5 Things Shaping L&D in 2018

If we want to affect digital transformation, we will need to overcome our own and our employees’ lack of digital skills, the associated set-up costs and a lack of suitable infrastructure.

2018 Trends and Influences

Much to everyone’s surprise, face-to-face learning remained top of the agenda for most L&D professionals in 2017.

Touted by many to be the year of digital learning, 2017 saw us trying to work out how to incorporate AI, AR, the Internet of Things (IoT) and mPayments into our working lives – and what Blockchain is all about.

Despite a techy start, 2017 remained resolutely analogue for L&D overall, in what became the disruptive year of digital for many industries. Notably there weren’t any revolutionary new technologies or platform start-ups changing the way we did business last year – no Uber of the L&D world. Instead we were faced with the continual infiltration of technology into our working lives and the threat that soon we may face a workforce of AI bots or Millennials, or both.

So as we begin 2018, what can we expect? Last year saw L&D budgets stretched as decision makers tried to decide what must be done with their now plentiful Apprenticeship Levy pot. This year, there are no signs that this will change, with Apprenticeships and the resurgence of workplace coaching representing two blasts from the past which are very much ‘in vogue’ once again.

With coaching seen as one of the most effective ways to develop key skills and behaviours, it is easy to see why this is being used to great effect to complement blended learning programmes which give employees the power to dictate how, what, when and where they learn.

Digital learning –  in the form of online learning as a minimum – will continue to help L&D and HR managers maximise their budgets. But if we want to affect digital transformation, we will need to overcome our own and our employees’ lack of digital skills, the associated set-up costs and a lack of suitable infrastructure, according to a recent survey by Towards Maturity.

To see what the year ahead holds, our L&D experts looked into their crystal ball to give their predictions:

Workplace Coaching

Workplace coaching is nothing new. Despite falling out of favour for a while, reliable web based video calling platforms and webinar capabilities have helped organisations reembrace this forgotten tool and reduce the overall cost vs traditional workplace coaching models. When used as a part of a blended programme to check understanding and further develop skills, it has proven effective. With the Millennial cohort rapidly becoming the largest generation in employment, workplace coaching serves their need for constant engagement, development and self-directed learning, meaning it is unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon.

Towards Maturity reported that 96% of L&D Heads want to increase self-directed learning, but only 24% were successful last year. This figure could increase as we see more firms embrace workplace coaching to support self-directed and blended learning.

Mobile Learning

The prevalence of devices and a need for anytime, anywhere accessibility has seen the popularity of mobile learning increase. In the UK, Ofcom figures show 76% of adults own and use a smartphone, with many utilising this device as their primary way they access the internet.

Towards Maturity has discovered that despite 74% of organisations using mobile devices as an aid to learning, only 16% have developed apps to specifically support performance at the point of need. As employees demand flexible, accessible, micro-learning, mobile learning and app learning can only increase in 2018.


This was big news last year when the Apprenticeship Levy came into effect in May 2017. Nearly a year on, it is still a hot topic in the L&D world as organisations debate how best to use their levy pot.

Six months after the launch of the levy, Management apprenticeships became the second most popular apprenticeship standard after Health and Social Care. With talk of an ESFA cap on the amount of levy funding which can be spent on Management apprenticeships, many other lower-level standards could see increased numbers.

As the government continues to push for the 3million apprentices by 2020 target, we will see more and more firms embrace apprenticeships as they search for value for money from their levy deductions, as they need to ‘use it or lose it’ before it is taken away and redistributed after the 2019 deadline.

Blended Learning

Blended learning in its very nature is a way of incorporating digital learning to enhance traditional methods of delivery. It should be something we are all capable of – even if it just includes e-learning or Skype coaching to provide greater efficiency and accessibility to support traditional programmes.

However, only 48% of UK companies are actively seeking new ways to use emerging technologies according to a report published by PWC, which suggests that even simple time efficiencies and anytime, anywhere learning are still not taking place.

With the demand for self-directed learning set to increase throughout 2018 as more Millennials join the workforce, our experts predict that a blended learning experience will become the industry standard for quality, effective L&D programmes.

Online Learning

As the demand for face-to-face training begins to slow and confidence in online learning grows, we predict that online learning will become one of the big winners in 2018.

An increasingly mobile workforce and remote working means it isn’t always possible to get everyone together to deliver traditional face-to-face sessions. Perhaps this is why 75% of L&D decision makers surveyed by Towards Maturity stated they wanted to develop the skills to facilitate collaboration, with 66% saying digital content development was a top priority in 2018.

Organisations are already waking up to the idea of utilising mobile devices to support learning, by encouraging employees to seek peer and mentor support through social media groups and apps, yet few have taken the plunge and produced their own learning apps to facilitate self-directed, on-demand study.

With cost management and talent management taking the top two spots in CIPD’s HR decision maker survey, online learning offers a cost-effective solution for onboarding which may prove even more attractive to those managing squeezed budgets in 2018.


About Graham Hyde

A highly effective, organised and analytical learning and development professional with solid experience in project managing, scoping, designing, delivering and evaluating highly effective learning solutions. A self-starter and quick learner with the ability to adopt new practices, Graham possesses a strong understanding of the use of blended learning.

One Comment

  • Nigel Jackson

    Great article from Graham Hyde – thanks for posting.