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February 2021
Learning & Development:
A Prescriptive Vision for
Accelerating Business Success
Corporate learning is increasingly critical to business, but traditional approaches
are inefficient, overly rigid, fragmented and unconnected from employees’
daily work – and thus ripe for transformation – as recent research reveals.
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2 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
Contents
Click a link below to jump to that section.
3	Introduction
5	 Envisioning the future of learning
7	 Skills: What L&D teams need to learn
9	 Assessing the impact
10	 Working across functions within the organization
12	 Technology takes center stage
13	 What’s holding L&D back?
15	 Reshaping L&D
16	 Doing it right
17	 Looking forward
18	Methodology
19	 About the authors
An effective L&D strategy
goes hand-in-hand with
both responding to and
benefiting from change.
3 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
Introduction
For companies across all industries, the learning and
development function (L&D) has become more and
more important – and what it needs to accomplish
has expanded dramatically.
Today, companies are seeing accelerating change on many fronts, from
corporate transformation efforts and evolving customer behavior to the new
work and operating models necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies
have a growing need to pivot quickly in the face of change, which often requires
abrupt shifts in the skills and knowledge that are essential to a modern workforce.
The nature of work itself is changing as well. New jobs requiring new skills are emerging
rapidly. Increasingly, employees will need to not only understand and operate advanced
technologies, but also learn to work in partnership with artificial intelligence-powered
(AI) virtual team members, i.e., bots. And they will be called on to drive innovation in
products and processes to continuously increase efficiency and elevate competitiveness.
In short, constant and rapid change has become the new normal for companies and
workers alike. An effective L&D strategy goes hand-in-hand with both responding to
and benefiting from change.
4 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
But traditional methods of corporate learning
cannot keep up with today’s turbulent pace
and breadth of change; in general, they are too
rigid and fragmented, too unconnected from
employees’ daily work, and too inefficient and
costly. We believe that L&D organizations have
a requirement – and opportunity – to apply new
technology to provide their employees with the
up-to-date skills that can transform their offerings
and themselves. The goals: Enable learning to be
more focused, personalized and relevant; provide
a variety of lifelong learning opportunities to
build skills and knowledge; and make learning an
integral part of the work flow.
By and large, companies understand the need to
transform L&D, according to our recent survey of
500 U.S. L&D leaders in organizations with 500
or more employees (see Methodology, page 18).
Looking ahead, survey respondents clearly
see a different approach to L&D taking hold.
For example, 64% predicted that more than
half of their learning will be offered virtually
within two years, up from 38% today. And 77%
of respondents said their companies are likely
to replace their learning management systems
(LMS) with a learning experience platform (LXP).
Tomorrow’s approach to L&D will need to be
more flexible, engaging and responsive to digital
change underway in organizations. How are
companies planning to achieve that vision? Our
study found that they are pursuing reskilling
and upskilling strategies; establishing metrics
to better track the impact of learning; and
partnering with other parts of the organization –
especially IT – to improve learning.
Above all, however, respondents see technology
as critical. Many survey respondents report they
are already implementing technologies such
as LXPs, virtual learning and AI, and they plan
to expand their use of technology over the next
two years. At the same time, they are planning to
upgrade the skill sets of the learning staff in the
coming years in such areas as people analytics,
design and facilitation of virtual learning – and
keep a tab on emerging technologies.
With this range of challenges, coupled with the
urgency to improve, L&D organizations need to
plan carefully, rethink their processes and people,
and move ahead quickly to transform themselves
for an uncertain and constantly shifting future.
5 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders
Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC
Figure 1
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%
Scale the learning to
a global audience
Create consumer grade
learning experiences
Use agile methods of learning
design/development
Redesign learning to be virtual
Increase speed to competence
Personalize the learning experience
Measure the effectiveness of the
learning experience 55%
51%
49%
41%
34%
38%
32%
When asked which principles best described the desired future state of
learning in their organization, respondents most often named measure
the effectiveness of the learning experience (55%). This was followed
closely by personalize the learning experience (51%) and increase speed
to competence (49%). In addition, many respondents cited factors such
as making learning more virtual, improving the learning experience, and
increasing agility in learning design and development.
In assessing the innovations that companies plan to leverage over the
next two years to put these principles into action, L&D leaders identified
two technologies they see gaining traction: LXPs (52%) and virtual reality
for training (50%). Interest in these two technologies is understandable.
The LXP plays a key role in transforming L&D, because it consolidates
fragmented learning systems to make it easier for employees to access
and use training, while enhancing the L&D organization’s ability to manage
learning programs and update them as business needs change. And
virtual reality is rapidly emerging as an effective tool for enhancing the
learning experience, allowing employees to practice difficult situations and
embedding learning into employees’ work.
What principles best describe a desired future state of
learning you want to create in your organization?
Envisioning the future of learning
6 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
The LXP plays a key role in
transforming L&D, because it
consolidates fragmented learning
systems to make it easier for
employees to access and use
training, while enhancing the L&D
organization’s ability to manage
learning programs and update
them as business needs change.
