Is your L&D approach out of fashion? Trends that need to be retired

Scribbled note that says "work trends" on an office desk.

Wendy Hanson is rethinking learning and development for 2024 and urges us to drop what’s not working

In the dynamic landscape of professional development, the traditional approaches to learning and development are undergoing a significant transformation. As we move through 2024, it’s crucial for organisations to re-evaluate and retire outdated practices that no longer serve the evolving needs of employees and businesses. This year, it’s time to finally bid farewell to several long-prevailing L&D trends that can be replaced with far more progressive and effective strategies.

It’s crucial for organisations to adapt their L&D strategies to meet the evolving needs of employees

Here’s what we think should get the boot in 2024:

1) Annual performance reviews

One of the most outdated practices in employee development is the reliance on annual performance reviews. The once-a-year feedback model is being replaced by a more dynamic and continuous approach known as Continuous Performance Management (CPM). Annual reviews are not only impractical but can also be counterproductive.

The shift towards CPM is supported by Gallup Organization’s research, revealing that over 75% of organizations aim to adopt this model. Continuous performance management fosters a feedback culture, emphasising employee growth, learning, and improved performance.

On the flip side, annual reviews often mean a significant delay in both collecting and delivering feedback that could be beneficial in turning around behaviour and meeting performance expectations. What difference does feedback make if given nine months after the fact? Also, “saving” feedback for one annual review can negatively impact the morale of managed employees and can even cause employees to lose confidence in their work. When you don’t get any feedback, positive or constructive, you make assumptions about your value.

2) Diversity, equity and inclusion as a one-off, independent training program

DEI initiatives have evolved beyond being one-off, mandatory training sessions mostly led by outside consultants, into a more holistic approach woven throughout an organisation and into various initiatives. Today, it’s imperative for companies to integrate diversity, inclusion, and belonging into their organisational culture. The emphasis is not just on talking about diversity but taking tangible actions to create an inclusive environment.

Organisations are now hiring Directors of Diversity and Inclusion Directors to lead these efforts. Collaborating with a DEI Director, an Executive Coach can successfully incorporate coaching into internal programs, connecting individuals with mentors who could relate to their challenges. This shift ensures that DEI initiatives go beyond mere checkboxes and contribute to creating a workplace where everyone feels they belong.

3) Measuring the success of L&D programs solely based on participation levels

Participation levels as the only measure of L&D is no longer sufficient. Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) are under increasing pressure to demonstrate a return on investment tied to actual bottom-line metrics, such as productivity and financial goals.

Organisations must move away from a check- box approach and adopt a more strategic evaluation of training programs. This shift aligns learning objectives with business objectives, ensuring that investments in employee development contribute directly to organisational success.

For example, an increasing number of L&D professionals now offer technology tools and processes to benchmark and measure before and after progress on behaviours and attitudes following training. This is in addition to the ability to compare these performance metrics against financial markers for the company such as productivity, profitability and revenue growth. 

4) All-in-one training sessions, as opposed to a micro-lesson approach

Comprehensive training sessions need to be updated as organisations recognise the effectiveness of micro-learning. Instead of lengthy, all-in-one courses, companies are deploying bite-sized, targeted lessons that cater to employees’ specific needs. Micro-lessons are more flexible, allowing employees to learn at their own pace, which is essential in today’s fast-paced work environment. This approach has also been proven to more effective overall in achieving learning outcomes.

We know when employees go through days of training, they often don’t get to incorporate what they have learned to change their management or leadership style. We learn better when information is delivered in small chunks. We also need time to practice what we have learned and come back for feedback on many occasions.

The most effective training models today bring teams together after learning sessions for a “group coaching” to share learnings, ideas and ask about impact to a company’s goals and objectives.

5) Annual employee sentiment surveys

Just as annual survey reviews are falling out of favour, so is the idea of capturing employee sentiment via a once a year annual employee survey. With high turnover rates and frequent role changes, relying on an annual survey fails to provide timely insights into employee satisfaction and engagement. The trend is shifting towards pulse surveys conducted on a monthly basis. These quick surveys offer a more accurate and up-to-date understanding of employee sentiments. By gathering feedback more frequently, organisations can respond promptly to evolving needs and track the success of their initiatives in real-time.

L&D practices for the future

As we navigate the complexities of the modern workplace, it’s crucial for organisations to adapt their learning and development strategies to meet the evolving needs of employees. Retiring outdated practices and embracing innovative approaches is not just a trend but a necessity for staying competitive in the 21st-century business landscape.

By focusing on continuous performance management, integrated diversity and inclusion programs, business-oriented metrics, micro-learning, and pulse surveys, organisations can foster a culture of learning and development that truly empowers their workforce.

Wendy Hanson is Co-Founder and Chief Culture & Community Officer at New Level Work

Wendy Hanson

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