L&D Trends 2024: 6 Big Problems You’ll Need To Solve

Gary Stringer
September 11, 2023
September 11, 2023
Learning And Development

2024 could be a make or break year for learning and development (L&D) and people teams.

⚖️ We’re keen to drive business impact but we’re not aligning with goals.

🤔 We’re concerned about budgets but don’t know our current spend.

🤖 AI still dominates conversations but needs to move beyond gimmicks.

Oh, and we’ve got tech stacks that limit learners, classic challenges like time or engagement, and a need for clearer career paths.

These 2024 L&D trends are all based on the latest reports and research.

And the steps outlined here will make sure you’re on the right side of all this over the next 12 months and beyond.

Free Guide: Download the 2024 L&D Trends Report

1. L&D teams to realign with organisational goals in 2024

What happens when our aspirations meet reality?

Some pretty disappointed L&D pros!

Despite all the chatter around aligning to business goals, L&D teams are in a worse position than they were just a few years ago.

“Compared with two years ago, L&D strategy is less aligned with organisational and people priorities (67% agree in 2023 versus 77% in 2021) and leaders are less likely to recognise the impact that L&D has on those priorities (67% versus 81%).” - CIPD.

The Learning at work 2023 Survey also showed clarity in how L&D delivers business value has diminished, hence why it made it onto our list of 2024 L&D trends.

L&D teams are less aligned to organisational goals. (Source: CIPD)

A move away from vanity metrics might help, here’s why

A wise man (our CEO, Nelson Sivalingam) once wrote that if what you’re measuring doesn’t tell you how it improved performance, skills, or knowledge then change what you’re measuring!

🔥 And LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report dumped a whole of vanity-metric fuel on that fire.

Half of what we’re measuring for L&D success falls into the vanity category.

Half of L&D's metrics fall into the vanity category. (Source: LinkedIn).

That’s not to say there’s no value in metrics like satisfaction with employee training and learning content or how they performed in post-learning quizzes.

It’s to say that the business will be far more interested in how that learning translates to performance and progression towards business goals.

Here’s a five-step process to better alignment and problem solving:

2. Budgets aren’t on the chopping block but L&D needs a better handle on them!

It’s fitting that at such a financially uncertain time, L&D is sending some seriously mixed messages around budgeting!

🤷 We’ve got people who don’t know how much they spend.

🚀 People who expect their spending power to stay the same or increase.

📉 And economic struggles influencing how much we’ve got in real terms.

And yet almost half of L&D pros don’t know how much they spend

According to the CIPD, 46% of L&D pros “still do not have a handle on how much they spend per employee in the organisation.”

The report provides some interesting context about where this is coming from:

  • 53% feel their workload has increased, so it might be that they’re swamped!
  • Practitioners reported a decrease in external suppliers, so that shift might be behind the lack of clarity.
  • A quarter say their reliance on in-house expertise has increased, which is more difficulty to put a price to.
  • Close to a third say their increased workload had a negative impact on their physical and mental wellbeing - so it could be that they’re struggling.

The positive? They don’t feel their funding will decrease

The same CIPD report showed that 69% of respondents had seen their learning/training and development budget increase or stay the same (24% net increase and 45% stayed the same), while just 20% had seen a decline and the remaining 11% were unsure. 

That confidence is supported by LinkedIn research showing that 41% expected to have more spending power, lower than last year but the third-highest response in the past seven years.

L&D pros don't expect huge reduction of budgets. (Source: LinkedIn).

It’s an economic downturn, so how much is our budget really worth?

A recent Mind Tools report offered a brilliant insight into how much is spent per employees alongside the impact of recent economic struggles on that amount:

“In 2017, organisations were spending £681 per employee on learning and development. In 2020, when the index dropped, organisations were spending £639.

“Today, the budget per employee is around £705, but, in real terms, L&D teams are working with a lot less (around £131 per employee) than they were seven years ago.”

Organisational L&D spend per employee dropped in 2020 and increased in 2023, yet L&D teams are actually working with less than they were in 2017 - in real terms.

The answer: Understand current spend/budget, gear it towards impact 

There are three obvious steps to take here:

1. Audit how much you’re currently spending on L&D (collectively and as individuals).

2. See how that compares to overall L&D budget.

3. Try to ascertain how much of that spend is driving impact.

This will give you a sense but it’s what you do next that matters!

Build a commercial mindset and combine that with better organisational alignment 

“I think it's really important as an L&D professional, if you want to be a strategic business partner, to develop your own business acumen.