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%
Agile tools
Performance consulting
Community management
Business acumen
Digital curation
Learning science
Virtual facilitation
Instructional design
Learning technology acumen
Learning experience design
Marketing & communication skills
Growth mindset
Data analytics
Innovation
44%
44%
44%
44%
45%
47%
50%
54%
44%
40%
39%
37%
38%
37%
7 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
While L&D organizations are helping the business reskill for
the future, they also need to enhance their own skills to make
that possible. If employees are to become lifelong learners,
L&D professionals will have to do the same to keep up. High
on the list of key skills for L&D in the coming years cited by
our respondents were innovation (54%), data analytics (50%)
and growth mindset (47%). These overarching “meta-skills”
are presumably valued because they are vital to leading
change and delivering business results. Respondents also
said skills related to virtual technology (44%) and learning
technology (44%) were important, underscoring the growing
role of building technology acumen among L&D teams and
communicating the value of investing in the function.
To increase skills in the L&D function over the next two years,
respondents said they were most likely to add new full-time
employees (31%). However, other respondents said their
organizations were most likely to follow approaches such
as adding contract workers (18%) or leveraging talent from
vendors (18%).
Skills: What L&D teams need to learn
Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders
Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC
Figure 2
How important will the following skills and capabilities be for learning
professionals in the next two years?
Percentage responding “very important”
8 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
If employees are to
become lifelong learners,
L&D professionals will have
to do the same to keep up.
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%
Net promoter
Scale
Revenue increase
Cost reduction
Speed
Accessibility
Proficiency
Learner engagement
Knowledge gain
Efficiency
Effectiveness
45%
47%
49%
52%
54%
43%
42%
35%
22%
35%
20%
9 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
L&D organizations and business leaders need effective
measures of the performance of learning programs – a
reflection of L&D’s increasingly important role in enabling
their companies to navigate a changing landscape. Over the
next two years, companies are most likely to use effectiveness
(54%), efficiency (52%) and knowledge gain (49%) as
metrics for assessing the impact of learning programs. Far
fewer respondents cited cost reduction (35%), revenue
increases (35%) or net promoter scores (20%). This means
that L&D organizations may be falling short in tying learning
to tangible business outcomes and value, and there is a
significant opportunity to broaden their measurements to
include business metrics such as revenue increases, cost
reduction and net promoter score (NPS) to strengthen the
business focus.
Assessing the impact
Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders
Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC
Figure 3
Which of the following learning impact measures does your learning
department intend to use in the next two years?
0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35%
Corporate marketing
Resource management
Corporate strategy
Finance
Recruitment
Lines of business leaders
Human resources
IT
18%
34%
9%
9%
9%
7%
8%
6%
10 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
To be effective in a fast-changing world, L&D needs to partner
with various functions in the company to keep current with
their evolving needs, and to collaborate on improving learning.
When asked which single function will be most beneficial to
achieve their vision for L&D, respondents most often named IT
(34%), almost twice as often as they named HR (18%).
Notably, only 27% of respondents said L&D currently partners
with line of business leaders, and just 9% considered a
partnership with lines of business to be most important for
future success. Here again, this means L&D is missing critical
inputs needed for aligning its strategies with the organization’s
strategic business priorities.
Working across functions
within the organization
Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders
Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC
Figure 4
To achieve the future vision of learning in your organization, which
function would be the most beneficial to partner with the learning
department?
Percentage ranked #1
11 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
Notably, only 27% of respondents
said L&D currently partners with
line of business leaders, and just
9% considered a partnership
with lines of business to be most
important for future success.
12 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
Technology is disrupting L&D, just as organizations are going through
digital change.When respondents were asked which L&D technologies their
companies were using or expect to use within the next two years, roughly 67%
said they use virtual online learning today and 60% expected to do so in the
future.This reflects the increased use of remote learning resulting from the
COVID-19 pandemic. In the long run, learning delivered through virtual reality
and LXPs is expected to augment virtual online trainings.
Meanwhile, 50% of respondents said their companies are using LXPs and
56% expected to do so over the next two years. Often, companies use both
an LXP and their existing LMS technologies to give them time to transition
completely to the newer platforms. Looking ahead, 77% of respondents said
their companies are at some point likely to specifically replace their LMS
with an LXP – a step typically taken to consolidate and simplify the traditional
fragmented, multisystem LMS landscape.
In general, respondents expected their companies to employ more new
technologies in the future. For example,while 33% of respondents said their
companies use virtual reality learning technology today, 44% expect that they
will do so over the next two years. Similarly, augmented reality is used by 20%
of companies today, but 30% expect to use it over the next two years.
Technology takes center stage
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80%
Use in next 2 years
Use currently
Gamification
Augmented reality
Virtual reality
Artificial intelligence
Mobile platform
Social learning platform
Learning experience platform
Virtual online learning
56%
60%
48%
50%
43%
30%
44%
22%
50%
67%
47%
45%
37%
20%
33%
14%
Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders
Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC
Figure 5
Which of the following technologies for learning and development
does your company use or expect to use within next two years?
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%
Scalability of learning
Culture around learning
Budget
Globalization of learning programs
Measurement of learning
(demonstrating value)
Learner experience
Providing relevant learning in the flow
of working opportunities to employees
Skill sets of learning staff
Integration of learning technology
tools and platforms
44%
45%
46%
37%
35%
35%
32%
33%
26%
13 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
Technology is seen as both a barrier and an enabler. The top
challenge to L&D organizational learning cited were integration
of learning technology tools and platforms (46%), followed by
skill sets of learning staff (45%) and providing relevant learning
in the flow of working opportunities to employees (44%).
