9 Learning and Development Trends That Really Matter for 2024

trends in L&D

Skim articles about L&D trends for 2024, and you’ll see several recurring themes, many of which appeared in L&D trends for 2023 articles as well. Prominent among them are AI, leadership development, soft skills, personalized training, and learning analytics. Industry leaders generally agree on many of the key issues affecting L&D. And, they agree that the role of L&D–at both the short-term and strategic levels–is expanding. So, the stakes are high.

There’s another subtle, but essential, element that occurs in several articles and conversations: balance. As an L&D leader moving into 2024, you’ll need to recognize and incorporate newly developing trends, continue to implement recent trends–many of which relate to a still-evolving post-COVID work environment–AND be savvy enough to know which tried-and-true practices are still relevant. Your success will necessitate the ability to understand the proper balance between all of these elements. 

What are the most important learning and development trends and priorities for 2024?

1. Mastering the use of generative AI for learning.

The use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) has skyrocketed, thanks to the introduction of ChatGPT and similar tools. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs Report, 85% of companies intend to enlarge their adoption of frontier technologies like this in the next 5 years. 

AI tools appear to be here to stay. What’s the impact on L&D professionals? 

The obvious upside is that generative AI empowers a flood of content that’s produced really fast and at a fraction of the cost. Machine learning tools greatly enhance L&D’s ability to create course outlines, assessments, and specialized learning materials.

There are downsides. 

First, there’s the necessity for someone to word the input so that the machine interprets it correctly and delivers relevant data that’s usable. It’s the old GIGO analogy–Garbage In, Garbage Out. Good results require employees who know how to efficiently feed the machine the information it needs and collaborate with it through iterations of content generation. This role is so critical that it has spawned a new term–“prompt engineering”–and a fast-growing career path for “prompt (or AI prompt) engineers,” who can find several online prompt engineering courses from sources such as Udemy.  

Second, AI output doesn’t factor in an understanding of ethics and emotional intelligence.  Businesses will need professionals–such as prompt engineers–who can interact with the machine intelligently and then modify the content to reflect corporate strategy and culture. L&D teams will guide that transition.  

2. Developing leaders and honing leadership skills. 

The Morning Brew asked nearly 1,000 HR professionals their opinions about The State of L&D in 2024. In the midst of massive technological advances and morphing workplace norms, what topped the list of the 4 key trends identified? Leadership development. 

Leadership is always important, but unprecedented business turbulence brought on by a global pandemic and sweeping technological advances magnifies the key role of leadership. For 2024, leadership development courses will need to address more than the basic skills necessary to perform each leadership role.  

Central to leadership development will be the mastery of soft skills such as communication, creativity, adaptability and emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence–the ability to understand, express and control your emotions so that you can deal wisely in your interpersonal relationships–now is considered a key part of leadership training. 

There are several compelling reasons to foster emotional intelligence in leadership. Key among them–for the leaders themselves–are significantly higher performance rates, earning potential, and overall career success than leaders with less emotional intelligence. The corporation reaps significant benefits, too, including team members who feel a greater connection with their leader, which fosters higher retention rates, greater employee engagement and better overall corporate growth. 

3. Adopting a LearnOps approach. 

Even amidst a backdrop of widespread change, the essential elements of an effective L&D program remain unchanged. Goals and objectives must be clearly delineated at all levels of the organization. Gaps in skills and knowledge must be discovered efficiently and accurately. A thorough learning plan must be identified, implemented and evaluated. 

More importantly, how your team accomplishes this in a way that maximizes resources and organizational impact is critical.

That’s where LearnOps comes in.

From business alignment to planning, delivering and measuring your learning programs, LearnOps is a philosophy and framework that enables leaders to make L&D a resource that executives turn to as a strategic driver that provides solutions to problems.

Take a look at the first and only LearnOps technology on the market, enabling you to transform learning operations into business impact. 