"Being able to think and speak the language of a business person is as important as being an expert in your field.” - Danielle Dziurun.

The goal is to gain insight into the financial side of the company; where is it profitable? Which areas offer growth opportunities?

We often talk about the ROI for L&D, and knowing how the business makes money will help!

Especially if we properly diagnose the paint points when people come to us with learning requests:

1. What’s the real root cause of the problem?
2. What’s stopping you getting there?
3. What financial implications does that have?

Understand those three things and learning isn’t only solving problems, it’s contributing to the bottom line.

3. Tech stacks are still too messy making knowledge hard to find (and L&D can remove the pain)

Is it fair for people to wait days for information they need?

If they’ve time-travelled back to the 1950s, maybe.

But in 2023, when the world is changing faster than ever, the answer is a firm no.

Sadly, that’s the case for almost A THIRD (29%) of employees.

Strap in because that’s just one of several worrying numbers in Appspaces’ 2023 Workplace experience trends & insights report.

The Learner-Tech Dilemma: Tools are adding too much friction

➡️ If the information is scattered in multiple places, it’s hard to find when you need it.

➡️➡️ If you can’t find it, you have to ask and wait for a reply.

➡️➡️➡️ If you have to wait, the moment of need has passed by the time you get it.

That’s how easy it is to build friction into the search for knowledge, damaging the perception of learning and the likelihood people will do it again.

And it’s stemming from a couple of key problems: Consistency in the tools we use and perception of the tech stack’s value overall.

🤯 67% of people “aren’t completely satisfied with their company’s current workplace tools and technologies, and they experience challenges with available solutions.”

35% think we should reduce the number of apps and tools needed to do their work.

Just look at the numbers below, the biggest employee challenges come from a lack of centralised tools and a failure for those tools to integrate with each other.

We're held back by inconsistent tools that fail to integrate. (Source: Appspace).

Create a central place for knowledge: start by mapping your tech stack

If we can bring everything to the end of a single search, people will search.

If we incorporate more of the tools people use everyday, they’re more likely to apply information.

🚀 This one is not going in the rocket science column.

Your first step? Mapping out your current tools and tech stack

“From an L&D perspective, it’s super important to have sight of what sits where within your organisation’s digital landscape because your learning ecosystem lives across multiple platforms - not just the ones designed for learning.”- Danielle Dziurun.

Danielle hit the nail on the head, it’s not just tools designed for learning - like your LMS or learning platform - that people use for learning. There’s a whole ecosystem!

Our goal should be to speak with people and understand where they go now when they have a problem?

This chat should also highlight the blockers they face when finding information.

If we can audit our tech stack and map that out too, we can visualise which tools fail to connect or duplicate the same things and therefore add friction.

Use more of the tools people already love and use

If there’s a tool that you’re trying to drive top-down adoption for but people organically use something else, consider that as you build a central home for learning.

Just look at the graph below, people are sharing information through Slack, social media and word of mouth!

L&D teams should harness existing tools. (Source: Appspace)

Our goal should be to tap into existing behaviours as much as we can to drive learning and knowledge sharing.

According to Mind Tools, “Social networking sites like YouTube, LinkedIn and WhatsApp consistently took the lead as the most popular platforms for learning at work”

If people are already engaged in those places, we can improve access to learning resources and, as Mind Tools word it, “make them more proactive learners… more willing to experiment and take risks.”

4. The AI chatter won’t stop, and L&D teams need to be more intentional around how and where they use it.

If you look at the number of Google searches for AI Learning, AI Content and all the variations in between…

📈 They all look like this!

The pace is not slowing down, L&D teams are more and more curious about how AI can help them.

However, at some point on that graph, we’re going to hit a key moment:

When the AI movement shifts from gimmicks to intentionality.

L&D needs to stop using AI for the sake of it, and start using it to solve real problems

Just because you can use something, doesn’t mean you should…

Yes we can use AI to create more content, but what if our people don’t need more content.

And this needs us nicely to the crux of the issue.

💡 If you don’t get the fundamentals right, AI will just scale your problems.

"If your team is lacking the right skills, and you don’t have the right strategy, using AI will just exacerbate all of your flaws. So you can create more problems rather than solving problems.” – Filip Lam.

We need the principles of identifying problems, delivering solutions and defining what outcomes or success look like to be in place.

That way, we know what activities drive impact.

And then we can say, well, I don’t have the skills or capacity for that part, could AI help?

Whether that’s by allowing us to be more data driven if we lack that skill or deliver personalised learning where we lack capacity.