But one-third or more of respondents also cited the learner
experience, measuring learning results to demonstrate value,
globalizing learning programs, budget and learning culture.
Costs can also be a challenge, with respondents saying their
companies spend, on average, between $501 and $1,000 per
employee per year on L&D.
What’s holding back L&D?
Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders
Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC
Figure 6
What are the top challenges to organizational learning that
your organization is facing today?
14 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
Costs can also be a challenge, with
respondents saying their companies
spend, on average, between $501
and $1,000 per employee per year
on L&D.
< Back to Contents
15 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success
To prepare for the future, companies will need to
restructure the L&D organization by rethinking the
traditional 70-20-10 learning mix– experiential/
on-the-job training/formal coursework–to be
much more virtual and technology-driven.As
our research shows, leveraging technology will
be key to innovation, not only to help expand
and strengthen coursework/training, but also to
enhance experiential/on-the-job learning.
Companies need to adjust the scope of L&D
investment as well as the skill sets of the learning
staff to align to business needs and the growth of
technology for learning. With technology playing
an increasingly central role in learning, businesses
should consider increasing L&D’s presence in
the CIO’s organization and embedding learning
teams in HR and LOBs.
	
❙ CIO learning teams can drive digital L&D
transformation through learning technology,
and by recommending the right technologies;
create a more engaging learning experience;
and support a culture of continuous learning.
	
❙ HR learning teams can work with the CHRO
and staff to establish L&D policies and budgets;
create governance so learning is aligned to
business goals and needs; and analyze the data
analytics of learning to monitor key benchmark
metrics for engagement, effectiveness and
efficiency.
	
❙ LOB learning teams can create a clear
understanding of future skill needs for
each specific function; ensure learning is
personalized to each employee’s function;
provide performance consulting to help fill
local skill gaps; provide input to the digital
learning team on the personalization and
digital needs of business units; and help track
learning ROI.
Reshaping L&D
16 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
The benefits of getting L&D right will be increased effectiveness, greater
business impacts and more efficient L&D delivery. Most importantly,
meeting the L&D expectations of today’s workforce will make companies
more competitive in attracting top talent. To help achieve those benefits,
L&D organizations need to abide by three key “rules of the road” as they
move forward:
	
❙ Design for business impact. Companies should consider creating a
“skilling partner” role to work with large LOBs. For smaller business units,
this role can be included in the responsibilities of the HR business partner
that works with those units. The skilling partner should be responsible for
creating a skill heat map for the line of business’s as-is and to-be states,
developing strategies to bridge the gap and helping to establish metrics
for measuring ROI from skill-building efforts. This ensures that the talent-
development effort for the organization is invested in the right areas and
delivering value for the business.
	
❙ Disrupt the status quo. L&D will need to reskill itself, as well as the
business employees it serves. L&D organizations will need to cultivate
a variety of technology skills, particularly in data analytics and virtual
learning. This is critical because technology is fast becoming a core
component of effective learning – and as other parts of the company
continue to become more digital, it will allow L&D to “talk the same
language” as the business. But L&D professionals will also need to
understand innovation and develop deeper business acumen to help
ensure that technology-enabled learning stays in step with the rapidly
evolving needs of the business. Overall, finding the right skills will require
casting a wide net that includes more robust recruiting, the use of flexible
contract workers and partnering with outside companies to access the
required expertise.
	
❙ Democratize the learning experience. There is a growing range of
technologies that can be used to support more effective employee
learning. Companies must select and deploy these with a seamless
learner experience in mind. For several years now, we have seen
technology integrating work and life for employees, democratizing many
of our personal experiences like shopping, banking and contributing to
the news. Now, learning departments have an opportunity to do much the
same by blurring the lines between working and learning. For example,
a sales executive should be able to use a VR headset to practice sales
negotiations in a realistic environment, while an underwriter learning
to incorporate machine learning algorithms in her risk analyses should
be able to receive on-the-job aids that help her both learn and work
successfully. As the learning technology market continues to expand and
evolve, the L&D organization needs to yoke technologies seamlessly to
enable employees to learn with ease.
Doing it right
17 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
A knowledgeable, skilled workforce is more important than ever. But in a
constantly changing business environment, building and empowering that
type of workforce require new approaches – and the transformation of the
L&D function.
Technology will be key to making that transformation. This fact is clear to
many companies, as our research demonstrates. To take full advantage
of the technology, companies will need to restructure L&D and invest in
significantly reskilling the function. And they will need to ensure that they are
equipped to leverage fast-moving technology, make learning more effective
and embedded in work, and keep learning in sync with the evolving needs
of the business.
Our research found that many companies have a vision for transforming
L&D. A deeper understanding of learning technologies and how L&D can
put them to work will be key to making that vision a reality, and building a
future-ready workforce.
Looking forward
Performance consulting
Instructional design
Sales training
Other
Organizational effectiveness
Business unit
L&D
Human resources
Pharmaceutical/Lifesciences
Consulting
Consumer packaged goods
Telecommunications
Retail
Manufacturing
Education
Healthcare
Other
Financial services
Technology
40%
11%
19%
10%
6%
5%
5%
Business functions respondents report into Industry breakdown
40%
4%
18%
15%
14%
13%
13%
11%
5%
4%
3%
2%
2%
18 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
Methodology
Cognizant and Future Workplace partnered to
administer a 25-question online survey among
500 full-time U.S. L&D leaders in organizations
with 500 or more employees.
