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The 5 Mantras These CLOs and L&D Experts are Living By in 2024

In our recent roundtable discussion, forward-thinking L&D execs and thought leaders Heather Stefanski, André Martin, Sarah Cannistra, and Jonathan Halls joined us to unpack results from our employee survey report and share their advice for L&D teams looking to make a big impact this year. 


The discussion spanned employee retention, learner engagement strategies, measuring success, L&D governance models, AI, and more.

Here are the five development mantras the group is carrying into 2024 and their guidance for fellow L&D leaders.

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1. Middle managers’ roles are really hard — and really important — right now

Our middle managers are underwater right now, André says. As of a few years ago, we were asking our managers to delegate work and maybe coach and inspire their people. 

Today, as we’ve seen even more clearly how important good managers are for employees’ success, our expectations for managers have gotten higher. On top of their jobs, now we want them to be career coaches and development centers for their team members.

“I just think we have to have a lot more respect for what managers don’t know, what they don’t have, and the support they actually need to do these really big, really complex, really hard jobs right now,” says André. “And so I hope we all can walk away having a great deal of empathy for managers.” 

And for L&D’s part, André says there’s huge value the function can provide to help make this important “development triad” of L&D + manager + employee work well.

2. Learning budgets aren’t shrinking — they’re just edging closer to P&L

While there’s buzz that learning budgets are shrinking, it’s not necessarily true. The money that was traditionally given to corporate L&D teams is just getting fragmented and pushed closer to the P&L (profit and loss centers), André says. 

“There’s still learning happening in the business every single day,” André says. “You can’t drive the kind of transformation we’ve seen the last handful of years without investing in growth and learning. It’s just that a lot more teams are popping up inside of the business, driving learning that has a very pragmatic and close relationship to the P&L.”

André says rather than feeling victimized by this change, corporate learning teams can start to think about what role they can play to continue maximizing the value of all the people doing learning in the organization—and there’s some real opportunity there. 


Dr. André Martin: “Learning and budgets are moving closer to P&L”

3. For meaningful training, simulate employees’ experience

At McKinsey, Heather’s team focuses on designing training experiences that simulate employees’ actual environments and keeps them actively engaged throughout. 

“We’re doing a ton around simulations. Where you have to read this information, pull this together, do an interview with somebody. It simulates the environment. That is real learning. And as a learner, I can’t really be on my phone or multitask when I’m doing something like that,” Heather says.

There’s so much opportunity for us in the L&D world to use different methodologies to help colleagues engage, and think, and process information, she says.

“If we use our tools well — the videos, the presentations, the simulations — what we’re actually doing is creating experiences for people to practice and get reflection, time, and feedback,” says Jonathan. “Those are all key for real learning, which is a process that happens in the learner’s head, not in our tools.” 

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4. To keep your employees, empower them to succeed anywhere 

Sarah says that a key part of retaining our best employees is bringing career coaching into the workplace. How do we educate our leaders on how to have better career conversations instead of just performance conversations? Providing this level of attention and investment signals that we value our people. 

“At the end of the day, our employees really want to feel that they’re being developed so they can do their job well, feel more stable, know that they’re contributing, and also, in the event that they’re laid off, they have the skills to be competitive out there in this type of job market,” says Sarah.

The more that managers can help employees understand their career trajectory — not just focus on in-the-moment performance — the better we’ll do on retaining that talent and guiding them towards their goals. 


Sarah Cannistra on career AND performance coaching

5. There’s never been a more exciting time to be in L&D 

Challenges aside, the optimism around L&D’s potential is clear.

 “This is the time to be in L&D. I could not be more excited by what’s in front of us and the opportunities that are available,” Heather says.

The group said they find inspiration everywhere for what L&D can become.

Jonathan: “I get inspired by people and seeing how they have the potential to change the world. And it sounds cheesy, but when you see it in action, you just gotta sit back and go, ‘wow.’”

Sarah: “I read a lot of non-L&D books and take inspiration from places like marketing and strategy and operations and things like that. How do I bring more of the business into L&D versus just hyper-focusing on L&D as its own thing?”

Heather: “I get inspired by our new hires in their learning programs. And seeing the world open up for them. That always inspires me. So whenever I’m in the doldrums, I go off and I teach a program to brand new hires, and then I feel great the next week.”

André: “I study people that have mastered crafts: dancers, artists, chefs. These individuals that have never been in a classroom in their life. But they’ve managed to create this depth of capability that is just astounding. I think we could learn a lot from the way that they learn and go about getting better at their craft. And if we study them, we’re gonna find a lot more mechanisms for better corporate learning in the future.”


For more inspiration and “aha” moments from the webinar, How to Retain Your Best Talent in 2024, watch the full replay

And if you’re inspired to start creating engaging training content with Vyond, try it out now — free — for two weeks or chat with us about getting a trial for your whole team.

Resources referenced on the webinar and speakers’ work 

Research report: What Employees Want from L&D in 2024
Book: Power to the Middle: Why Managers Hold the Keys to the Future of Work
Book: Wrong Fit, Right Fit: Why How We Work Matters More Than Ever 
Book: Confessions of a Corporate Trainer
Organization: Association for Talent Development (ATD)
Organization: The Learning Guild
Podcast: The L&D Career Club
Publication: Training Magazine