5. L&D needs to solve the classic problems: I don’t have time and our people aren’t engaged are still roadblocks

Historians reckon the oldest example of writing dates back to Ancient Mesopotamia in 3400 B.C., and you know what that clay tablet said?

🤯 People don’t have enough time to learn.

Not really, but it might as well have.

The oldest barrier to learning is somehow STILL making its way into research on L&D challenges.

Alongside another classic, the lack of learner engagement…

Why are time and engagement still such huge barriers to learning?

The CIPD Learning at work 2023 Survey is the bearer of bad news on this occasion.

The report names time and engagement as the two biggest blockers for L&D in supporting organisational and people goals.

And it seems the biggest reason is a lack of support or buy-in from the right people, typically those higher up the organisational food chain.

Time is still a big learning barrier (yes, seriously). (Source: CIPD)

⏳ Time is an issue because most companies aren’t bringing relevant learning to the flow of work.

If you encounter an issue and you can find relevant information that helps you solve the problem, it doesn’t take long to learn and apply it for better performance.

👎 The lack of engagement often happens because L&D teams prioritise content.

They create, distribute and are often surprised when nobody engages with it - despite it being the wrong content at the wrong moments.

If it’s not immediately relevant, it feels like an unwanted interruption.

L&D teams should be focusing on problems to be solved and skills needed to reach goals.

We won’t repeat what we discussed in trend one but this really comes back to diagnosing problems, understanding where friction exists and building relationships.

The good news is that CIPD’s research shows positive movement in this direction:

“There has been an increase in the number of L&D professionals who are proactive in understanding a performance issue before recommending a solution (57% in 2023, versus 32% in 2021.”

Ultimately, there’s a company-wide mindset shift that needs to happen too…

❌ Learning isn’t something done at set times and disconnected from the workflow.

✅ It happens in the flow of work, in moments that matter, to help improve performance.

And if that’s happening, those engagement struggles should soon become a distant memory.

6. Clear career paths are needed and L&D can pave the way.

People want to stay at companies, IF there’s fair pay and opportunities for growth!

While 22% of employees said they were vulnerable to poaching in 2022, only 9% said they were in this boat in 2023.

And Betterworks’ 2023 Global HR Research Report revealed a few other interesting insights into what keeps people at their companies.

Pay, culture and flexibility were high on the list, but career goals and purpose saw the highest-growth on 2022 numbers - jumping by 15%!

Development saw the most growth in employee priorities. (Source: Betterworks)

And this theme was evident throughout the report! Here are two numbers on the same lines:

  • Three in four employees would prefer to advance at their current company.
  • While 61% cited pay and benefits as a key reason to stay, 41% named career growth.

So, people want to stick around and grow - all good news, right?

Not quite, because their expectations aren’t currently being met when it comes to growth, upskilling and reskilling.

People want progression paths, they’re just not getting them

Employees aren’t getting the access to the career paths and conversations they’d need to fulfill this ambition.

Only 48% see a path for advancement in their current company.

And only 46% feel supported in their career aspirations.

Betterwork’s findings are supported by A recent survey of 1,000 UK employees by Lattice and YouGov 

The report uncovered what’s needed for businesses to take better care of their workforce and look at the bottom three - lack of development opportunities, pathways and conversations are the lowest on the list.

Career growth and development aren't frequently offered. (Source: Lattice).

The irony is that we’re in a talent shortage, meaning it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for companies to plug skills gaps with external talent.

So if companies are going to harness people’s desire to stay and grow, and tie that to performance objectives, they need to rethink the current approach to employee development.

Rounding up these six 2024 L&D trends with actions you can start taking today

Here’s a quick recap of these six 2024 L&D trends with the key things you’ll need to remember and act upon for an impact-filled year.

  1. L&D teams need to align more closely with business goals: Which starts with better problem discovery and measuring more than vanity metrics.
  2. We need to get a handle on our budgets: Lots of L&D teams don’t fear budget cuts but plenty also don’t understand how much they currently spend - which needs to change in 2024.
  3. We need to remove friction for our people: Right now, they spend too long looking for information and feel the number of tools used by their company is a big part of the problem.
  4. AI and L&D has never been a more popular buzzword: But harnessing its power means moving beyond gimmicks in 2024 and using it intentionally.
  5. Old challenges keep popping up: The bread and butter challenges of time and engagement are still present in lots of research and need to be tackled once and for all.
  6. Current career paths aren’t clear enough: Which is a shame because people have never been more willing to stay and grow at a company.