The research was designed to better understand
how corporate learning is being transformed,
democratized and aligned to new ways of
working and learning. Specifically, respondents
were asked questions around innovations in
L&D approaches, new skills and capabilities
needed from learning team members and the
acceleration of new technologies in the corporate
learning function.
19 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
About the authors
Kshitij (Tij) Nerurkar
North America Leader for Education Business,
Cognizant
Kshitij (Tij) Nerurkar is the North America leader for
Education Business at Cognizant. For over 25 years,
Tij has advised and implemented digital learning
solutions across private and public sector clients on a
global basis. In his current role, Tij helps educational
institutions and ed-tech companies develop and
implement digital strategies to transform their
business model, reimagine learner experience and drive skill enablement.
Previously, Tij was the Head of Cognizant Academy in North America. In this role, he
led Cognizant’s North American L&D operations and headed the Global Commercial
Academy to skill over 50,000 associates in North America. He was also responsible for
developing industry partnerships for the Academy and worked as a core member of
the talent team to help bridge the reskilling gap through innovative synergistic business
models by bringing educational institutions, skilling companies and business together.
Prior to joining Cognizant, Tij served as President at Tata Interactive Systems, a digital
firm that specialized in developing innovative learning experiences for enterprises and
academic institutions.
Tij has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in
management studies from the University of Bombay, India, and he has completed a
sales and leadership program at Harvard University. Tij is also on the executive
learning council of the Association for Talent Development (ATD). He can be reached at
Kshitij.Nerurkar@cognizant.com | Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/tij-nerurkar/.
Jeanne Meister
Managing Partner, Future Workplace
Jeanne Meister is Managing Partner of Future
Workplace, an HR advisory, research and membership
firm. She is the best-selling author of three books:
Corporate Universities: Lessons in Building a World
Class Workforce; The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative
Companies Attract, Develop and Keep Tomorrow’s
Employees Today; and The Future Workplace Experience:
10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and
Engaging Employees.Jeanne is a regular Forbes contributor, and her column can be
found here.
Jeanne is the recipient of the Distinguished Contribution in Workplace Learning Award,
given to one HR executive each year by the ATD, honoring Jeanne’s body of work in
preparing executives for the future of work. She is also the recipient of the Colin Corder
Award for Outstanding Achievement in Workplace Learning by the Learning and
Performance Institute (LPI.)
Jeanne was named one of the Top 100 HR Tech Influencers by HR Executive magazine in
2019 and 2020, and was recently nominated by Boston University to be an HRPI Research
Fellow, advising a network of chief human resource officers on the future of HR.
Jeanne was previously VP of Market Development at Accenture and is a member of the
Excelsior College Board of Trustees. She has a BA from the University of Connecticut and
a master’s degree in education from Boston University.Jeanne can be reached at:
Jeanne@futureworkplace.com | Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/jeannemeister/ |
Twitter: @JCMeister.
20 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents
About the authors (continued)
Meeraa Jayaraman
Global Learning Business Partner, Cognizant
Meeraa heads Global Capability Academies for the
Digital Experience and IoT business units within
Cognizant, where she is responsible for aligning
business growth with digital skill development strategy
for over 20,000 associates globally. In addition, she
heads the Graduate Training Program for Cognizant
North America.
In her 18-year career in IT, Meeraa has developed a strong mix of experience in business
delivery and L&D. She led multiple IT projects during the early part of her time with
Cognizant in Ireland, North America and India. During the last 10 years at Cognizant
Academy, she has played multiple roles as Learning Business Partner, Change
Management Lead and Learning Culture Consultant. She is passionate about achieving
business outcomes and improving the learning experience. Meeraa has adopted design
thinking and Lean startup methodologies as core frameworks. She has delivered industry
accredited learning programs through her innovative designs. Her programs have won
over 10 awards in external industry forums such as ATD and Brandon Hall.
Meeraa graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, with a master’s
degree in physics. She can be reached at Meeraa.Jayaraman@cognizant.com |
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/meeraa-jayaraman/.
Kevin Solar
Director, Research & Content, Future Workplace
Kevin first joined the Future Workplace team in 2016
to support and manage relationships with Future
Workplace network members. He later oversaw the
development and launch of the Future Workplace
Academy, a highly curated collection of online courses
on topics related to the future of work featuring the
most influential HR, talent, employee experience and
learning practitioners leading the way in transforming
themselves, their teams and their function for the new world of work.
Kevin graduated from Fordham University with a double major in economics and
marketing. He has been published by the Federal Reserve System in the release of its
book series Investing in America’s Workforce: Improving Outcomes for Workers and
Employers. This was published in 2018 in collaboration with the Heldrich Center for
Workforce Development at Rutgers University, the Ray Marshall Center at the University
of Texas at Austin and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Kevin
contributed to a chapter on “Closing the Skills Gap in America and the Future of Job
Training” in the digital age. Kevin can be reached at Ksolar@futureworkplace.com |
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-solar.
