A few short months ago, few could have predicted the way that COVID-19 would ravage the world, shaking our personal and professional lives to their core and casting uncertainty over the future of how we work, socialize and, yes, even learn.
With unpredictability comes trepidation. Chief Learning Officer’s Business Intelligence Board is currently conducting its “2020 Learning State of the Industry” survey, which is seeing a large spike in participation this year. And responses so far indicate a substantial drop in optimism about the immediate future of learning and development. So far, 54 percent of respondents express an optimistic outlook for L&D for the next 12-18 months, compared with 71 percent in the 2019 survey (see Figure 1). Twenty-six percent say they are less optimistic about the outlook compared with only 7 percent in 2019.
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.
In the face of mass shutdowns across the U.S. starting in mid-March, businesses have been forced to lay-off and furlough huge swaths of the workforce, resulting in a rapid spike in unemployment and other cost-cutting measures. It’s a stark contrast to what was a period of steady economic growth heading into 2020. In the 2019 State of the Industry report, 88 percent of respondents said they expected their organization’s spending on L&D to increase in the next 12-18 months, with only 10 percent predicting a decrease in spending (and 2 percent unsure). The numbers this year tell a far different story: While 28 percent agree or strongly agree that their spending will increase, 46 percent anticipate a decrease (see Figure 2).
Unsurprisingly, there has also been a sharp uptick in the number of learning leaders saying they are likely to adopt new training techniques and that their blend of training delivery methods will change. These have been ongoing trends for some time, but as many organizations have pivoted to working remotely — a move which may continue to be far more prevalent even beyond the pandemic than it was before — education and development will need to be delivered via an even broader and more accessible range of modalities than ever before. According to responses collected so far through the 2020 State of the Industry survey, 81 percent of learning leaders plan to adopt new training techniques, 70 percent say their blend of training delivery methods will change, and 73 percent plan to develop more custom content (see Figures 3, 4 and 5).
It’s impossible to say for sure what happens next — from this summer to next year and well into the future. Learning executives have long acknowledged the importance of being agile and flexible in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, or VUCA, world. This has never been more true, and while the immediate future likely won’t be comfortable, it will surely be a time to innovate and experiment.
Figures’ source: Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board’s “2020 Learning State of the Industry,” N=862. All percentages rounded.