In this special episode of the L&D podcast, David James (L&D podcast host) opened the floor for an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session. Following on from Part 2: L&D Today at Its Best (& Worst), in this final post of a three-part series, David explores the future of L&D. 

Hear all of the listener questions in episode 13 of the L&D podcast 


Do you think the future of learning development is moving more into the operation? Or is the operation moving more into L&D?  

I believe that L&D will be much more closely aligned to the operations through 1) the advancement of HR and people analytics and 2) creating a new vision for L&D that everybody buys into based upon outcomes rather than activities or products. I think that we will align more closely with the operation because we will understand it better.


If we removed L&D from the business, would the business survive, or thrive? If L&D went up in smoke tomorrow, would anyone notice? 

I think, very quickly, a shadow L&D department would be created. It would be like going back to the very evolution of life on earth and then starting from scratch again. A single-cell L&D department would crop up, focused on attendance rates and other nonsensical “learning metrics”.

There is a real need for learning but it needs a vision; a vision that’s better than now for employees and the organisation. It needs leadership to take people from their current perception of what they think is possible with learning and development, and then it needs activation. As I said before, I am optimistic about our value and our role, but it’s too often not evolved far enough in the maturity of the function in any given organisation.


With many companies moving towards more autonomous and self-managed ways of working, how is L&D framed in such a world?

This is a great question. I don’t think it really matters if the organisation itself or the people are more autonomous or self-managed. 

Whether you’re new to a self-managed or autonomous company or not, you’re still going to need high direction at the outset. We all need high direction when we’re in unfamiliar situations, organisations or teams. Unfortunately, courses on a schedule and elearning in that context are not enough. 

We need to help people as they transition into and through a company, addressing real friction, and embedding support into the tools they already use for work.


What will learning in the context of work look like in 20 years? 

That’s a hard question to answer because it’s such a long way out. Can you believe that it was only around 10 years ago that iPhones became the norm? Speaking from a high level though, I think that the work itself will be more intuitive and support will be built into the tools we use for work. 

The likelihood is that mixed realities will help to support learning at the point of need and eliminate, or at least reduce, the administration of our roles so that we can elevate human capabilities. 


Is it inevitable that organisations will have to switch from learning management systems to learning experience platforms in the near future to foster workplace learning?

No, I think the terms and products just muddy the water. I hope it’s inevitable that L&D will become more outcome-focused, more digitally savvy and judicious over the tech we introduce into our organisations.


As learning becomes even more critical to an organisation’s success and learning goes into the workflow, will the standalone corporate L&D department die? 

I don’t think it will die. It goes back to trying to find out what’s really broken and what really needs our attention. I always say to people, if we address friction, rather than creating or transferring business needs into learning needs, we’ll find our role is so much more focused, and much more aimed at real results that people care about.


What one piece of advice would you give to someone who’s starting out on a new L&D project or initiative?

My recommendation is: spend the time upfront gathering data and trying to understand what the real problems are as best you can. From there you’ll be able to reduce business friction and positively impact business performance.


Many thanks to L&D podcast listeners Danny Seals, Craig Taylor, Chris Barker, Perry Timms, Mahesh Ramani, Ravi Shankar and Myles Runham for the fantastic questions!

Find out how to increase business performance by aligning L&D with your employees’ needs.