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Robin Hoyle

Huthwaite International

Head of Learning Innovation at Huthwaite International

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Three learning and development trends for 2024

How will the learning and development landscape evolve in 2024? As is now TrainingZone tradition, Robin Hoyle takes on his annual attempt at forecasting learning and development trends for the year ahead.
Learning and development trends, Future, pink and blue smoke illustration

[et_pb_section fb_built="1" admin_label="section" _builder_version="4.16" global_colors_info="{}"][et_pb_row admin_label="row" _builder_version="4.16" background_size="initial" background_position="top_left" background_repeat="repeat" global_colors_info="{}"][et_pb_column type="4_4" _builder_version="4.16" custom_padding="|||" global_colors_info="{}" custom_padding__hover="|||"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" _builder_version="4.16" background_size="initial" background_position="top_left" background_repeat="repeat" global_colors_info="{}"]As time marches on, it’s time for another round of trend forecasting for the world of L&D. In 2023, my predictions achieved no more than mid table mediocrity: 

  • More engagement in strategy: There’s still much to do here – 3/10 
  • 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 realised this year (read on for more) – 4/10 
  • A focus on measuring impact: This remains an afterthought in many projects – 2/10 
Despite my woeful track record, I persevere. What do I think is going to happen – or at least should happen – in 2024?

L&D trend 1: Organisations applying Generative AI to internal data will have competitive advantage

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 – is L&D teams using Chat GPT and the like to create yet more content. Enough already!  Generative AI is 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 which generate things of use.

L&D must not act as the ‘middle man’

L&D’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 your responsibility to do it for them and cut and paste the outputs into PowerPoint, e-learning modules or videos on your LXP. 
Generative AI will come of age when it generates insights based on institutional knowledge
What L&D may need to do is help people recognise that there is no differentiation or competitive advantage in using AI tools, as everyone else uses them. 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.

Gen AI’s real business value comes when applied to your own data

Using 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. There are AI tools available that make this very easy and can help teams 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 fire hose 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 my next trend.

L&D trend 2: Measuring impact will be of greater focus for L&D

Despite my poor accuracy on 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 L&D professionals are not ‘just’ trainers; we are internal performance improvement consultants.
If we don’t enable people to do things differently and do different things, we have no right to exist within organisations.
What differentiates someone who disseminates content from those who are working with people to improve performance and productivity is that the latter group: 
  • Know what performance needs to be improved
  • Have metrics and measures for where the performance is now and where it needs to be
  • Have devoted time, effort and resources 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.

L&D trend 3: High quality human to human communication skills will be even more important as AI evolves

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

A compassionate response to miscommunication is needed

Anecdotally, I’m sure you all have stories of miscommunication. Here’s an example: I recently spoke with an educator in Higher Education. 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 which 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?

Be mindful of L&D jargon

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.  Jargon only helps when we have established what we mean by the terms we use. Imprecision is the enemy of clarity.

Testing understanding

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. This is 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, empathetic or collaborative. This is but one example. I’m sure you can all think of others skills and behaviours which work for you and which 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? I’ll be exploring these trends and more while chairing the World of Learning Summit at Olympia, January 30th and 31st 2024. Interested in this topic? Read Did your learning and development predictions come true in 2023?[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

One Response

  1. A great article Robin. IThank you. I think the fact that your 2023 predictions didn’t come true is not a reflection of the need but the resistance to change that is so inherent in us humans. But change we must. Tour thoughts around how to adapt to the new generation of AI are particularly insightful and helpful. I agree that the real value comes from analysing the organisational data that is available to understand L&D needs as well as impact. And, as you say, just as with all technologies that have gone before, it will be the human skills that leverage and complement the tools that will ensure true value is added.

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Robin Hoyle

Head of Learning Innovation at Huthwaite International

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