What are people thinking in Learning and Development right now, as we begin slowly to emerge from the grip of the pandemic? That’s the question the 2022 L&D Global Sentiment Survey set out to answer.
As it does every year, the survey had one obligatory question asking what respondents thought would be hot this year. Respondents answered by choosing 3 options from a list of 16 options (including ‘Other’). There were two additional, optional questions: where respondents worked and what challenges they faced.
Overall – the key challenge
This year’s survey shows the impact of a two-year pandemic on the L&D community internationally. Covid-19 has forced everyone to work online, and reduced budgets and resources for L&D. Now, L&D is finding it difficult to escape the long shadow of Covid-19. Respondents ranked their greatest challenge this year as learning engagement, with learners being overworked, tired of doing things online, and finding it difficult to prioritize learning.
The rise of people over technology?
This ‘screen fatigue’ may be behind the global rise in support over the past two years for Collaborative/social learning (up from 8.3% to 9.6%) and Coaching/mentoring (from 7% to 7.6%). Both have beaten the normal trend for options to fall down the table over time. What does this mean in practice? Are people actually doing more collaborative learning and coaching? There is anecdotal evidence that they are, although whether it is being done well is another matter.
It is also worth bearing in mind that Coaching and mentoring today is no longer purely a human activity. Increasingly it is being supported by technology, whether that is to help match mentors and mentees, to assist with administration, or – in some cases – to provide coaching via automated services. The rise of Coaching/mentoring is not so much a triumph of humanity over technology, but the use of technology in service of humanity.
Most importantly, however, is how the different working cohorts approach collaboration and coaching and mentoring. For the 1,200 people who said they worked in workplace L&D (rather than in education, or for a vendor), there is a clear split between the two options. They voted enthusiastically for coaching and mentoring, more so than the rest of the world, and more than they did last year. However, the workplace cohort voted less strongly for Collaborative/social learning (8.9%) than they did last year. The really enthusiastic support came from those in Education (12.2%).
Ideas moving from ‘hot’ to ‘in use’
Most of the options on the table grow less ‘hot’ over time. From initial excitement, their position on the table declines as they become less hot and more familiar. This is clear this year with Learning analytics and Learning experience platforms, down from #1 and #4 in the 2000 survey to #5 and #8 this year. This does not mean that these ideas have no future, but rather that they are being adopted and put to use in some way, and so are no longer considered ‘hot’ by respondents. The same is true for AI and VR/AR, down from #2 and #7 in 2019 to #12 and #13 this year. AI is being incorporated into our daily lives, and VR in particular is finding a wide range of applications, not all of them in the usual domain of developing practical skills.
Showing value and Consulting more deeply with the business should be the axis around which L&D departments demonstrate impact – first you consult to learn the business problems, then, after implementing a learning programme, you show the value of what you have done. Unusually, these options have stayed in the middle of the table most years, attracting around 6-7% of the vote. From this data, and from the responses to the free text question ‘What is your greatest L&D challenge in 2022?’, it is clear that a substantial minority of L&D practitioners seek to demonstrate value in order to persuade stakeholders of the value of what they are doing. It is equally clear, however, that this group is not increasing in numbers year on year.
It is important to remember that the results of the L&D Global Sentiment Survey is the aggregate view from 112 countries. Behind the single table of results are more than 3,500 individual, widely varying opinions. For example, on the overall table, #2 is Collaborative/social learning with 9.6% of the vote, and just below it is Personalization/adaptive delivery at 8.1%. But this gap of 1.5% is an aggregate. Last year, South American ranked collaboration well ahead of personalization and it did so again this year, by a huge gap of 7.2%. North America, as it has every year since 2017, preferred personalization over collaboration, this year by a margin of 2.5%.
Every region, every country is unique. South Africa voted strongly for Mobile learning, because it is widely used in a large country that is leap frogging the cable infrastructure used elsewhere and going straight to a wireless economy. Sweden, which in the past has voted very strongly for Collaborative/social learning, this year swung spectacularly behind Reskilling/upskilling, almost certainly because of the 2021 publication of a widely popularised book, Upskill Och Reskill, by Par Lager.
Each region, country and company is unique. Each context is unique. The L&D Global Sentiment Survey can show what people are thinking are different levels, but ultimately what matters is what is important to each person, each organisation. Always, what matters is what provides value in each individual context.
To discover more on this topic, take part in Donald H Taylor’s online session on Wednesday, March 23rd at 08:00.
Written for OEB 2022 by Donald H Taylor, Chair of Learning Technologies