The future of Corporate Learning

Follow our blog series in four parts, on the future of corporate learning. In the upcoming weeks there will be more topics deepening the insights.

This first one tackles the topic of "strenghtening L&D's role as a critical strategic value driver".


Jukka Sundberg


Strengthening L&D´s role as a critical strategic value driver

We have experienced a significant change in the way people communicate, work, and learn together as communities - the pandemic has heavily accelerated this. Learning and Development (L&D) has been one of the functions under high pressure and expectations to re-organize the whole people development strategy to match the constantly evolving business landscape. Once done well, it might carry us to an even brighter future.

Looking back to the spring of 2020, organizations that were already a long way in the digital transformation easily embedded digital L&D into their people development and (up)skilling interventions. For some organizations, the first careful shift has happened from classroom to virtual, which is starting to be a standard procedure at the moment. As people development specialists, it has been joyful to see how quickly many organizations built everything online, and some of them built utterly new business models in a short time. These changes that reflected the learning and development space happened so fast that, in all honesty, L&D leaders didn´t and still don´t have that much choice. Of course, we see organizations evolve at different speeds, some still taking baby steps in adopting new models to their people development.

Wellbeing and capabilities

We rolled out lately a survey and set of interviews about the future of L&D. Our own and many other studies during Covid have been underlining the crucial role of L&D and leaders in ensuring people´s wellbeing and capabilities to adapt quickly to changes in our environment. World Economic Forum also reported that more than half of the workforce need up -and reskilling to meet the changing requirements shortly. Deloitte has found out in their latest surveys that 86% of companies have improving L&D as a critical area on their business agenda - better learning, better business results. What should we now do to fit for the future and keep your organization at the pace beyond pandemic? In this series of writings, I suggest some key focus areas for consideration in the future. Let´s start first with the essential role of Learning & people development.

Aligning proactively

Learning and development (L&D) have owned for a long time the role of deploying training programs at the request of business leaders. This role has been in the winds of change for years and now more than ever before. Rapid changes in the business environment have - at least should - a direct impact on the way organizations ensure their human capital and responsiveness to change in strategic capabilities and behaviors. Referring back to our survey about the future of L&D in the findings, there were three main barriers to tackle: lack of time, budget constraints, and proving the ROI of development investments. That makes it extremely important to ensure alignment with the higher level of business targets. We should offer valuable learning opportunities to our people to grow and close the skill gaps - L&D´s role is crucial in ensuring the business thrive in the future.  

 Learning and people development professionals should take a solid and credible role to link the strategic goals to behaviors and capabilities and help people to match those. That requires a proactive role in aligning the most critical business goals to have sharpened and scaled organizational performance as an outcome. We should also aim to put the value of learning to figures even more often to take a more strategically central role. We are lucky to see this happening often nowadays but cannot take it for granted. Many executives increasingly recognize the value of world-class L&D also in the process of talent acquisition. The younger employees we talk about, the more there seems to be a pattern of wanting personal and tailored learning opportunities. If we see the employees as our “learning clients” - just like managers should - and try to structure our services internally to match the demand, there is a good foundation for success. The people who get the best support also stay longer in the house and attract other talents.  

One could also think of the times we have at hand as the best possible to make this change in the way we think about learning. Times of crisis have presented challenges as well as a opportunity for L&D to innovate and be the catalyst to build a competent workforce and drive organizational success. For years, we lack the courage to cut out the practices that don´t give the best ROI, or should we call it ROLI (Return On Learning Investment)? If the changes and learnings, we look after don´t happen, ditch and replace your models with something better.  

Return on investment 

Your company C-suite most probably thinks that their investments in learning are sufficient. The challenge is for L&D to make certain the investment is reaching the right level and delivering the outcomes it is expected to. Every time we have talked with a client and been able to help them understand the actual value of their investment in learning with figures, it has caused some immediate positive response. So it seems to pay off to put some effort into that field also internally. On the contrary, if you lack capable people to make the best impact, your business will not stay relevant for long. As the speed of change doesn´t settle back to the old days, reskilling and upskilling employees faster becomes highly important. The most crucial role for leaders responsible for learning is to deliver effective learning solutions paced with the needs and aligned with strategy.   

 If this got you interested in more, be sure to follow the other topics with deeper insights in the coming weeks:

Week 20: Part 2/4: Transform your culture of learning. Social learning and internal reinforcement structures.

Week 21: Part 3/4: Individualized Learning Experiences & Different modalities in the flow of work

Week 22: Part 4/4: New technologies to expand L&D opportunities + conclusions.



AUTHOR Jukka Sundberg

Jukka is a seasoned professional with 20 years of experience in learning and development in organizations. He started his career in the eLearning industry already year 1999, and since those days, he has worked as a trainer, facilitator, and coach in numerous international companies. Nowadays, he serves as Country Manager in Finland at FranklinCovey North.

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