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Learning and Development Trends and Predictions for 2021

Isidora Markovic
Isidora Markovic

2020 was a year like no other in modern times. The pandemic precipitated a global pivot to remote work, becoming the single greatest accelerant towards digitization of the decade.

One action that companies have had to take to brace themselves for a new, remote world is to evolve their Learning and Development (L&D) strategies in order to equip their employees with the skills they need to remain competitive and weather the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). According to a 2017 Mckinsey report, 87% of executives interviewed said they were experiencing skill gaps in their workforce due to automation and artificial intelligence.

In light of all these ongoing changes to the workplace, employee training teams and HR Departments in various companies may be finding themselves overwhelmed when it comes to staying ahead of the curve and preparing employees for the years ahead.

To help you identify key areas of focus, we have compiled a list of the 6 learning and development trends for 2021 to keep a watchful eye on. 

1. Aggressive employee reskilling and retraining

By 2030, 375 million workers - approximately 14% of the global workforce - are expected to switch occupational categories due to the emergence of robotics, automation and AI. This is a threat for employees across all organizational strata - from interns to senior managers.

According to 2020 study, ‘The Robot Revolution: Managerial and Employment Consequences for Firms’, AI are able to substantially remove errors from the production processes which eliminates the need for supervision of any kind.

This study also shows that the deployment of AI and robotics changes the composition of workers within the organization rendering mid-level managers obsolete.

This shift in organizational composition means that many companies will invest heavily in reskilling their workforces to prepare them for the disruption caused by automation and AI. 66% of executives perceive retraining and upskilling existing employees as a “top-ten priority”.

2. Continuous learning and ongoing training

In an information economy, access to knowledge is synonymous with growth and development.

Following 2020, many companies are now out of their comfort zones, having to be reactive rather than forward-looking and instinctive in their approach to the future. According to a recent LinkedIn report, L&D professionals reported a 159% increase in CEOs championing Learning and Development in their organizations.

To re-gain a future-looking upper hand, organizations will invest in ongoing training initiatives, in order to make employees better equipped to deal with volatility by securing flexibility in the face of change.

As part of this effort to make training continuous, many companies will completely overhaul their existing training strategies. In this reimagined world, continuous learning - where employees are upskilled on a repeated basis - will rein supreme in the future of work, taking precedence over isolated, one-off training sessions.

3. Microlearning takes the limelight

Microlearning is a learning framework where material is delivered small, digestible, 2-5 minute chunks.

Microlearning is well suited to the modern learner for two reasons - firstly, they tend to have little time in a day to carve out for hours of learning, and secondly, with the advent of the smartphone, attention is increasingly difficult to command for extended periods.

The average employee reports having just 4 minutes per day to dedicate to learning. A lack of time combined with short attention spans makes microlearning the perfect antidote.

Due to its short-form nature, microlearning excels at engaging modern learners and promoting knowledge retention - it was found to raise learner engagement by 50% and knowledge retention by 20%.

4. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training

Thanks to movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter the world has been awakened to the necessity for structural change in the workplace to promote inclusivity, equity, and ultimately, be more representative of wider society.

2020 saw Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) catapulted to the forefront as an area for improvement. Many were spurred into action, changing their corporate culture to one that better works in the interests of all, and to improve working conditions, especially for minority employees.


A sincere focus on DEI is a characteristic that will make employers more attractive in a competitive job market - 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an essential factor when considering employment opportunities.

But at the moment reality falls short of expectation - more than 50% of current employees want their workplace to increase diversity. These numbers are too significant to be ignored by employers. 

In the next decade, companies will work to be bastions of diversity and inclusion, all in a bid to attract the best talent, and create a comfortable environment for anyone to work, regardless of their identity. 

5. Data-driven training

The event’s of 2020 wiped away a lot of the margin that many businesses had to operate with. 

In 2021, every dollar counts and every dollar must be accounted for. We should expect more data-driven training programs so managers and team leaders can better track the impact and, therefore, justify the cost and assess the feasibility of the training they are offering. 

Big data is going to make it to the L&D world as employers are going to be chasing any gains possible, however marginal they may be. The cost of running a learning program has to be able to justify itself with the impact it promises and a measurable ROI. 

According to the 2018 Training Industry Report, training expenditures went down 6.4% from 2017 and a further 5.3% in 2019. This decline can be attributed to integrating data analytics into employee training programs, especially among small businesses.

6. More on-demand training

On-demand training has been growing over the past few years, and we predict that it will go mainstream in 2021.

With the millennials taking over the workplace and remote work becoming a staple of work life in 2020, we expect that there is going to be a higher demand for on-demand training in the workplace in 2021. This is because on-demand training delivers employees the information they need, when they need it, saving employees’ time and employers’ resources.

On-demand training delivered via remote learning tools offers the convenience and flexibility of the modern-day workplace as employees are allowed to upskill themselves at their convenience - at a time, pace and device of their choosing. Employees don't have to be on-site to get training, and managers don't have to hire expensive external trainers, cover travel costs, or fret over lost productivity.

Millennials are the main demographic driving this change in the way we learn at work as they are used to convenience, accessibility and personalization as consumers. For many employers seeking to hire millennials, providing on-demand training is not an option but a necessity. 

Looking for an all-in-one solution that allows you to deliver concise ongoing training, on safety, compliance, DEI and more, to anyone, anywhere, then improve on your training by gathering data-driven insights to measure the ROI of your training program?

eduMe’s mobile-first remote learning tool is built with the future in mind and utilized by companies like goPuff and Uber, to ensure their workforces are productive, and empowered with the knowledge they need to perform at the best of their ability.

Let us give you a free personal tour of eduMe. Drop your details in here 👇