The Future of Learning and Development

HQ Asia spoke with Gill White, the CIPD’s Commercial & Capability Director on well-being at work, and the future of learning and development.

Ideally, well-being is integrated into the day-to-day in a workplace and does not require a conversation. However if well-being at work is not already part of the conversation, then the organisation can take steps to get there.

White recommends taking a holistic approach to well-being. This means that rather than offering a one-off of gym memberships or a meditation class, put time and work into the organisation’s culture. “Make it so that well-being is ‘the way that we do things around here’, whether it involves people, business or HR decisions,” says Gill White.

The CIPD has created a model that shows the five domains of well-being as part of a larger piece of research Growing the health and well-being agenda: from first steps to full potential


“Most organisations do one or two,” says White, “but better to create a strategy using at least three of the domains. Then an organisation knows it’s on the right path.”

The Future of Learning

The first step is for learning and development (L&D) professionals to develop themselves. Do this by becoming experts in the world of learning, in people behaviour and in the neuroscience of learning. “L&D professionals need to be where the learner wants to access learning,” explains White, “and not just where they think they should be.”

Along with being where the learner wants to access learning, the content created by L&D professionals should be useful. L&D professionals can use the findings from the CIPD’s Learning and Development Survey to consider current practice and trends in L&D.

White describes the nine shifts in the future of learning: from an L&D driven agenda to business aligned; from using little meaningful data to metrics driven; from good ideas to science-based; from creating from scratch to curator-concierge; from prescriptive offer to user choice; from mainly formal to more social; from delayed delivery to just in time in flow; from occasional feasts to regular bite sized; and from face-to-face to digital-mobile. 

Image: Gill White, the CIPD

White explains that content is increasingly curated through friends, colleagues, and social media and that the way in which we learn is changing. For instance, there has been a steady decline in learning in a classroom setting, which is actually counterintuitive to how people learn. “The prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that helps people learn -- typically only fires for 60 minutes effectively. And after that short spell, people need space and time to reflect and absorb new information,” she says.

How to Create a Culture of Learning  

Be where your people are.

That means it’s no longer enough for organisations to have their businesses on a server in a physical environment when most of the world exists on the cloud. “It’s a leader’s job to stop the fear of opening up systems. Do this by establishing a culture of trust and enabling learning in a way that will suit individuals’ various needs,” explains White. This includes employees using their own devices and learning in the manner and at the time they wish to learn. “Understand what learning looks like in your organisation, enable it and then praise it,” says White.  Just like work and personal life are now increasingly blended, so too is how people learn. For instance, social media is also no longer simply a means to ‘escape’ work; it is also how people receive curated knowledge from their network.”  

Employers Must Adapt

Just as employers should take a holistic approach to well-being, this also includes looking holistically at culture. “Focus on getting the culture right,” says White. “This includes higher trust and care between employer and employee, manager and colleague. Leaders should adopt a holistic approach to their employees.”

Lessons from a Leader

When asked for advice to share with emerging leaders, White said the following:

  1. People have more potential than they dare to dream. It is the leader’s job to bring it out and then help them realise this. “Failure is glorious because it means you were stretching further than you had before,” explains White.
  2. Great leaders are whoever their people need them to be. For White, this means being supportive and nurturing for colleagues who have low self-esteem and need reassurance. For senior and/or assured colleagues, White then engages with these colleagues as a peer.
  3. Leaders have to genuinely care. If you care, you can do anything like have a difficult conversation and your colleague still feels supported. This goes back to culture. “The conversations that have moved me the most have been difficult conversations from people who really care,” says White.
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