Learning & Development trends for 2024

Written by Robin Hoyle

As time marches on, it’s time for another round of prediction for the world of L&D.

In 2023, my predictions achieved no more than mid-table mediocrity.

  • More engagement in strategy – 3/10 – still much to do

  • Technology being used more wisely – hype bordering on hysteria regarding Generative AI has not yet led to predicted breakthroughs, although the potential may start to be realized this year (read on for more) – 4/10

  • A focus on measuring impact – 2/10 – still an afterthought in many projects.

Despite my woeful track record, I persevere. What do I think is – or at least should be – going to happen in 2024?


L&D Predictions in 2024

1. Artificial intelligence – especially Generative AI

You can’t escape it and having resisted as long as possible, I’ve given up trying. AI will be a big thing in L&D in 2024.

What won’t be a big thing – or shouldn’t be, in any case – is L&D teams using Chat GPT and the like to create yet more content. Enough already!

I urge people to think it through. One inescapable point about generative AI is that it is pretty ubiquitously available. The tools keep getting better, the access to them is easier than ever and, through trial and error, many of our colleagues have started to create prompts and interact with these AI tools in ways that generate things of use.

The L&D team’s intervention in the middle of that seems unnecessary at best and a despairing search for continued relevance at worst. If your people can use Generative AI to find answers to the questions they need answering, L&D’s role is to enable critical faculties and support the acceleration of adoption. It is not to do it for them and cut and paste the outputs into PowerPoint, e-learning modules or videos on your LXP.

What may be needed is to help people recognize that the very ubiquity of AI tools means that there is no differentiation or competitive advantage in using the same tools as everyone else. Yes, they will get slightly different answers by using different prompts, but where the data being used is the same everywhere, the results will be pretty similar. The plethora of companies who have sprung up with solutions which turn out to be no more than a branded interface for ChatGPT 3.5 – take note.

Utilising more advanced AI capabilities to upload internal company documents and ask for summaries or to define trends or similar will provide a point of difference. Anthropic’s Claude.ai is among those tools which make this very easy and can help teams to experiment with their own data. Generative AI will come of age when it generates insights based on institutional knowledge and organisational memory, rather than while it is drinking from the firehose of the internet.

For an L&D perspective, the potential for AI to ingest data we already have will grow. Generative AI enables more precision in analysis of the data that our existing activities have generated and continue to generate. This will allow for better planning and more informed decision making.

Which brings me to:

2. Impact

Yes, despite my reservations of the quality of last year’s prediction, I still think measuring impact will be important in 2024. If you read many articles here and elsewhere in the training press, you will see the L&D team’s role defined in terms of performance improvement. We are not ‘just’ trainers, but internal performance improvement consultants. Unsurprisingly, I agree.

What differentiates someone who disseminates content from those who are working with people to improve performance and productivity is that the latter group:

  1. Know what performance needs to be improved

  2. Have metrics and measures for where the performance is now and where it needs to be, and

  3. Have devoted time, effort and resource into ensuring that they have achieved those desired results.

In other words, we know what good looks like and we monitor the impact of what we do to ensure we help people achieve those outcomes. What’s more, if the performance metrics we gather show that improvement is not what was required, or promised when the investment was made, then we are sufficiently flexible to change what we are doing to enable those goals to be met.

Despite the danger of sounding like a broken record, if we don’t enable people to do things differently and do different things, we have no right to exist within organisations.

3. Communication

With all this talk about AI and automation and the potential to free people from routine, repetitive tasks, we need to be clear about what skills the people who remain will need. Key to many of these is communication.

Whether you define this in terms of emotional intelligence, empathy, active listening, collaboration or authenticity, the route to all these outcomes is high quality communication.

(And please don’t describe these outcomes as behaviours – it brings me out in hives. They are the perceptions that others have of us when we have a wide repertoire of effective communications skills and behaviours that we use in our interactions with others.)

Clearly, human-to-human communications could be perceived through the lens of a backlash to AI and a fear of technology, which seems set to replace the human touch. I don’t hold with that. With the plethora of different communication channels available to us, I think the power of speech is not as valued as it should be. In some cases, there is evidence that the effect of remote working during and since the pandemic has impacted communication capabilities. 

Anecdotally, I’m sure you all have stories of miscommunication. Here’s an example: 

I recently spoke with an Educator in HE. She told me of a conversation with a student who had some good ideas about how things could be improved.

“Have you got involved in the Learner Voice?” she asked her student. 

“No,” said the student. 

“Why not?” said the lecturer. 

“Because I can’t sing!” came the reply.

The easy response to that story is to giggle at the sheltered naivety of the student immersed in reality TV. It is quite funny after all. 

A more complex and, one might say, compassionate response, is to question why the jargon that is being used is not clearly understood by the student to whom that communication is targeted. How often is concern expressed about Employee Voice surveys gaining low completion? Has anyone asked whether those expected to respond understand what is being asked of them? 

I’m not an enemy of jargon. Jargon is the shorthand of those working in a specific discipline. It is a necessary efficiency. But it is exclusive. And by exclusive, I don’t mean it is posh or expensive – I mean it is the opposite of inclusive. The function of jargon is to smooth communication for the in-crowd. The side effect is to act as a barrier to outsiders. 

Paradoxically, despite being engaged in promoting common understanding, L&D teams are very good at generating their own impenetrable jargon. Even more of a paradox is why those engaged in initiatives related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion seem to be quite so fond of inventing their own new – and much misunderstood – lexicon. 

When working with teams I often hear the latest buzz words being repeated. Whether there is a common definition of those terms is questionable. Certainly, when I ask a meeting of ten folk what ‘agility’ or ‘responsiveness’, ‘resilience’ or ‘proximity bias’ means to them, it is not unusual to hear 11 different definitions.

Rather than easing the path of corporate communication, some fashionable, zeitgeisty communication habits seem to make the journey rockier that it needs to be. Jargon only helps when we have established what we mean by the terms we use. Imprecision is the enemy of clarity. 

One of the simplest communication habits to learn is Testing Understanding. Checking that those with whom we are working share the same understanding of what we are doing, where we are going and the terminology we are using to describe the journey, seems to me to be good manners and common sense. But it is a verbal behaviour that few have mastered and even fewer use regularly. It is also - when used well and routinely so it doesn’t appear patronising - one of the easiest behaviours to adopt if one wishes to be seen as Emotionally Intelligent, Empathic or Collaborative.

This is but one example. I’m sure you can all think of others skills and behaviours that work for you and that you would want to share with your colleagues.

As the calendar clicks over to another year, I urge you to do so. It’s fun.

And if we’re not having fun, why are we doing this?

Have a fun 2024.


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This article was originally published on TrainingZone.

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