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Must Have L&D Tools for 2021 and Beyond

Emily Stifler Wolfe | 9 min read

The world was already changing fast. Then we hit warp speed.

“We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in April.

If you’ve been living on planet Earth, you know the rate of change has only increased since then. The pandemic has accelerated trends including e-commerce, telemedicine and our favorite, online professional development. 

As entire industries or sectors shifted online in 2020, eLearning use has skyrocketed, with new research indicating the market will exceed $375 billion by 2026.

Maybe your valet drivers had to learn how to work as delivery drivers, your baristas are now delivering coffee curbside, or your workout instructors have begun new studio cleaning procedures. Whatever the case, if you had online training tools like a learning management system, or LMS, already in place, you were poised to adapt alongside the changing business climate.

For many companies, implementing or updating their eLearning program is about immediate survival. How do we use innovative training solutions to bring our employees up to speed on the new protocols? How do we keep everyone safe while still staying in business? For others, this is an opportunity to grow and scale.

After the crisis is over—and it will eventually be over—virtual learning and development activities will likely remain the norm. But don’t despair. We won’t all be replaced by robots. In fact, it’s the opposite: Emerging trends in training and development like interactive and social learning will humanize the digital learning experience, making it more enjoyable and effective.

8 L&D Tools and Trends for 2021

Learning is fundamental. It’s how we survived during the time of the wooly mammoth, and it’s how we’ll continue to exist as a species. But people learn in many different ways.

Think about it. Are you a visual and spatial learner, a logical and mathematical learner, or a social and interpersonal learner? Verbal, auditory, or physical? The list goes on, but generally speaking, research has identified two broad ways we learn: cognitive and socio-emotional.

In the former, which is based on information and skills, “we absorb processes, and use information to complete our tasks,” according to a Harvard Business Review article on digital learning published this past spring. The latter, socio-emotional learning,  teaches us “how we — and others — feel and think about the new situation we are in, and how to manage those thoughts and feelings.” 

We need both, according to the article’s authors: “The combination of these two types of learning makes us competent and keeps us human. Their separation makes us clueless, paranoid, or both.”

The innovative training ideas of 2020 (and the tools for training and development that go along with them) are designed to employ both cognitive and socio-emotional learning. As these tools and trends improve in 2021, we sure hope they help keep us competent and human, too.

  1. Learning Management System (LMS)

    If you haven’t added this to your L&D line-up yet, it’s time to get on the ball. LMS software acts like a hub that centralizes your eLearning content. It can lower costs, improve employee engagement, decrease L&D time, and let you track progress and compliance. You can use an LMS to improve company culture, maintain consistency across disparate locations, or quickly bring employees up to speed on new protocols. With all the advantages, you really can’t afford not to have an LMS.
  1. Microlearning and Mobile Learning

    The average employee has around 1% of their time available for training each week, according to Deloitte’s research. Spread across a five-day workweek, that averages out to 4.8 minutes a day. Since you’re unlikely to start 4.8-minute daily training sessions anytime soon, we suggest mobile learning and microlearning. This way, employees can fit learning into the time they have, on a device they likely already carry with them. Microlearning can take the form of text, videos, audio, quizzes, or point-of-need, and it’s often easier to produce and absorb, which is exactly why it’s trending.
  1. Content Authoring Tools

    Buying L&D software without creating content would be like buying a TV with no channels. Boooooring. But if your content is good—high quality, entertaining, effective, and it improves the learners’ life—it will drive engagement and ultimately move the needle toward your goals. So, do you want written, audio, or video training? Regardless, you need the tools to create it. That could be as simple as typing straight into the backend of the LMS or making a smartphone video, or as complex as hiring a firm to create high-end audio and video. The choice depends on your budget, time and objectives, so design your content carefully to make sure it fits both—and speaks to your audience.
  1. Daily Checklist Tool

    Your employees have new tasks, jobs, and protocols, and you want to make sure they complete them. But you can’t always be looking over their shoulders. This is where the Daily Checklist Tool comes in. A virtual system that allows real-time status reports, encourages compliance-friendly behaviors, and supports stronger performance, a checklist allows just-in-time learning as well as learning in the flow of work—both concepts that are gaining traction for 2021.
  1. Collaborative, Interactive and Informal Learning

    Employees who receive feedback and coaching learn faster, perform better, and stick around longer. It’s all about developing talent. Give people meaningful work, room to grow, and a strong, supportive community, and watch as your team takes you to the moon. Social learning, gamification, interactive tools, and peer-to-peer learning are all ways modern tech can support these values.
  1. Multi-language Tools/Support

    The workforce is more diverse than ever, and that’s a good thing. Diverse perspectives bring new ideas and innovation. To empower inclusive, multicultural, global workers, you’ve got to reach them in their own language and design content with different cultural sensibilities in mind. Start by implementing multi-language training on the L&D activities that support your organizational priorities, and those with the highest ROI.
  1. Customer Education

    L&D isn’t just for employees. It can also boost customer engagement and improve customer outcomes. Use an LMS to communicate, educate, or entertain customers, or address complaints and gather feedback. You’ll likely see an increase in customer retention—something most of us would be hard-pressed to complain about.
  1. BI Tool

    So, you’ve invested in a training platform, tools and content. But is it working? You won’t know unless you measure it. BI, short for business intelligence, is a tech tool that lets you analyze data to find how well your L&D efforts are helping you reach your KPIs and goals. As is the case with all your tech, it’s important to make sure your tools play nice together. Data-connector integration, for example, will allow you to export data from your LMS directly to your BI tool. That way you can use all that awesome LMS data to make better business decisions.

L&D Tools of the Future

Here are a few professional development trends and tools we see gaining momentum in the near future.  

  1. Personalization

    Artificial intelligence, or AI, can deliver personalized training via algorithm, so the content is tailored to the learner’s knowledge and interests. This not only increases engagement by providing content users will value, but also reduces time L&D managers have to spend selecting training for each individual, allowing them to focus on their own work—and driving your business forward.
  1. Virtual Reality Training

    Welcome to the future, Fred Flintstone. You may be using virtual reality or augmented reality to train your employees very soon. And according to research published in Science Direct this April, VR and AR training can help people learn quickly and retain knowledge, and reduce workplace accidents.
  1. Interactive Video

    Humans are hardwired for narrative stories, and video has emerged as one of the best ways to deliver them. L&D pros have used it to train teams for years, and interactive video is the next big step. Via role-playing, challenge, gamification and other interactive functionalities, learners are immersed in a story, gaining knowledge through experience.

Put the Tools into Place

Learning and development tools like these are the core of how you deliver your digital training and will ultimately determine its success. Having the right ones will make life better for everyone, from company leaders and managers to employees and customers. 

And whether you have an online corporate learning software in place already, or you’re just considering it, you can use online training to emerge on the other side of 2020 even stronger. 

Wisetail is a state of the art Learning Management System (LMS) that helps businesses scale their training and onboarding. Contact us today to request a demo.


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emily stifler wolfe, writer for wisetail


Emily Stifler Wolfe is an award-winning independent journalist and marketing professional based in Bozeman, Montana. A lifelong learner, she works with people-centered businesses and organizations that respect the planet—which aligns perfectly with Wisetail.