Leadership Training: Looking Forward to The Next 5 Years

It’s hard to understate just how seismic the shift in the leadership training environment has been over the last 18 months. Obviously, the pandemic has had huge implications for workplaces and businesses across the country, with many moving to new ways of working or even overhauling their entire business model.

In our last article we delved into what this has meant for leadership training in terms of face to face and digital learning. Today, we’re going to continue on this theme, and look at where things are now as we approach the end of another lockdown in the UK. We’re also going to look ahead to where we think training and learning might go, and what we think it might look like in five years.

Are businesses considering face to face training again?

With restrictions starting to ease and some businesses moving back into offices, many people are wondering whether training and development will also start to go back to face to face delivery.

What we’re seeing at Purple Owl is that businesses are starting to consider face to face training again, but with a lot of uncertainty in the air, many are still opting for digital or remote options for leadership training.

We’re expecting demand for face to face training to continue to increase over the next few months as more businesses move back into offices.

However, we’re also expecting that demand for virtual learning options will stay high. Many businesses across the country have moved to hybrid, flexible working patterns, and have hired remote workers throughout the pandemic. Because of this, the typical “all hands” learning intervention where an entire team or business gathers together for training delivery may be a thing of the past for many.

In many cases, we’d expect the flexibility of digital training to continue to be an attractive factor for many businesses. Plus, the lack of travelling may mean that training becomes more available for those with limited time as it’s quicker and easier to join digital training sessions than to travel out of the office for an entire afternoon.

What will learning and training look like in five years?

How will learning interventions have to develop to respond to this new hybrid working? Well, we have a few things that we’re predicting:

  • Continued demand for online learning. Online learning and training will continue to see strong demand even as businesses transition back to the office. The flexibility will be a strong attractor here.
  • Return to face to face and in-person training for key areas. Many types of leadership training are best delivered in person. The human, shared experience of being in a room together and delivering a learning intervention is difficult to replicate online. So, we would expect that a lot of keystone courses will return to face to face delivery.
  • Many courses will move to a hybrid model. We’d also expect to see a lot of courses permanently transitioning to a hybrid delivery model, with some sessions delivered in person and some delivered virtually.
  • The rise of new training platforms and delivery methods. Given the shift to digital training, we’re also predicting the rise of new delivery methods and training platforms over time. These will likely include interactive e-learning platforms, offering greater control over the training delivery than simple video chat or presentations.
  • Introduction of gamification and VR. We also expect to see that platforms for the gamification of learning interventions will continue to grow and develop as technology improves. Similarly, the rise of virtual reality (VR) presents an interesting opportunity for leadership development courses to run practice scenarios.
  • Team building and training will become even more important. With many companies rapidly transitioning into more remote and geographically disparate organisations, team building events will likely become more popular as a way of getting the whole company together. These will often be coupled together with training and learning sessions.

Technological innovations that could change the face of training

Now, we’ve covered some of the changes we think are pretty likely over the next five years. But what about some of the things that are perhaps a little less unlikely? If they do happen, these technological innovations have the potential to radically change the face of the way training is delivered, and perhaps the way we learn in general.

These technologies might not be ready for the mass market in the next five years, but if they are we believe the take-up will be massive. So, here are our top 3 technological innovations that could really shake up the training world.


They might seem like the stuff of science fiction – but holograms are actually closer than you think. They’re being used for this year’s Bafta awards, and an innovative “Cube” mixed-reality stage has been in use by Eurosport for a number of high profile sporting events, including last year’s US Open. You can see it in action below.

Now, despite holograms becoming a bit more common recently, they still require quite a lot of specific camera and video equipment to pull off. So, we’re not sure they’re likely to be available in off-the-shelf devices for a number of years. But, if they are, there’s real potential there to create bespoke “live action” training experiences using the technology. Imagine being able to create recorded or even live-streamed holograms to use in the room as a training aid!

Live streaming

While live streaming is a technology that’s actually been around for a number of years now, it’s still very much in its infancy. Mostly it’s used for video game streaming on platforms like Twitch.tv or YouTube. It uses similar technology to that used to host webinars or other live events, so many of us in the learning space are pretty used to it on a basic level.

However, the real innovation is in the number of real-time effects that are now becoming possible. Improvements in camera and lighting quality, as well as in software, means real-time video overlays and effects can be created. For example, specific “scenes” can be created, and messages can be triggered to display on screen by specific actions. It’s even possible to have viewer input, where messages in the chat of each stream can actually physically control the stream itself, for example in the social experiment Twitch Plays Pokémon.

Right now, there’s a lot of investment and skill required to create these real-time effects and get them set up – and you usually need to build a custom streaming computer. But, as the software improves over time, these kinds of technologies could filter out and become available to all of us simply looking to spice up our webinars!

Procedurally generated narratives

Now, this one is perhaps a little bit more out there – even more so than holograms! Taken from the world of video games, the idea of procedurally generated narratives is that you would be able to create games where the story is totally driven by the player input. This doesn’t just mean giving the player choices like a current video game, but where you create certain rules for the story, and then the game itself creates a narrative based on those rules and the player’s inputs.

This might sound a little bit far-fetched. And we’re not sure it’s going to be available any time soon. But it would allow those of us in the training space to create truly interactive learning experiences without being stuck to scripts. Imagine a management simulator where every sentence the person undergoing training said was actually influencing the outcome of the conversation – rather than simply provoking scripted responses. It would be sort of like a “super-Siri”, a truly conversational AI. And that has the potential to revolutionise the training aids we use.

What are your predictions for leadership training and learning over the next five years? We’d love to hear from you, let us know on our social media – links are in the footer of this page.

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