The current workforce is not fully equipped to deal with the future world of work. This is because the Fourth Industrial Revolution brought about more than just automated processes and hybrid work models; it revealed a gap in skills and capabilities that are essential for the future. With their current competencies, employees are unable to help organisations realise their business strategy, or ensure their own future employability. The desire for an agile and competent workforce has thus triggered the need for rapid reskilling and upskilling (Gamhewahe, 2022; Greedy, 2020; Nobels & Baele, 2022).

However, 70% of organisations report that they are not confident in their ability to meet these future skills needs (Collings & McMackin, 2021). Though many organisations rely on their learning and development (L&D) function to help workers learn and grow, it is often sadly the case that these same organisations have neglected to adjust their L&D strategies as the world around them has changed (Gamhewahe, 2022; Nielsen et al., 2020).

If an organisation recognises they need to systematise, modernise and scale up their learning, there are two primary opportunities they can exploit (Gamhewahe, 2022). Let’s take a look:

  1. Don’t forget the basics: Ground your L&D strategy in theoretical principles

Despite workplace changes and adaptions required because of it, not everything needs to change. There are basic L&D principles that are still relevant. The following components are some of these L&D essentials:

  • Align organisational strategy with talent strategy and L&D initiatives: Incorporating L&D strategies into the broader organisational framework will provide both direction and clarity (Nobels & Baele, 2022). Additionally, having a learning vision re-establishes the value that L&D contributes to overall business performance (Nielsen et al., 2020).
  • Use science-based approaches: create, execute and evaluate initiatives that are rooted in well-researched theories and methods, and are sure to deliver sustainable and measurable results (Gamhewahe, 2022).
  • The 70:20:10 principle: Otherwise known as the 3E model which stands for Experience, Exposure, and Education. This model supports that 70% of learning should occur through on-the-job experience, 20% should occur through exposure to new people, methods, or situations, and 10% should be in the form of formal education and training (Nielsen et al., 2020).
  • Design offerings around adult learning principles: Adults do not learn or respond to training in the same way children do. Carefully consider your methods of knowledge transfer (Gamhewahe, 2022).
  1. Incorporate current trends and make it relevant

Before implementing too many changes, it would be beneficial to assess your L&D function’s current capabilities and readiness for change. Determining your point of departure will assist to create relevant interventions that take into account both the needs of your workforce and the priorities of your organisation (Nielsen et al., 2020). Once it has been established that there is an openness to change, the following elements can be considered:

  • Technology: the use of AI and focus on data analytics has created unique training opportunities. Learning can now happen using multiple technologies including videos, apps, smartphones, and virtual and augmented reality tools, to name a few. Additionally, there are multiple platforms and types of software that can be harnessed to better manage L&D-related data (Driscoll, 2021).
  • A personalised learning experience: people are demanding content that is adaptive and can meet their individualised needs. Collings & McMackin (2021) reports seeing “an increasing emphasis on learning that is ‘just in time, just enough and just for me’”. People only have a limited amount of time that they can dedicate to learning. They want micro learning and on-demand learning, where bite-sized content can be accessed anytime, anywhere, integrated into their flow of work (Nobels & Baele, 2022). Additionally, people respond to social learning experiences where they can either collaborate during the training or interact and share experiences with one another via learning ecosystems. This may also include gamification – where people engage in training that incorporates game-like features such as leader boards, badges and battles between colleagues. Diversity and inclusion has been another focus of recent L&D initiatives where organisations aim to provide training that is equally accessible and user-friendly to all. Overall, the learner’s experience is emphasised, where engagement, wellbeing, and individual needs are the primary concern. Initiatives should strive to improve upon how people learn instead of what they learn (Growth Engineering, 2022).
  • Future competencies: In the past, skills gaps were identified by analysing past skills requirements. However, as technology will eliminate the need for 15% of jobs within the next ten years, foresight is required to identify skills needed for the future world of work (Collings & McMackin, 2021). One of the primary skillsets that many organisations have identified as vital are soft skills. These are skills such as empathy, emotional intelligence, and communication which are difficult to teach but critical in business (Growth Engineering, 2022).

Revolutionising L&D

Every organisation’s L&D transformation will differ. However, it is common for these processes to take up to two years, depending on the degree of complexity and level of priority leaders give the transformation (Nielsen et al., 2020). It is important to remember that, although this timeframe may seem daunting, stagnation and failure to adapt your L&D function will result in more severe consequences and threaten the organisation’s survival.

Additionally, if done right, L&D initiatives can have an incredible impact on individual and organisational performance as well as play a key part in ensuring that the organisation and its people remain relevant. Nielsen et al. (2020) reports that “organisations and functions that have undergone agile transformations have been shown to outperform in fast-changing operating environments, delivering higher customer and employee satisfaction, lower costs, and quicker times to market”.

L&D can be a powerful strategic partner to guide your future workforce (Nobels & Baele, 2022), and with so many opportunities to take advantage of, there is no better time or reason to start implementing change in your L&D function.

Written by:

Carla du Plessis

North-West University


Collings, D., & McMackin, J. (2021, June). Strategic L&D can guide the future workforce. HR Magazine.

Driscoll, M. (2021, July). Top 20 strategic L&D terms learning pros should know. TechTarget.

Gamhewage, G., Mylonas, C., Mahmoud, M., & Stucke, O. (2022). Developing the first-ever global learning strategy to frame the future of learning for achieving public health goals. Journal of Oral Biology and Craniofacial Research12(1), 74-76.

Greedy, E. (2020, November). UK’s persistent digital skills gap poses risk to economic recovery. HR Magazine.

Growth Engineering, (2022, March). 16 L&D trends for 2022 [Blog post].,57%25%20in%20the%20last%20yea

Nielsen, C., Dotiwala, F., & Murray, M. (2020, September). A transformation of the learning function: Why it should learn new ways. McKinsey & Company.

Nobels, P., & Baele, S. (2022, March). The ever growing importance of L&D in the future of work. EY.

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