World Headquarters
300 Frank W. Burr Blvd. Suite 600
Teaneck, NJ 07666 USA
Phone: +1 201 801 0233
Fax: +1 201 801 0243
Toll Free: +1 888 937 3277
European Headquarters
1 Kingdom Street
Paddington Central
London W2 6BD England
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7297 7600
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7121 0102
India Operations Headquarters
#5/535 Old Mahabalipuram Road
Okkiyam Pettai, Thoraipakkam
Chennai, 600 096 India
Phone: +91 (0) 44 4209 6000
Fax: +91 (0) 44 4209 6060
APAC Headquarters
1 Changi Business Park Crescent,
Plaza 8@CBP # 07-04/05/06,
Tower A, Singapore 486025
Phone: + 65 6812 4051
Fax: + 65 6324 4051
About Cognizant
Cognizant (Nasdaq-100: CTSH) is one of the world’s leading professional services companies, transforming clients’
business, operating and technology models for the digital era. Our unique industry-based, consultative approach helps
clients envision, build and run more innovative and efficient businesses. Headquartered in the U.S., Cognizant is ranked 194
on the Fortune 500 and is consistently listed among the most admired companies in the world. Learn how Cognizant helps
clients lead with digital at www.cognizant.com or follow us @Cognizant.
About Future Workplace
Future Workplace is an HR advisory and research firm providing peer networks, professional development and research
on what’s next in transforming and reimagining HR. Future Workplace operates the Future Workplace Network™, a
consortium of HR, talent and corporate learning leaders from FORTUNE 1000 organizations who convene four times a year
to discuss and debate what’s next in preparing for the future of work. For more, visit https://futureworkplace.com.
Learn More
For more information and to find out more about
Cognizant Education Technology Solutions, visit
www.cognizant.com/education-technology-solutions
© Copyright 2021, Cognizant. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the express written permission from Cognizant.
The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
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Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success

  • 1. February 2021 Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success Corporate learning is increasingly critical to business, but traditional approaches are inefficient, overly rigid, fragmented and unconnected from employees’ daily work – and thus ripe for transformation – as recent research reveals. PRODUCED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
  • 2. < Back to Contents 2 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents Contents Click a link below to jump to that section. 3 Introduction 5 Envisioning the future of learning 7 Skills: What L&D teams need to learn 9 Assessing the impact 10 Working across functions within the organization 12 Technology takes center stage 13 What’s holding L&D back? 15 Reshaping L&D 16 Doing it right 17 Looking forward 18 Methodology 19 About the authors An effective L&D strategy goes hand-in-hand with both responding to and benefiting from change.
  • 3. 3 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents Introduction For companies across all industries, the learning and development function (L&D) has become more and more important – and what it needs to accomplish has expanded dramatically. Today, companies are seeing accelerating change on many fronts, from corporate transformation efforts and evolving customer behavior to the new work and operating models necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies have a growing need to pivot quickly in the face of change, which often requires abrupt shifts in the skills and knowledge that are essential to a modern workforce. The nature of work itself is changing as well. New jobs requiring new skills are emerging rapidly. Increasingly, employees will need to not only understand and operate advanced technologies, but also learn to work in partnership with artificial intelligence-powered (AI) virtual team members, i.e., bots. And they will be called on to drive innovation in products and processes to continuously increase efficiency and elevate competitiveness. In short, constant and rapid change has become the new normal for companies and workers alike. An effective L&D strategy goes hand-in-hand with both responding to and benefiting from change.
  • 4. 4 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents But traditional methods of corporate learning cannot keep up with today’s turbulent pace and breadth of change; in general, they are too rigid and fragmented, too unconnected from employees’ daily work, and too inefficient and costly. We believe that L&D organizations have a requirement – and opportunity – to apply new technology to provide their employees with the up-to-date skills that can transform their offerings and themselves. The goals: Enable learning to be more focused, personalized and relevant; provide a variety of lifelong learning opportunities to build skills and knowledge; and make learning an integral part of the work flow. By and large, companies understand the need to transform L&D, according to our recent survey of 500 U.S. L&D leaders in organizations with 500 or more employees (see Methodology, page 18). Looking ahead, survey respondents clearly see a different approach to L&D taking hold. For example, 64% predicted that more than half of their learning will be offered virtually within two years, up from 38% today. And 77% of respondents said their companies are likely to replace their learning management systems (LMS) with a learning experience platform (LXP). Tomorrow’s approach to L&D will need to be more flexible, engaging and responsive to digital change underway in organizations. How are companies planning to achieve that vision? Our study found that they are pursuing reskilling and upskilling strategies; establishing metrics to better track the impact of learning; and partnering with other parts of the organization – especially IT – to improve learning. Above all, however, respondents see technology as critical. Many survey respondents report they are already implementing technologies such as LXPs, virtual learning and AI, and they plan to expand their use of technology over the next two years. At the same time, they are planning to upgrade the skill sets of the learning staff in the coming years in such areas as people analytics, design and facilitation of virtual learning – and keep a tab on emerging technologies. With this range of challenges, coupled with the urgency to improve, L&D organizations need to plan carefully, rethink their processes and people, and move ahead quickly to transform themselves for an uncertain and constantly shifting future.
