The L&D mistakes to avoid in 2022

Reading time: 10m

AuthorNatalie Ann HolborowDigital Content Specialist
Reading Time10 minutes

Being a great L&D practitioner is a learning process in itself. As with any career, there are mistakes and successes along the way, and we need to have a growth mindset that allows us to learn from missteps and become better at what we do. While it’s impossible to achieve unattainable perfection (we’re all human after all), we can at least become aware of some of the most common L&D mistakes and work proactively to avoid them.

Here are the common L&D mistakes to avoid in 2022.


1. Treating learning data as an afterthought

As an L&D professional, you’re naturally familiar with the expectation to formulate learning and development strategies that drive performance in the organisation. You’re also likely well-acquainted with having to prove to the C-suite that your department is worth continued investment.

According to Towards Maturity’s Learning Benchmark Report, bold text So why are so many treating data as an afterthought?

Data analysis remains one of the top challenges for L&D according to the LPI Dashboard. Knowing what learning data to collect, how to collect it, how to measure and how to present results back to key stakeholders can seem like an overwhelming task if you’re not 100% clear on the specifics of what you’re trying to prove. To reduce the overwhelm, break the process into five simple steps:

  • Get clear on what L&D is about
    • You need to understand where the business needs to go and align the L&D function with these overall goals
  • Collaborate with stakeholders
    • Avoid ‘L&D speak’ and instead use the language of your stakeholders, addressing their priorities—if you can make your stakeholders champions in their department by asking the right questions and helping with a problem, you build trust and encourage more open communication
  • Know what data to measure (and how to measure it)
    • Conduct a learning needs analysis and familiarise yourself with the overall business goals to ensure your L&D is aligned
  • Use solid design principles
    • These will help you to justify your method and approach (e.g. principles such as Bloom’s taxonomy will help you define learning outcomes that are clear and demonstrable)
  • Get comfortable with data storytelling
    • Extracting patterns, trends and actionable information from data is vital if you want to engage stakeholders with your results. Consider the most appropriate dashboards and visualisations to illustrate your findings and remember to wrap them with a compelling narrative.

Kept simple and relevant, data analysis is one of the most powerful tools in your L&D toolkit. Want more help with data analysis in a simple, engaging format? ‘L&D’s guide to data analysis made simple’ is the free expert guide you need.

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2. Failing to retain your top talent

The threat of the ‘Great Resignation’ means extra pressure to retain top talent, with career development opportunities being a key motivator for employees to stay. According to The Work Institute’s 2021 Mid-Year Employee Retention Report, findings for the leading rate of attrition correlated with the previous 11 years—that career reasons continued to be the number one cause of an employee leaving the company.

Research by the CIPD reveals that high-performing organisations are now investing in strategic learning to drive the skills needed in future work and using learning as an enabler of agility. Fortunately, there are features within today’s learning systems that enable you to clearly map out career pathways based on current skills and capabilities, and identify skills gaps to be remedied.

The reporting insights afforded by smarter learning technologies allow for an ongoing review process, allowing skills gaps to be identified and remedied as necessary. When combined with communications tools within the learning system, a coaching dynamic ensures learners are continuously supported throughout self-directed and remote learning journeys. Managing and developing talent can be both effective and efficient with the help of the right tools.

Think also about your processes for both promoting and hiring talent internally—doing so shows you care about your employees’ development and helps motivate those who are keen to move up the career ladder. Show employees how they are key to organisational success by prioritising their development first and foremost. Not only will this increase retention and keep knowledge and experience within the company, but it will also reduce the cost of hiring for the initial vacancy and that inevitable replacement for the employee who leaves, having been made to feel that their career development has been ignored.


3. Putting features before learning theory

Have you been tasked with finding the right learning management system (LMS) or learning experience platform (LXP)? When you’re searching online or stepping into a crowded exhibition hall at learning events, it’s all too easy to become drawn in by flashy features and huge promises. However, the key thing to keep in mind is that your technology will serve as a tool to help you achieve success and should not be seen as the overall solution.

