One of the challenges of L&D leadership is keeping your finger on the pulse of new ideas and trends in workplace learning. Attending conferences is often a good strategy, but another avenue is to look for updates from industry “think tanks” – researchers and analysts that offer solid data, trend reporting, and informed interpretation of industry news.
I have often found it handy to bookmark and follow specific organizations known for producing intriguing reports. I’ve curated a list of some of my favorites below. Of course, it’s always important to evaluate each report on its own merits, looking for credibility of source data, potential bias, and “spin” as well as for applicability in your own context.
If you need support for your planning and decision making, I can research topics and provide a summary report for you. Contact me to discuss options.
The following organizations offer periodic or annual reports to summarize and analyze what’s going on in L&D. Some require membership to access in-depth reports, but they often offer executive summaries, articles, and presentations that are accessible to nonmembers. You may even want to consider membership in one or more of these.
// Industry Research Groups
- RedThread Research I am a huge fan of the work being produced by this relatively new industry analyst (founded by experienced analysts coming from Bersin Deloitte). They focus on a variety of topics that are part of current conversations across the field, including ecosystems, analytics, and evaluation. Access to detailed reports is currently free, but requires sign-up.
- i4cp – Institute for Corporate Productivity i4cp focuses on research related to “people practices that drive performance.” Membership is required to access some reports, but there are free trend reports available.
- Towards Maturity Based out of the UK, Towards Maturity generates global interest in its annual benchmark survey and analysis of L&D industry trends. Their annual benchmarking report has been intriguing.
- Fosway Group Billed as Europe’s #1 Industry Analyst, this group publishes a variety of reports of interest for talent development, especially for those working in a multinational organization. Lately, they’ve had quite a bit on digital transformation and the need for agility.
- The Conference Board, Human Capital Center The Conference Board is a member-driven think tank which says they research “the most important issues to prepare organizational leaders for what’s next.” Reports tend to be closed to members, but you can find articles, press releases, executive summaries, and webinars from The Conference Board on the site and elsewhere on the internet.
- ATD Research – Association for Talent Development ATD is the largest professional organization for those who work in talent development arenas. ATD often reports highlights of their research in TD articles and blog posts on their web site. It issues an annual “State of the Industry Report” that documents trends in L&D (free to members). Members can often obtain abbreviated white papers based on other major research reports, and may have a member benefit to get one free full report (depends on membership level).
- eLearning Guild Research Insights eLearning Guild is a highly popular community for elearning professionals. Through their research arm, they aim to share trends and best practices including case studies and white papers. You may need to sign up for free membership to access some reports.
- The Community Roundtable This organization focuses on supporting community managers, whether those communities are internal interest groups or client/user communities. They are generous in sharing data about the nature and impact of communities as well as plenty of advice on forming and managing them.
- CIPD – Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development This UK-based institute covers HR and HRD issues and also certifies professional competence.
// Consulting Firm Researchers and Pundits
- Deloitte Center for the Edge Deloitte has many research arms, and the Center for the Edge “develops original research and substantive perspectives on new corporate growth.” They offer free access to their reports, many of which focus on learning and human resource issues. The principal researchers of the Center for the Edge are known thought leaders, including John Hagel III and John Seely Brown. See also Deloitte’s Human Capital Insights.
- Accenture Accenture is a professional services company that has many research arms. The Talent and Organization research area is most relevant to L&D practitioners.
- Josh Bersin Josh Bersin is a well-known industry analyst and thought leader, recently working independently from Bersin by Deloitte which had been a leading talent development researcher. Berson’s blog posts are almost always interesting, lately talking quite a bit about technology. It remains to be seen if he will offer research papers at any point.
- Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools for Learning Jane Hart is a consultant and thought leader based in the United Kingdom. Since 2007, she has run an annual survey to list the tools that are useful for learning and development. It provides a nice snapshot of popular technology over the years.
- Work-Learning Research – Will Thalheimer A fairly well-know pundit in our field, Dr. Will Thalheimer occasionally releases extensive reports that review literature and make recommendations on a topic of interest to the field.
// Other Notable Organizations
- Lumina Foundation Lumina is an independent research group focused on learning beyond high school. While their research often serves the higher ed community, they also analyze the role of corporations in developing people.
- Institute for the Future Explores where the world is headed in a variety of projects
- Aspen Institute Self-described as “a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas.” You may have heard of the Aspen Ideas Festival and similar events.
* I am happy to take recommendations! Send your additional favorites to me at [email protected]