  • 5. 5 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC Figure 1 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Scale the learning to a global audience Create consumer grade learning experiences Use agile methods of learning design/development Redesign learning to be virtual Increase speed to competence Personalize the learning experience Measure the effectiveness of the learning experience 55% 51% 49% 41% 34% 38% 32% When asked which principles best described the desired future state of learning in their organization, respondents most often named measure the effectiveness of the learning experience (55%). This was followed closely by personalize the learning experience (51%) and increase speed to competence (49%). In addition, many respondents cited factors such as making learning more virtual, improving the learning experience, and increasing agility in learning design and development. In assessing the innovations that companies plan to leverage over the next two years to put these principles into action, L&D leaders identified two technologies they see gaining traction: LXPs (52%) and virtual reality for training (50%). Interest in these two technologies is understandable. The LXP plays a key role in transforming L&D, because it consolidates fragmented learning systems to make it easier for employees to access and use training, while enhancing the L&D organization’s ability to manage learning programs and update them as business needs change. And virtual reality is rapidly emerging as an effective tool for enhancing the learning experience, allowing employees to practice difficult situations and embedding learning into employees’ work. What principles best describe a desired future state of learning you want to create in your organization? Envisioning the future of learning
  • 6. 6 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents The LXP plays a key role in transforming L&D, because it consolidates fragmented learning systems to make it easier for employees to access and use training, while enhancing the L&D organization’s ability to manage learning programs and update them as business needs change.
  • 7. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Agile tools Performance consulting Community management Business acumen Digital curation Learning science Virtual facilitation Instructional design Learning technology acumen Learning experience design Marketing & communication skills Growth mindset Data analytics Innovation 44% 44% 44% 44% 45% 47% 50% 54% 44% 40% 39% 37% 38% 37% 7 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents While L&D organizations are helping the business reskill for the future, they also need to enhance their own skills to make that possible. If employees are to become lifelong learners, L&D professionals will have to do the same to keep up. High on the list of key skills for L&D in the coming years cited by our respondents were innovation (54%), data analytics (50%) and growth mindset (47%). These overarching “meta-skills” are presumably valued because they are vital to leading change and delivering business results. Respondents also said skills related to virtual technology (44%) and learning technology (44%) were important, underscoring the growing role of building technology acumen among L&D teams and communicating the value of investing in the function. To increase skills in the L&D function over the next two years, respondents said they were most likely to add new full-time employees (31%). However, other respondents said their organizations were most likely to follow approaches such as adding contract workers (18%) or leveraging talent from vendors (18%). Skills: What L&D teams need to learn Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC Figure 2 How important will the following skills and capabilities be for learning professionals in the next two years? Percentage responding “very important”
  • 8. 8 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents If employees are to become lifelong learners, L&D professionals will have to do the same to keep up.
  • 9. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Net promoter Scale Revenue increase Cost reduction Speed Accessibility Proficiency Learner engagement Knowledge gain Efficiency Effectiveness 45% 47% 49% 52% 54% 43% 42% 35% 22% 35% 20% 9 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents L&D organizations and business leaders need effective measures of the performance of learning programs – a reflection of L&D’s increasingly important role in enabling their companies to navigate a changing landscape. Over the next two years, companies are most likely to use effectiveness (54%), efficiency (52%) and knowledge gain (49%) as metrics for assessing the impact of learning programs. Far fewer respondents cited cost reduction (35%), revenue increases (35%) or net promoter scores (20%). This means that L&D organizations may be falling short in tying learning to tangible business outcomes and value, and there is a significant opportunity to broaden their measurements to include business metrics such as revenue increases, cost reduction and net promoter score (NPS) to strengthen the business focus. Assessing the impact Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC Figure 3 Which of the following learning impact measures does your learning department intend to use in the next two years?
  • 10. 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% Corporate marketing Resource management Corporate strategy Finance Recruitment Lines of business leaders Human resources IT 18% 34% 9% 9% 9% 7% 8% 6% 10 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents To be effective in a fast-changing world, L&D needs to partner with various functions in the company to keep current with their evolving needs, and to collaborate on improving learning. When asked which single function will be most beneficial to achieve their vision for L&D, respondents most often named IT (34%), almost twice as often as they named HR (18%). Notably, only 27% of respondents said L&D currently partners with line of business leaders, and just 9% considered a partnership with lines of business to be most important for future success. Here again, this means L&D is missing critical inputs needed for aligning its strategies with the organization’s strategic business priorities. Working across functions within the organization Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC Figure 4 To achieve the future vision of learning in your organization, which function would be the most beneficial to partner with the learning department? Percentage ranked #1
  • 11. 11 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents Notably, only 27% of respondents said L&D currently partners with line of business leaders, and just 9% considered a partnership with lines of business to be most important for future success.
  • 12. 12 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents Technology is disrupting L&D, just as organizations are going through digital change.When respondents were asked which L&D technologies their companies were using or expect to use within the next two years, roughly 67% said they use virtual online learning today and 60% expected to do so in the future.This reflects the increased use of remote learning resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the long run, learning delivered through virtual reality and LXPs is expected to augment virtual online trainings. Meanwhile, 50% of respondents said their companies are using LXPs and 56% expected to do so over the next two years. Often, companies use both an LXP and their existing LMS technologies to give them time to transition completely to the newer platforms. Looking ahead, 77% of respondents said their companies are at some point likely to specifically replace their LMS with an LXP – a step typically taken to consolidate and simplify the traditional fragmented, multisystem LMS landscape. In general, respondents expected their companies to employ more new technologies in the future. For example,while 33% of respondents said their companies use virtual reality learning technology today, 44% expect that they will do so over the next two years. Similarly, augmented reality is used by 20% of companies today, but 30% expect to use it over the next two years. Technology takes center stage 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% Use in next 2 years Use currently Gamification Augmented reality Virtual reality Artificial intelligence Mobile platform Social learning platform Learning experience platform Virtual online learning 56% 60% 48% 50% 43% 30% 44% 22% 50% 67% 47% 45% 37% 20% 33% 14% Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC Figure 5 Which of the following technologies for learning and development does your company use or expect to use within next two years?
