Top 10 Learning and Development Challenges for 2020

learning and development challenges

It’s been an exciting year for L&D. Learning technology continues to evolve, trends that have been predicted for years are starting to become an accessible reality, and numerous sources report the increasing recognition of L&D’s strategic importance to the organization. As we look ahead to 2020, the time is right to start assessing the top learning and development challenges for this critical business function moving forward.

One thing is certain: employees call the shots now. In a bottom-up approach, employees identify, create, assess, and drive the training experience in organizations today. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the L&D department, which we’ll explore below. 

Here are the top ten learning and development challenges predicted for 2020:

1. Training as part of the overall experience at work

Time and again, we read that employees choose employers that value learning and development. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94 percent of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in helping them learn.

Indeed, training can be viewed not only as a way to strengthen the skills of workers but also as a retention strategy. Part of the challenge for L&D is to achieve the budgets necessary to meet these employee expectations and to internally promote the available learning pathways.

2. Personalizing the training

Not only are employees increasingly seeking job experiences that provide training, they expect the training to be relevant, in their preferred format, and customized for their learning journey. Some employees expect an entire learning roadmap, from which they can acquire the skills not only to perform better at their jobs but also to grow professionally.

If only it were so simple. In the year ahead, one of the top concerns for L&D will be creating increasingly personalized learning pathways and catering to specific learning preferences.

3. Automation to handle the volume of training

While employees expect personalization, they are also willing to accept that much of the training experience will lean on automation.

We have already become familiar with automation in other consumer technology, and the same is now expected of learning solutions. We expect product recommendations from Amazon and movie suggestions from Netflix—why shouldn’t there be learning suggestions from the company’s learning platform?

Other features include Channels, Topics, Recommendations, and Featured Content, all designed to make it easy to find the next thing to consume. This content is all delivered via automation technologies.

“They are easy to use, attractive, and lead you from place to place. And this is the paradigm many learning platform vendors are using,” notes human resources consultant Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte in his blog.

Automated suggestions remove the frustration or anxiety of deciding what to learn next. The recommendation engine relies on the employee’s learner profile and performance to present courses that are most appropriate at a given moment.

L&D professionals will continue to address this challenge of needing to embed automation features into the employee’s learning experience.

4. Driving learner engagement

With less and less time available to employees to dedicate to training, L&D are continuously seeking new ways to drive engagement with their carefully crafted training programs.

An emerging trend for L&D is to start thinking like marketing and communications professionals in the tactics they use to drive this engagement. This concept is two-fold, using marketing techniques to:

  • Surface learning content for employees—again, with automated recommendations and consumer-inspired engagement
  • Alert employees about changes in learning programs beyond email and the regular internal communications methods (i.e., email).

Corporate training departments will need to find increasingly creative ways to address the paradox of employees who want to learn but struggle to find the time to do so.

5. Dealing with multigenerational learners

Much is written about millennials and their wish lists for learning experiences within the organization. However, while Millennial and Gen Z workers will comprise nearly half of the total working population by 2020, “it’s imperative for talent development to tap into the potential—and preferences—of all learners,” notes LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report.

As such, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all to learning. Learning leaders will continue to meet the challenges of cultivating learning experiences for the multigenerational workforce—from seasoned leaders to rising professionals.

6. Mobile-first learning

While not a new issue, L&D needs to think of where and how employees will be accessing training. Learning experiences need to render perfectly regardless of device, platform, or operating system.

A challenge moving forward will be to retrofit older, popular courses for the endpoint preferences of today’s learners.

Want to see more tips for working with SMEs? Check out this free ebook!

7. Setting priorities

With a surge in interest in learning, L&D departments can quickly become overwhelmed. And with employees driving and choosing the learning they want, learning leaders must find a way to set priorities and decide which course gets built and which do not.

L&D has begun experimenting with a learning intake system or a process for receiving and evaluating training requests from all employees across the organization. This standardized approach to training requests can help surface interest in particular learning and help the L&D department to set priorities.

8. Developing contingency plans

Although it’s rarely possible to fulfill all training requests, L&D still needs to provide the highest level of internal service possible. As such, they often need to source alternative training support for employees.

Online universities and platforms abound, but quality and relevance vary. L&D may need to partner with these external, third-party providers to round out their training offerings and keep up with demand.


9. Embedding learning at the moment of need

Employees want to learn at the moment they need to know something to do their jobs better. According to LinkedIn’s previous 2018 Workplace Learning Report, 49 percent of employees prefer to learn at the moment of need.

For software engineering and technical teams, online books and job aids provide “instant support” when they have coding problems. Systems like GitHub, StackOverflow, O’Reilly Safari, and others have been essentially delivering learning in the flow of work already for several years. 

Companies that can provide this type of learning environment will see outsized results. Employees can “learn it now,” as attending training and completing assessments are embedded in their daily work and seamlessly fit into the “flow of work.”

10. Leaning on department managers and subject matter experts

There has been a movement towards shared responsibility and accountability for training—shifting training creation from being solely the responsibility of L&D to a joint model with other business functions.

Working with subject matter experts continues to be a top priority and one of the hurdles to developing training at scale. This joint ownership model is needed now more than ever:

“Organisations believing they have the brightest and best will capitalize on these internal experts, making their core learning created “by the people for the people,'” notes Training Journal.

While this may seem to remove a tremendous burden from the shoulders of L&D, it is still one of the biggest administrative challenges for learning leaders. There’s tracking, of course, but also the introduction of new instructional design software or a methodology to help managers and subject matter experts design training that conforms to proven design principles and the organization’s standards.

Getting ready for 2020

Some of the learning and development challenges mentioned here have been ongoing headaches that L&D has been dealing with for years. Still, with the speedy technological advancements happening in the industry, 2020 might just be the year to finally overcome them. 

What top learning and development challenges do you predict for your organization in the year ahead?

Want to hear the story of a company that has already overcome

many of these challenges? Check out this case study!

You might also like

Article Details

Collaborate & Grow:
Discover the

Top 10 Learning and Development Challenges for 2020