Learning and development (L&D) departments are facing various challenges to ensure they deliver on their organisation’s expectations. Rather than waiting for change to happen, L&D professionals need to be at the heart of change and embrace the opportunities and the challenges it brings.

This factsheet offers ‘10 shifts’ in L&D practice which provide a framework for L&D professionals to measure themselves against to understand where they are currently operating, the overall goal they want to achieve and consider gaps, progress, actions and priorities for each. There’re also links to further information within each area.

The CIPD is at the heart of change happening across L&D, supporting practitioners in providing insights and resources. We are proud to be at the 'epicentre' of this changing world of L&D. Find out how specialist learning and development knowledge fits into our new Profession Map.

Current research offers L&D professionals strong evidence for their central role in driving organisational performance. To achieve this, they need to go beyond offering training courses and work closely with the business to provide resources that meet current and future organisational capability needs. Our Professionalising learning and development report highlights that L&D professionals want to move from a traditional approach to one that embraces the areas that are mentioned in the 10 shifts. However, whilst their desire is strong, 78% feel their organisation’s senior leaders are blockers to moving to a future-focused approach, preferring a more traditional L&D offering. We believe there are clear opportunities to engage learners and drive organisational performance by embracing the 10 shifts.

Advances in technology, changes in the workforce make up, definitions of work itself, demands from learners and the need to demonstrate impact on performance, all play a part in L&D professionals asking questions about the focus and approach learning and development needs to take. The 10 shifts we’ve identified come from the findings of a number of CIPD research reports and insights, starting with our 2015 report on L&D: evolving roles, enhancing skills to the present , as well as Towards Maturity benchmark data since their 2015 Embracing change report. These 10 areas demonstrate where and how L&D professionals have an opportunity to drive organisational performance and build learner engagement.

The 10 shifts may well challenge a ‘traditional training’ approach to meeting organisational needs. However, whilst challenging it, we believe there is still a place for formal face-to-face facilitated learning that fully aligns with business needs as well as taking advantage of a range of digital offerings.

Within each shift outlined below, an initial question frames the focus, followed by a number of others to prompt a review of current practice and use with stakeholders to drive change in L&D within each organisation’s unique priorities. The questions are not intended to be a one-off ‘tick list’ approach to offering L&D, but a means of checking against the organisation’s strategy to demonstrate the value L&D can offer.

To what extent does L&D really align to the organisation and its strategic goals and direction?

This shift ensures that L&D strategy is aligned to business need. 

  • What or who is driving the learning priority?
  • How does the learning we provide address the opportunities or problems for the organisations our learners come from are?
  • How can we help learners be equipped to influence the business?
  • How does our learning keep pace with sector needs and what is on our horizons? 
To find out more, listen to our podcast Aligning L&D with business objectives and emerging practices.

To what extent does L&D mine the rich sources of data across the organisation?

This shift challenges L&D professionals to use and align to business metrics.

  • What metrics are we using to underpin our learning; how do we demonstrate value?
  • What strategies do we have about measuring the impact of our learning on organisational outcomes, maybe 1, 3 and 6 months?
  • In an environment of challenges to budgets how can we support learners to demonstrate the impact their learning is making?
  • How do we link key performance indicators (KPIs) to our content – for instance if we are undertaking any tips on recruitment, are the recruitment functions KPI’s included and updated as required?

Read our factsheet on evaluating learning for more insights, as well as the multi-agency work on the Valuing Your Talent framework.

To what extent does L&D activity look at how the brain works to inform learning design and delivery?

This shift encourages L&D professionals to consider latest thinking in how learning interventions are designed and delivered.

  • How are we integrating new neuroscience principles into our learning design and delivery, for example the RAD and AGES models?
  • Are we using out-dated learning theory, for example learning styles such as VAK (Visual-Auditory- Kinaesthetic).
  • What support are we giving to learners to embrace neuroscience in their approach, for example managing overload and neuroplasticity?

Read our factsheet on psychology and neuroscience in learning for more insight.

To what extent does L&D default to the solution being a course designed?

This shift demonstrates a way for L&D to signpost resources rather than designing courses from scratch.

  • How proactive are we in finding great existing content and partnerships to supplement our programmes (Seek)?
  • What added value are we adding through helping learners contextualise learning for their context (Sense)?
  • What system can we use to deliver curated content or point to wider learning (Share)? Examples could be our intranet, virtual learning platforms and apps such as Slack, Trello Scoop It, and various social media apps.

Martin Couzins has been sharing his insights on curation in L&D for a number of years, and Harold Jarche’s approach to curation uses the 'Seek, Sense, Share’ model. Ben Betts offers a further insight in the Good Practice podcast Is curation the new king of L&D?