  • 13. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% Scalability of learning Culture around learning Budget Globalization of learning programs Measurement of learning (demonstrating value) Learner experience Providing relevant learning in the flow of working opportunities to employees Skill sets of learning staff Integration of learning technology tools and platforms 44% 45% 46% 37% 35% 35% 32% 33% 26% 13 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents Technology is seen as both a barrier and an enabler. The top challenge to L&D organizational learning cited were integration of learning technology tools and platforms (46%), followed by skill sets of learning staff (45%) and providing relevant learning in the flow of working opportunities to employees (44%). But one-third or more of respondents also cited the learner experience, measuring learning results to demonstrate value, globalizing learning programs, budget and learning culture. Costs can also be a challenge, with respondents saying their companies spend, on average, between $501 and $1,000 per employee per year on L&D. What’s holding back L&D? Response base: 500 U.S. L&D leaders Source: Cognizant and Future Workplace LLC Figure 6 What are the top challenges to organizational learning that your organization is facing today?
  • 14. 14 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents Costs can also be a challenge, with respondents saying their companies spend, on average, between $501 and $1,000 per employee per year on L&D.
  • 15. < Back to Contents 15 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success To prepare for the future, companies will need to restructure the L&D organization by rethinking the traditional 70-20-10 learning mix– experiential/ on-the-job training/formal coursework–to be much more virtual and technology-driven.As our research shows, leveraging technology will be key to innovation, not only to help expand and strengthen coursework/training, but also to enhance experiential/on-the-job learning. Companies need to adjust the scope of L&D investment as well as the skill sets of the learning staff to align to business needs and the growth of technology for learning. With technology playing an increasingly central role in learning, businesses should consider increasing L&D’s presence in the CIO’s organization and embedding learning teams in HR and LOBs. ❙ CIO learning teams can drive digital L&D transformation through learning technology, and by recommending the right technologies; create a more engaging learning experience; and support a culture of continuous learning. ❙ HR learning teams can work with the CHRO and staff to establish L&D policies and budgets; create governance so learning is aligned to business goals and needs; and analyze the data analytics of learning to monitor key benchmark metrics for engagement, effectiveness and efficiency. ❙ LOB learning teams can create a clear understanding of future skill needs for each specific function; ensure learning is personalized to each employee’s function; provide performance consulting to help fill local skill gaps; provide input to the digital learning team on the personalization and digital needs of business units; and help track learning ROI. Reshaping L&D
  • 16. 16 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents The benefits of getting L&D right will be increased effectiveness, greater business impacts and more efficient L&D delivery. Most importantly, meeting the L&D expectations of today’s workforce will make companies more competitive in attracting top talent. To help achieve those benefits, L&D organizations need to abide by three key “rules of the road” as they move forward: ❙ Design for business impact. Companies should consider creating a “skilling partner” role to work with large LOBs. For smaller business units, this role can be included in the responsibilities of the HR business partner that works with those units. The skilling partner should be responsible for creating a skill heat map for the line of business’s as-is and to-be states, developing strategies to bridge the gap and helping to establish metrics for measuring ROI from skill-building efforts. This ensures that the talent- development effort for the organization is invested in the right areas and delivering value for the business. ❙ Disrupt the status quo. L&D will need to reskill itself, as well as the business employees it serves. L&D organizations will need to cultivate a variety of technology skills, particularly in data analytics and virtual learning. This is critical because technology is fast becoming a core component of effective learning – and as other parts of the company continue to become more digital, it will allow L&D to “talk the same language” as the business. But L&D professionals will also need to understand innovation and develop deeper business acumen to help ensure that technology-enabled learning stays in step with the rapidly evolving needs of the business. Overall, finding the right skills will require casting a wide net that includes more robust recruiting, the use of flexible contract workers and partnering with outside companies to access the required expertise. ❙ Democratize the learning experience. There is a growing range of technologies that can be used to support more effective employee learning. Companies must select and deploy these with a seamless learner experience in mind. For several years now, we have seen technology integrating work and life for employees, democratizing many of our personal experiences like shopping, banking and contributing to the news. Now, learning departments have an opportunity to do much the same by blurring the lines between working and learning. For example, a sales executive should be able to use a VR headset to practice sales negotiations in a realistic environment, while an underwriter learning to incorporate machine learning algorithms in her risk analyses should be able to receive on-the-job aids that help her both learn and work successfully. As the learning technology market continues to expand and evolve, the L&D organization needs to yoke technologies seamlessly to enable employees to learn with ease. Doing it right
  • 17. 17 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents A knowledgeable, skilled workforce is more important than ever. But in a constantly changing business environment, building and empowering that type of workforce require new approaches – and the transformation of the L&D function. Technology will be key to making that transformation. This fact is clear to many companies, as our research demonstrates. To take full advantage of the technology, companies will need to restructure L&D and invest in significantly reskilling the function. And they will need to ensure that they are equipped to leverage fast-moving technology, make learning more effective and embedded in work, and keep learning in sync with the evolving needs of the business. Our research found that many companies have a vision for transforming L&D. A deeper understanding of learning technologies and how L&D can put them to work will be key to making that vision a reality, and building a future-ready workforce. Looking forward
  • 18. Performance consulting Instructional design Sales training Other Organizational effectiveness Business unit L&D Human resources Pharmaceutical/Lifesciences Consulting Consumer packaged goods Telecommunications Retail Manufacturing Education Healthcare Other Financial services Technology 40% 11% 19% 10% 6% 5% 5% Business functions respondents report into Industry breakdown 40% 4% 18% 15% 14% 13% 13% 11% 5% 4% 3% 2% 2% 18 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents Methodology Cognizant and Future Workplace partnered to administer a 25-question online survey among 500 full-time U.S. L&D leaders in organizations with 500 or more employees. The research was designed to better understand how corporate learning is being transformed, democratized and aligned to new ways of working and learning. Specifically, respondents were asked questions around innovations in L&D approaches, new skills and capabilities needed from learning team members and the acceleration of new technologies in the corporate learning function.
