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5 Reasons to Be Thankful for 2020 and Its Impact on L&D

How has your organization’s learning and development evolved this year?

With so many disruptions, 2020 has been a catalyst for change. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the learning and development industry.

L&D has consistently approached challenges with resilience like no other department has. In this special Thanksgiving episode, Matthew Brown reflects on how L&D has evolved through its response to events of the last 12 months. Listen to the episode to hear Matthew discuss L&D’s management of unexpected events and how the industry continues to lead organizations to success.

Hit play to listen to this episode of the podcast below:

Or, find out more by reading on.

In this post, we’re summarizing the five things that we’re most thankful for this year and how each of them has played a part in L&D’s evolution.

1. Organizations appreciating L&D’s impact and ROI

One of the silver linings from this year’s events has been the elevated awareness and commitment to L&D. Organizations that once saw L&D as an optional investment now see it as a necessity.

Podcast EP 08 Blog Summary

Previously, when businesses were forced to make cutbacks, reducing training and L&D was considered an easy cost-cutting solution. Some organizations have historically struggled to appreciate the return on investment that comes from training activities, but this year there’s been a big shift. Organizations have actively prioritized their commitment to L&D.

Now, organizations see training departments as instrumental in helping them adapt. They’ve consistently helped organizations rebuild and emerge stronger than before, even after challenges that might have meant struggling to survive.

2. HR and L&D’s strengthened relationship

HR and L&D have been the backbone of many businesses, helping navigate difficult changes, but they’ve also been fundamental to ensuring employee happiness and success.

Both departments responded quickly and effectively to the disruptions to develop solutions and integrate them throughout organizations. But HR and L&D have also worked together, modeling what you can achieve if you focus on building working relationships. These cross-department opportunities enable collaboration and also lead to business and employee success in other areas, such as skills development, performance, goals, and learning.

By bringing together HR and L&D, organizations can enable a comprehensive approach to delivering learning strategies and maximizing their impact on the employee experience. To find out more about this, read our interview with HR and L&D expert Ellen Rockwell.

3. L&D’s continued commitment to driving innovation

Necessity is the mother of invention, but L&D is the mother of innovation. From overcoming virtual workplace challenges to rethinking your training approach, trainers and L&D professionals have been continuously tested on their ability to innovate their learning experiences.

How you were delivering training in Thanksgiving 2019 is undoubtedly very different from how you deliver training today. Many trainers moved online, using creative ways to provide the training that their learners needed and convincing organizations that their innovative solutions were more than up to the task.

Innovation is still happening in areas from delivery to course content. While some trainers tweaked aspects of their content, others went back to the drawing board to rewrite courses from scratch. But the most notable area is the demand for new technology.

Meeting different learner needs through a strictly online medium required a big rethink of what technologies were and weren’t working. Trainers quickly began trialing innovative ways to use existing technologies to reach their desired learning outcomes. Many L&D professionals are now working with software companies to help meet the new demands and provide solutions that help meet a wider variety of learner needs.

4. Opportunities to review how their existing learning works

This sudden shift also opened up an unexpected opportunity to stop and take stock of how we construct learning. It presented a unique chance to review and revisit training courses and ideas, as trainers had to think critically about how their training works when delivered remotely, but also how it works for learners in general.

While this can be a very daunting and challenging task, many trainers are using this opportunity to dig deep into their training and make changes so that it’s relevant for all learners and audiences. New technologies also mean that you can incorporate exciting and engaging content that perhaps you hadn’t considered (or wasn’t available) before. Whether you include gamification, interactive activities, or are taking your messages back to basics, having the space to review and rebuild is a fantastic opportunity. To learn more about ways to build training for different learners, check out this post.

5. L&D’s unwavering resilience

Learning and development have continually shown that it has an amazing commitment to persevere in uncertain times. The community has consistently leveraged communication and facilitation expertise to help our businesses figure out how to reshape, regroup, and move forward.

In many cases, businesses have deployed L&D resources to reshape these business operations, processes, and practices. Meanwhile, they’re also tackling learning, mental well-being, and stress management.

In fact, L&D’s traditional role is currently on hold for many professionals. But this instigates a new sense of purpose and focus. The training community is being called upon to develop learning activities and learning interventions, and find ways to integrate experiences that model empathy, mental wellness, and more.

The L&D community has come together to stress why leaders and managers should check in with their staff and prioritize support. Since the start of 2020, L&D has empowered teams and organizations to work together while we’re apart in order to stay successful and achieve more.

The impact of 2020 on the evolution of L&D has been remarkable. For this, we are truly thankful.


Thank you for reading The Learning Xchange’s Thanksgiving episode summary. Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to The Learning Xchange on your favorite podcast app (available on all the usual podcast apps, including Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, and more) and get a new episode downloaded directly every week!

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