As we take our first steps into 2024, it’s hard to imagine what this year will bring for HR and L&D. Last year was tumultuous, with a challenging economic climate, continuing skills shortages, and changing employee expectations, as well as the rise of generative AI. Where learning trends will go next is anyone’s guess.
Fortunately, despite today’s uncertain dynamics, 2024 brings a host of possibilities. Of course, HR and learning leaders will still need to deal with an expanding skills gap, which is expected to cost businesses $8.5 trillion in unrealized revenues by 2030. But creative thinking and innovative technologies could provide much-needed answers.
With this in mind, here are four key learning trends that can help employers prepare for a smoother road ahead…
4 Top Learning Trends for 2024
1. Learning Digitization Shifts Into High Gear
Learning is becoming an increasingly digital experience. MOOCs, LMSs, LXPs, online academies, and other digital solutions now make learning available whenever and wherever people want to engage.
In 2024, this will go a step further, thanks to advances in AI. Soon, everyone will be able to ask a personal AI learning coach to recommend the best content, courses, and mentors to help further their careers. AI will personalize learning for each individual at levels we’ve never seen before. This will help bridge knowledge gaps much more quickly and easily. Plus, data and analytics available to L&D will further improve resource allocation and better inform learning strategy.
In addition, many organizations are exploring virtual and mixed reality. This augments learning by displaying timely, relevant information on headsets as employees move through their workday. For example, soon the Apple Vision Pro headset will launch in the U.S. It will be exciting to see how developers respond with enhanced employee learning experiences.
2. Skills Become an Engine of Success
In 2023, we heard rumblings about skills-first transformation. Now, 80% of HR and business leaders agree that putting skills first is a better way to get work done. With this comes skills-powered learning, which aligns skills proficiency and work readiness with business objectives and individual career aspirations.
Skills-powered learning involves five key components:
- Skills Identification — Systematically define the skills your organization needs for various roles and map their current availability across your workforce.
- Skill Gap Analysis — Find what’s missing. Evaluate the skills your organization needs in terms of proficiency level and the volume of talent required. Once you map these skill gaps, you can develop learning strategies that help individuals develop desired competencies.
- Skill Targets — Establish specific goals for the strength and quantity of skills your organization needs to execute its business strategy and the level of proficiency employees must develop to achieve the critical skills you’ve identified.
- Skills Validation — Confirm employee proficiency with a particular degree of fidelity. Low-fidelity validation methods include self-ratings, manager ratings, skill inference, and so forth. In contrast, you’ll find a high level of fidelity in direct observation, formal assessments, and certifications.
- Skills Insights — Leverage skill data to determine trends in skill progression, velocity, and value. These key insights help drive business decisions and measure the impact of your organization’s skill-powered learning efforts.
3. Learning Flows Across the Employee Lifecycle
Previously, organizations viewed learning as a process that happens only during the development stage of the talent lifecycle. However, that is changing, as more L&D teams collaborate with peers in HR, talent management, talent acquisition, and even total rewards.
Increasingly, employers are striving to integrate learning across talent processes. For instance:
- Creating more relevant, useful onboarding experiences
- Helping employees more easily find and navigate pathways to new internal opportunities or prepare for internal redeployment
- Elevating performance by ensuring employees focus on skills needed for a higher level of achievement
- Increasing wages when people develop in-demand skills
- Paying bonuses for skills progression
- Capturing skill data during the offboarding process.
Learning is becoming across talent processes. It doesn’t need to stop when someone resigns, completes an upskilling program, graduates from school, or reaches a certain age. The challenge for L&D is to facilitate this continuous process, so learning feels more naturally available throughout each day.
Increasingly, learning activities will fit seamlessly into the flow of work, no matter where an employee is located, what their schedule may be, or what work tasks and responsibilities are on their agenda.
Learning will be designed to fit more intuitively into people’s lives. This can take many forms. It may mean discovering useful information on the fly while interacting with peers on social work channels, getting automated prompts while pursuing project-oriented activities, proactively asking a chatbot tough questions you can’t answer, getting access to an ongoing online course from a mobile device, or even receiving periodic text reminders to take time for learning (including suggested ways to engage),
4. L&D Delivers More Tangible Business Value
Will 2024 finally be the year L&D speaks in business terms? With the economy still top-of-mind for leaders, L&D must clearly demonstrate value. This starts with metrics like across talent processes, sustainability, and the percentage of upskilled talent deployed or in different roles.
Learning leaders will get used to reporting how ready their workforce is for a specific disruption or opportunity. Learning may even become a standard line item on organizational ESG reports. Already, a select few companies like Allianz, Tenaris, Allstate, and Verizon include commentary about corporate learning initiatives in sustainability and annual reports.
In addition, progressive companies will start to report on the economic value of their skills portfolio. This demonstrates a commitment to treating talent as a true business asset, based on the financial value associated with their skill portfolio.
Learning Trends Are Pointing to a Better Tomorrow
The future of L&D is brimming with potential. To benefit fully from these opportunities, prepare your technology infrastructure, business processes, and work culture for skills-first learning.
Begin with trends that feel more relevant to your organization’s mission and business goals. Become knowledgeable about them — and don’t be tempted to boil the ocean. Focusing on a handful of improvements you can commit to with confidence makes it easier to adapt to necessary changes.
Also, consider choosing learning solutions partners who can prepare you to meet ongoing business challenges now and in the future. The journey is lighter with a shared interest in success.