To what extent does the audience have a voice in the design of any intervention intended for their learning?

This shift explores the role of the learner in the process of providing and producing resources to aid learning.

  • Is learner input an intentional part of our design or is our model ‘we do it all’?
  • How can we encourage learners to find and integrate content into the programme?
  • Are we part of a recognised ‘go to’ subject matter network with wider influence?

Our self-directed learning podcast has some thoughts on aspects of this shift.

To what extent does L&D capture the opportunities from social learning to support formal provision?

Earliest records of social learning are ancient cave paintings, so it is something humans are well versed in. This shift encourages the concept within an organisation’s L&D offering.

  • What social spaces are we deliberately creating in our programmes?
  • If Twitter has been a top learning tool for some years, how are we integrating the use of social media in our programmes?
  • What social communities do we have an influence in; do we have a planned and growing online presence?

Check out the Centre for Learning and Performance Technology’s top 200 tools for a learning annual survey.

To what extent in a traditional L&D operation is learning provided at the time it's needed?

This shift questions the time delay offered in traditional L&D approaches.

  • Do we control when learners can access content or is it flexible?
  • Are we focussed on a ‘just-in-case’ or ‘just-in-time’ approach?
  • How can learners access content in a way which is most convenient to them, not us?

We discuss this in our Learning in-the-flow of work podcast and you can explore some of the work from Matt Ashe on agile learning design.

What is the driver and rationale for a full day or several days of formal training?

This shift asks if resources for learning can be offered in small chunks spaced out rather than offering longer courses that bombard people with information with little time to absorb or apply the learning.

  • Is our learning ‘chunked’ for easy use and access?
  • How can we create great bite size content – podcasts, video clips, curated links, infographics, forum discussions?
  • Have we considered when and where out learners might wish to learn and how we can facilitate that better, for example while travelling?

Our factsheet on psychology and neuroscience in learning outlines the AGES model from the Neuroleadership Institute. Their website explores the AGES concept further.

To what extent does L&D have to integrate a variety of options for delivery?

The opportunity to embrace the range of digital opportunities that are at the disposal of L&D teams is central to this shift, using digital solutions to make the most of any face to face time available.

  • What is our road map for digital transformation?
  • How confident are we to design learning for digital platforms, what skills may we be lacking?
  • Where does digital delivery fit in our aspirations, for example virtual classrooms and web recordings?

Read our factsheet on digital learning for more on this.

To what extent is our current measurement system demonstrating impact on performance?

Traditionally L&D have a ‘rear-view mirror’ approach to measurement, rather than looking at the value of the learning offered. This shift challenges that approach.

  • What things are we measuring that are never really used?
  • Is measurement being design in from first principles?
  • What time period really allows for added-value to be demonstrated?

As with shift 2, our factsheet on evaluating learning has some insights on this.


Modern Learning in Practice – blogs by David James 

Towards Maturity – CIPD’s learning partner 

Books and report

BEEVERS K., REA, A. and HAYDEN, D (2019) Learning and development practice in the workplace. 4th ed. London: Kogan Page.

LANCASTER, A (2019) Driving performance through learning. London: Kogan Page.

Visit the CIPD and Kogan Page Bookshop to see all our priced publications currently in print.

Journal articles

BOYCE, T.E. (2011) Applying social learning theory. Training Journal. July. pp31-34

MERRICK, A. (2019) Bite-sized learning. HR Magazine. Vol 64, No 1. Spring. pp66-73.

VARNEY, J. (2018) The trend for just-in-time learning. Human Resources Magazine. Vol 23, No 1. Winter. pp4-6.

CIPD members can use our online journals to find articles from over 300 journal titles relevant to HR.

Members and People Management subscribers can see articles on the People Management website.

This factsheet was written by David Hayden.

David Hayden

David HaydenL&D Consultant/Trainer

David is part of the CIPD’s L&D Content Team. He leads on the design and delivery of a number of L&D-focused products as well as keeping his practice up to date by facilitating events for a range of clients. David began his L&D career after taking responsibility for three Youth Trainees back in 1988 as an Operations Manager, and has since gone on to work in, and headed up, a number of corporate L&D teams and HR functions in distribution, retail, financial and public sector organisations. He completed his Masters degree specialising in CPD and was Chair of our South Yorkshire Branch for two years from 2012 before joining as an employee in 2014. David also has a background in 'lean' and has worked as a Lean Engineer in a number of manufacturing and food organisations. Passionate about learning and exploiting all aspects of CPD, David’s style is participative and inclusive.

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