4. Emphasizing skills-based learning initiatives. 

A skills-based approach to learning initiatives assumes that: 

  • Change is inevitable, many current skills will become obsolete in the foreseeable future, and;
  • Proactive training measures will benefit both the company and its employees in the long run.   

Switching a corporate mindset from a focus on the role to the skills necessary for it requires a major shift.  Specifically, this means that training focuses on transferable skills an employee needs at any level rather than what a particular job requires. This viewpoint is critical, given the pace at which technology is changing. 

In its 2023 Workplace Learning Report, LinkedIn noted that approximately half of the skill sets required for jobs today will change by 2027. L&D professionals polled by LinkedIn for that report overwhelmingly agreed (89%) that proactively and consistently developing employee skills would help companies meet needs they will face in the future. 

Make no mistake, though, skills-based learning is a wise approach for right now. Why? According to a survey of HR professionals at Deloitte, businesses that use a skills-based approach to L&D are 63% more likely to achieve the results they want and 52% more likely to innovate than companies that don’t. 

Another study by Gallup reported that 48% of employees would consider switching jobs if they had better training opportunities. Conversely, a study by TalentLMS indicated that 76% of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training. Skills-based learning is clearly a catalyst for success–for today and tomorrow.

5. Personalizing learning opportunities. 

Personalized–or custom–learning is the antithesis of the one-size-fits-all training mentality that traditionally included one teacher and a room full of learners. It allows learners to proceed at their own pace and is designed to meet individual training preferences regarding location and presentation. It’s also much easier to deliver, thanks to technological advances and the workforce’s growing affinity with gadgets and electronic games. 

“Courses evolve into dynamic content figurations” according to Training Industry’s summary of L&D trends for 2024

That’s apt phraseology. Personalized learning lets learners fit chunks of specific, and particularly applicable, content together in a way that provides them with the knowledge or skills they need now. 

Delivery is also key to personalized learning. Gamification, virtual reality and microlearning that allow employees to consume knowledge in bite-sized bits all increase learners’ enjoyment, motivation, and engagement. 

However, it’s important to note that some learners prefer the traditional classroom approach. This is a situation that requires learning and development leaders to balance the old with the new in a way that suits all learners. 

Making the effort is worthwhile. Engaged learners who enjoy the learning process are more likely to complete courses and retain what they learn so they can apply it to their jobs. Studies indicate that they also are more productive and happier in their jobs. 

Although personalized learning presents learning and development teams with a creative challenge, AI and other tech advances lessen the burden and increase the speed at which content can be updated into bite-size chunks or presented as a game. The long-term benefit is the blocks of content can be used repeatedly by leaders to build a module or OJT guide that fits a current need the team has.                                    

6. Realizing–and responding to–L&D’s critical role. 

Mind Tools for Business used the entire last part of its 20th anniversary L&D Benchmark Report to focus on the critical role L&D plays. What was the overarching conclusion? “The importance of L&D’s role in the future of work is growing as quickly as workplaces are changing.” 

Training Industry recently shared the 3 L&D trends it finds most significant for 2024. “Learning increases its footprint across the organization,” is one of those three.

What factors are driving this consensus? 

First, technological advances mean workers at every level need to be trained to use new tools and to understand the security risks and protocols associated with these tools.  Large-scale upskilling becomes a necessity if they are to keep pace. 

Simultaneous shifts in work settings and employee expectations regarding culture, inclusion, and advancement opportunities also highlight the critical–and growing–importance of learning and development. Then, factor in a sometimes-tenuous global economy and a significant worker shortage, especially in some key skill positions. 

The result? A workforce training environment that requires learning and development professionals to provide on-target, easy-to-digest learning that’s user-friendly, delivered seamlessly, and easily adaptable. 

“Learning in the flow of work” isn’t jargon; it’s a necessity for any company that wants to thrive. 