  • 19. 19 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents About the authors Kshitij (Tij) Nerurkar North America Leader for Education Business, Cognizant Kshitij (Tij) Nerurkar is the North America leader for Education Business at Cognizant. For over 25 years, Tij has advised and implemented digital learning solutions across private and public sector clients on a global basis. In his current role, Tij helps educational institutions and ed-tech companies develop and implement digital strategies to transform their business model, reimagine learner experience and drive skill enablement. Previously, Tij was the Head of Cognizant Academy in North America. In this role, he led Cognizant’s North American L&D operations and headed the Global Commercial Academy to skill over 50,000 associates in North America. He was also responsible for developing industry partnerships for the Academy and worked as a core member of the talent team to help bridge the reskilling gap through innovative synergistic business models by bringing educational institutions, skilling companies and business together. Prior to joining Cognizant, Tij served as President at Tata Interactive Systems, a digital firm that specialized in developing innovative learning experiences for enterprises and academic institutions. Tij has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in management studies from the University of Bombay, India, and he has completed a sales and leadership program at Harvard University. Tij is also on the executive learning council of the Association for Talent Development (ATD). He can be reached at Kshitij.Nerurkar@cognizant.com | Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/tij-nerurkar/. Jeanne Meister Managing Partner, Future Workplace Jeanne Meister is Managing Partner of Future Workplace, an HR advisory, research and membership firm. She is the best-selling author of three books: Corporate Universities: Lessons in Building a World Class Workforce; The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today; and The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees.Jeanne is a regular Forbes contributor, and her column can be found here. Jeanne is the recipient of the Distinguished Contribution in Workplace Learning Award, given to one HR executive each year by the ATD, honoring Jeanne’s body of work in preparing executives for the future of work. She is also the recipient of the Colin Corder Award for Outstanding Achievement in Workplace Learning by the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI.) Jeanne was named one of the Top 100 HR Tech Influencers by HR Executive magazine in 2019 and 2020, and was recently nominated by Boston University to be an HRPI Research Fellow, advising a network of chief human resource officers on the future of HR. Jeanne was previously VP of Market Development at Accenture and is a member of the Excelsior College Board of Trustees. She has a BA from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in education from Boston University.Jeanne can be reached at: Jeanne@futureworkplace.com | Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/jeannemeister/ | Twitter: @JCMeister.
  • 20. 20 / Learning & Development: A Prescriptive Vision for Accelerating Business Success < Back to Contents About the authors (continued) Meeraa Jayaraman Global Learning Business Partner, Cognizant Meeraa heads Global Capability Academies for the Digital Experience and IoT business units within Cognizant, where she is responsible for aligning business growth with digital skill development strategy for over 20,000 associates globally. In addition, she heads the Graduate Training Program for Cognizant North America. In her 18-year career in IT, Meeraa has developed a strong mix of experience in business delivery and L&D. She led multiple IT projects during the early part of her time with Cognizant in Ireland, North America and India. During the last 10 years at Cognizant Academy, she has played multiple roles as Learning Business Partner, Change Management Lead and Learning Culture Consultant. She is passionate about achieving business outcomes and improving the learning experience. Meeraa has adopted design thinking and Lean startup methodologies as core frameworks. She has delivered industry accredited learning programs through her innovative designs. Her programs have won over 10 awards in external industry forums such as ATD and Brandon Hall. Meeraa graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, with a master’s degree in physics. She can be reached at Meeraa.Jayaraman@cognizant.com | LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/meeraa-jayaraman/. Kevin Solar Director, Research & Content, Future Workplace Kevin first joined the Future Workplace team in 2016 to support and manage relationships with Future Workplace network members. He later oversaw the development and launch of the Future Workplace Academy, a highly curated collection of online courses on topics related to the future of work featuring the most influential HR, talent, employee experience and learning practitioners leading the way in transforming themselves, their teams and their function for the new world of work. Kevin graduated from Fordham University with a double major in economics and marketing. He has been published by the Federal Reserve System in the release of its book series Investing in America’s Workforce: Improving Outcomes for Workers and Employers. This was published in 2018 in collaboration with the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Kevin contributed to a chapter on “Closing the Skills Gap in America and the Future of Job Training” in the digital age. Kevin can be reached at Ksolar@futureworkplace.com | LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-solar.
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