Yet another year is drawing to a close, and it’s time to break out the bubbly and celebrate. As they look toward 2020, chief learning officers are in generally good spirits, at least regarding their outlook for learning and development.
According to data from the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board’s “2019 Learning State of the Industry” report, 71 percent of CLOs say their outlook for the next 12 to 18 months is more optimistic than last year (Figure 1). Twenty-two percent say it’s about the same as last year, and 7 percent are less optimistic.
The Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board is a group of 1,500 professionals in the learning and development industry who have agreed to be surveyed by the Human Capital Media Research and Advisory Group, the research and advisory arm of Chief Learning Officer magazine. This survey was conducted earlier this year.
The positive outlook expressed by CLOs is the latest in a multiyear trend. In the same survey conducted in 2018, 65 percent reported feeling more optimistic about the year ahead. In 2017, that number was 59 percent.
Taking a deeper dive into survey responses, it seems like much of the positive feeling for 2020 is due to anticipated improvement in alignment and adoption of more and higher-quality content and techniques. Eighty-six percent of CLOs expect learning to be more aligned with company business objectives, 78 percent anticipate their company will adopt new L&D techniques, and 74 percent say they will have an improved catalogue of training options. Sixty-eight percent say they will be looking to develop more custom content, and 66 percent expect learning to be better integrated into other talent management functions (Figure 2).
Budget, as the survey results indicate, is not likely a driving factor behind the optimism. Less than half of CLOs, 44 percent, expect their budget to increase in the next 12 to 18 months, and 26 percent believe it will decrease. This is a very small improvement from last year’s outlook, when 43 percent expected a budget increase and 28 percent expected a decrease.
So, where will that budget be directed? Looking at expected use of external vendors is likely a good indicator.
The need for agile, rounded leaders remains high in our ever-changing business environment, and executive education and leadership development continue to be an important area of investment: 44 percent plan to increase investment and 40 percent plan to keep it the same (Figure 3). Custom content design ranked No. 2 among respondents for increased investment, with 34 percent saying they will increase investment; this aligns with the 68 percent of CLOs who say they will be looking to develop more custom content. Certification training, simulation design and business skills training also are areas where CLOs indicated there may be more spending.
Staying on trend with the past few years, investment in books and printed material is on the decline. This will likely continue as L&D shifts from more traditional, off-the-shelf learning to flexible, customized, personalized content.
Figures’ source: Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board’s “2019 Learning State of the Industry,” N=537. All percentages rounded.