7. Collaborating with management and learners. 

Today’s most effective L&D teams are creating a learning culture that permeates the entire organization. They aren’t successful at this because they somehow “just know” how to create content that’s accurate, engaging and delivered in the most effective means. 

Really effective L&D teams rely on input from people at all levels of the company. 

According to a Mind Tools for Business survey, 80% of the top-performing organizations involve managers and learners as they develop their learning initiatives. Two-thirds of them follow up and gather feedback from those managers and learners once the training is completed. Interestingly, these really effective L&D teams are 22 times more likely to gather feedback than their counterparts in companies that are struggling.

A strong sense of collaboration is built upon a network of  broad, diverse relationships that extend beyond the traditional realm of L&D. Stakeholders and colleagues working at all levels and locations in the business bring perspectives that provide essential insights. L&D must foster ways that make it easy for others to contribute.

8. Focusing on learning analytics. 

Technological tools now provide your L&D team with the analytical power to track the effectiveness of your L&D spend. They provide a robust means for you to monitor results and answer critical questions for your L&D department and for the corporation at large. 

For example:

  • Using descriptive analytics, you can explain what happened 
  • Diagnostic analytics help you address why those results occurred
  • Predictive analytics describe what’s likely to happen
  • Prescriptive analytics help you suggest how the company should respond in light of everything the data reveals 

The specificity and detail of data analytics can intimidate people just learning to utilize this powerful tool. However, the sheer volume of information that L&D initiatives generate day-to-day justifies the effort.  

For instance, using data analytics empowers L&D to track the number and type of training requests, assess which employees lack certain skills, monitor learners’ progress through a training program, and quantify the results.

Additionally, by applying learning analytics, you can effectively harness your learners’ capabilities, understand performance results, and explain them confidently. 

9. Proving ROI and Business Impact.

Your L&D team works hard to create courses that fill skill and knowledge gaps, provide personalized learning situations that meet learners’ needs, and help develop effective leaders. 

That’s not enough. Hard work, visible output, and favorable subjective reviews no longer suffice. 

Today’s L&D team must provide quantitative results that prove they are contributing to the firm’s ROI. 

And, that’s doable–as long as you track meaningful KPIs

Unfortunately, even though technology provides the ability to efficiently and accurately calculate critical KPIs, many companies don’t monitor them. 

A Brandon Hall Group survey indicates that 2 companies out of 3 still don’t adequately measure the effectiveness of their learning and development initiatives. 

What KPI’s matter most to CEOs? LinkedIn Learning’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report highlighted several tied directly to L&D. These include employee onboarding speed, learning completion rates, and verifying that skill and knowledge gaps are being closed.

In today’s workplace, employee retention rate also correlates strongly with learning opportunities. Employees stay longer–and save the company the expense of hiring and training someone new–if they know the company is investing in their future. 

Consider, too, L&D’s role in improving employee productivity and performance, both of which contribute to the company’s bottom line. These factors also affect an individual’s likelihood of promotion. 

The same LinkedIn study found that, after employees pass the 2-year mark, they are 75% likely to stay with a company if they have made an internal move. Clearly, L&D is linked to ROI. Your L&D team must be able to verify that you are contributing.

Check this out to learn more about a learning operations platform that incorporates a feature to help you prove your L&D contribution to ROI.

Key Takeaways

In 2024, learning leaders will face significant challenges. The labor shortage–especially in key skills areas–will persist. Innovative technologies and new uses of existing tech will require learners at all levels of the company to reskill or upskill. Generative AI capabilities, in particular, will disrupt the status quo for many workers. 

All of this presents L&D teams with amazing opportunities to prove their value to employees and stakeholders. Effective training will drive the necessary changes that equip learners to thrive. By utilizing incredibly robust technology, developing training that resonates with individuals, and harnessing data analytics, L&D is poised to expand its role today and benefit learners for today and tomorrow.  

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9 Learning and Development Trends That Really Matter for 2024