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The challenges facing learning professionals over the next 10 years

8th September 2015 | Nigel Paine

Nigel Paine is author of The Learning Challenge: Dealing with Technology, Innovation and Change in Learning and Development. Here he explains that his closing address at WOLCE 2015 – The top 10 challenges the learning professional will face in the next 10 years – is inevitably intertwined with the development of the book.


I wrote The Learning Challenge to help learning leaders see their way through the enormous changes going on in the workplace and therefore in corporate learning. The two will become increasingly interlinked. It is always good to speak at a conference where I can communicate directly with the people for whom I wrote the book.

 What I tried to distill was the latest research, case studies and insights from people at the leading edge all around the world. I am a great believer in ‘evidence-based’ writing and I wanted to be able to justify every sentence with a source that was credited and credible.

 The book was written in three parts. The first is the context: the changing world of work. Everything in the book emerges as a reaction to that changing context. The second covers a selection of component parts of corporate learning that are undergoing incredible change such as instructional design, performance support and impact measurement. The final part looks at the game changers. These are the elements that will turn our world of learning upside down: big data, neuroscience, and emerging new technologies. These will transform a lot of practice, challenge some of our most cherished assumptions about learning, and force through an increased accountability. The days of ‘quietly getting on’ with learning, unrecognised and largely unrewarded, are fast coming to an end. And with increased accountability comes increased opportunity.


 If last century saw significant gains in productivity through technology and process, this century will show similar gains through people

 Workforce engagement is becoming a major issue.  The skills and insights of staff at every level in the workplace is becoming increasingly significant in building competitive edge, and even survival, in a volatile and uncertain world.

 Almost by definition, learning will move from being about core skill development, with nice-to-have programmes in addition, to a critical and unavoidable element in innovation, creativity and problem solving. This will mean a transition from hard, functional skills, to soft skill development. It will mean a shift from front loaded, or at best sporadic, development, to continuous learning as an integral part of work and work flow.  


I have been asked four times in the last few weeks about how you can ‘develop curiosity in the workforce’

 This propels most learning leaders into entirely new territory where learning alone will not be able to solve the problem. This is about organizational change and workplace culture.  The full picture requires a number of key individuals from different parts of the workplace to sit around the table and work out a common plan.

 Some of the pioneers will be those who keep their ears to the ground and soak up some of the research that is pouring out of universities and other research organizations, but much progress will be made by experiment, exploration and innovation. Trying it out and seeing what happens.

 I think this makes it a very exciting time to be in corporate learning. It will, however, be a ruthless time. Those that do not get it or do not participate across the board will no longer be required.  There are plenty of people predicting the end of learning teams and specialist learning organizers. This is the learning challenge.


You can order The Learning Challenge at a 20% discount when you enter code LEARN20 at the checkout on www.koganpage.com. This discount is valid until 31 October 2015.

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