strategy.

Want to keep up on learning and development trends? Be sure to follow @SnhuWorkforce on Twitter and SNHU Workforce Partnerships on LinkedIn.

Learning and development conferences discussed here

Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) International Conference & Expo
2019, May 19–22, Washington, DC

ATD TechKnowledge
2019, Feb. 6–8, West Palm Beach, Florida

Announced sessions include “Artificial Intelligence: What Skills Will Tomorrow’s Workforce Need?,” “A Data Driven Approach to Building a Learning Culture” and “The Modern L&D Toolkit: Where Does Gamification Fit In?”

Corinium’s Chief Learning Officer Forum, Fall
2019, Nov. 12–14, Boston

Corinium’s Chief Learning Officer and Influencers Forum, Spring
2019, June 11–13, 2019, Scottsdale, Arizona

Announced sessions include topics on continuous learning, on-demand learning, self-directed learning, ROI, AI, VR

Chief Learning Officer magazine’s CLO Symposium, Fall
2019, Oct. 14–16, Chicago

Chief Learning Officer magazine’s CLO Symposium, Spring
2019, April 1–3, Las Vegas (SNHU sponsors this conference.)

Conference Board’s Learning and Development Summit

eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference & Expo
2019, March 26–28, Orlando

Announced sessions include “Demystifying AI in L&D,” “Demonstrating the Value of Training to Your Organization,” “Best Practices for Implementing Gamification in Learning Programs” and “Correlation Is Not Proof: Gaining Legitimate Insight from Learning Data.”

eLearning Guild’s Realities360 Conference and Expo: AR, VR and Simulations for Learning
2019, June 25–27, San Jose, California

HRExchange Network’s CLO Exchange
2019, Feb. 24–26 in Austin

Announced sessions include “Build a Coaching Culture, Build a Learning Culture of Growth, Empowerment and Innovation,” and “Develop a Growth Mindset: Aligning Leadership Development to Business Success.”

Human Resource Executive’s HR Tech Conference and Exposition
2019, Oct. 1-4, Las Vegas

L&D Daily Advisor’s Workforce L&D conference
2019 Workforce L&D, Nov. 14-15, Nashville

Training Magazine’s Training Conference & Expo
2019, Feb. 27-March 1, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Announced sessions include “Using Games to Make Your Training More Meaningful, Motivational, and Memorable,” “How Virtual Reality is Transforming Learning” and “ROI in Training: Fact, Fad, or Fantasy.”

The Training, Learning & Development Conference
2019, Jan. 28-29, Phoenix

Announced sessions include “Shifting L&D from Cost Center to Strategic Partner” and “A Simple Planning Model to Get The Best out of New Technologies like VR, AI and AR.”