Where will your company be in 5 years? 5 years may seem like a while away, but a lot is going to change in 5 years, let alone the next 3-6 months.

In a 2017 PwC survey, 52% of business leaders said technology would have a significant impact on changing competition in their industry in the next 5 years.

At the same time, technology change is rapidly redefining the jobs of the future. “Oxford University predicts that nearly 50 percent of all jobs will be transformed in the next 20 years. I believe it’s happening far faster,” predicts Josh Bersin.

If the half-life of a learned skill is 5 years in today’s era, this means half of what your employees learned 5 years ago is likely irrelevant. Now is the time to get your workforce ready and keep your business competitive in the next 5 years.

Every year, brand-new skills emerge. On Udemy, where we have 18+ million learners, we’re seeing rising demand for new skills based on disruptive technologies or business models like Bitcoin/Blockchain (cryptocurrency online payments), Neural networks (artificial intelligence), and Drop Shipping (inventory-free e-commerce). 

With the fluidity of skills coming and going, we may be moving toward a “role-less” future of work. Career paths will be defined by constant reskilling and movement into new kinds of roles—so instead of job-hopping to new companies, employees will be constantly “role-hopping” within their company.

What does this mean for L&D?

Organizations that encourage continuous learning and help their employees evolve and adapt will be the ones that rise to the top. In this new era of change, L&D holds the key to whether companies and employees thrive.

The next 5 years for L&D

It’s not surprising that 78% of L&D leaders said their top challenge is keeping employees skills up to speed with change, according to a recent Udemy study. But how can L&D ensure their employees adapt and upskill continuously and quickly?

The good news is this same rapid pace of technology innovation is also disrupting workplace learning. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence are all finding their way into the L&D space—making learning much stickier, engaging, and adaptive. Employees themselves also understand the importance of learning & development, with Millennials rating it as the #1 job benefit—3 to 4 times more important than pay, according to Bersin by Deloitte.

As you kick off 2018, how can you effectively prepare employees for whatever comes next? New technologies and approaches are redefining workplace learning—creating a whole new digital learning architecture. But what are some of the features of this modern ecosystem that can help you keep your employees’ skills continuously up to speed?

The LMS is no longer the center of the world

The Learning Management System (LMS) of yesteryear is no longer the center of the corporate learning world. It might still be used for delivering compliance-based learning (which it does well), but today a host of new and innovative tools are building a new digital learning architecture. Continuous learning now happens outside of the classroom (and outside of the LMS) with more informal, mobile, and social tools.

Experience APIs or xAPI allow these new and different tools to work together and share data. The term API (application programming interface) refers to a library of programming functions that developers can use to integrate two or more separate software applications. Experience APIs empower L&D managers to integrate and track all the different kinds activities employees do along the path to learning a new skill while on their computers—from collaborating on social media, learning online, and reaching milestones on simulated games to performing actual new tasks. APIs bring the concept of continuous learning to life—by making it possible to see the entire arc of an individual’s learning, not just the one time they came to class.

Agile learning in the moment of need that’s personalized

Agile and in-the-moment learning that’s personalized will be key features of this new learning architecture. Keeping up with change means your workforce will need to acquire new skills quickly as they arise. L&D can’t follow the traditional and painfully slow in-house course creation cycles of 6-12 months. Instead, L&D teams should rely on external online learning platforms with curated libraries of content that are updated in real-time. When creating unique in-house content, L&D must adopt Agile development principles used by the software industry. This involves a highly iterative process in 2-week sprints that produces a first “draft” version of your training solution for continuous feedback and tweaking, rather than spending months on perfecting a turnkey solution. 

On-demand online learning that lets employees learn in the moment will enable your workforce to efficiently acquire new skills that are relevant. Content should also be broken up into short, searchable “questions” that respond to needs on the job. Augmented reality (AR) that digitally positions learning content on top of the real world situations (think Pokemon Go) will also help train employees on the job. Finally, artificial intelligence and machine learning enable online learning platforms to deliver personalized recommendations at scale—just like Netflix and Amazon.

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