Without being clear on the organisational goals you want a learning system to help you achieve, it’s going to be near-impossible for you to convince stakeholders or fully consider the advantages and disadvantages of different options according to your unique organisational objectives. Ask yourself: “What challenges can I expect the right choice of learning technology to solve?”

L&D, it’s time to start moving closer to the business, ensuring the key people in your organisation are clear on objectives.Take care to speak the language of each of your stakeholders and gather feedback from learners, management, HR, IT and any other relevant people. Remember, success is a team effort.

Using this information, create a requirement list for the new learning system. Your organisational objectives will help you decide what you need the technology to do—remember, the learning should be aligned to these objectives. The right vendor will have the right analytics and the right customer support to align the learning to tangible outputs. For example, the aims of your organisation could be as follows:

  • Increase staff retention (%)
  • Increase customer retention (%)
  • Improve sales growth (%)

For each of these, what is the current percentage and where would you like it to be?

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Success in digital transformation is bigger than the learning system and you should be looking for a learning partner who has expertise in both digital transformation and L&D. Software requirements should be borne out of the challenges the organisation is looking to solve.

If one of the first engagements with a vendor is a long and impressive-sounding list of features, then you will end up letting the tail wag the dog, so to speak. Remember, unless you can get people to engage with the learning, the feature set is largely irrelevant. vendors are sometimes geared to have all of the ‘popular’ features to tick procurement boxes, but this is meaningless without a focus on how usable the system is for end-users, and without the expertise to advise on the best application of digital pedagogy.

To help you make the right choice stress-free, our free ‘Guide to sourcing a learning system’ with its tips and pull-out product demo checklist is your best friend for your next conversation with a learning technologies vendor.


4. Leaving coaching out of your L&D strategy

As modern learners take increasing responsibility for individual learning pathways, support is vital to keep them enthused and focused. The last thing you want is for learners to feel isolated, unmotivated and ultimately disengaged.

This is where a coaching approach can make all the difference.

Research published by City & Guilds Group reveals that of those respondents who hadn’t been offered coaching by their current employer, lack of investment (33%), taking staff for granted (31%), leaders’ disinterest in staff (22%) and a lack of understanding of the value of coaching (22%) were cited as the most common reasons.

There is a common misconception that only those who have problems at work would have any need for a coach. “Why would a competent worker need somebody to teach them how to do their job?” you may ask. “Isn’t a coach only needed to fix a problem?”

On the contrary, coaching is an excellent tool to help good workers overcome difficult challenges in order to become even better. It’s precisely why some of the top leaders in the FTSE 100 have their own coaches. The role of the coach is not to tell a ‘bad’ worker how to do their job, but to offer a different perspective and challenge the individual’s thinking about their own development in order to improve.

It’s about focusing on learner potential, not just performance – something which is crucial as we begin to look more at how to manage talent and upskill the workforce.

So, how do you support coaching in online learning? Clearly establishing expectations and outlining responsibilities will give clarity to both parties in a coaching session. Make sure everybody is confident with using communications tools within your learning system – for example, does the coachee know how to use the messaging function to contact if necessary? Is there an appointment booking calendar that can be used for scheduling? Do people know how to use discussion boards to ask questions or share links to relevant learning content? Is there a way to create and set assignments for after the session? It’s important that communication is free-flowing to ensure the coachee always feels supported.

Pay attention also to something called ‘digital body language’. Note any digital behaviours that will help you determine engagement during and after coaching sessions. For example:

  • Is the coachee spending sufficient time exploring recommended learning content within the LMS?
  • At what times of day are they most active on the platform?
  • Are they completing assessments?
  • What topics are they most skilled at and are there any areas that need a little more work?

Gathering the right data from the outset is key to informing your decisions on the best course of action. It also allows you to track whether the current coaching strategy is working. Analytics and reporting tools in your learning system will allow you to pinpoint individual strengths and weaknesses. Identifying specific problem areas can help build competency, remedy skills gaps, and support people to reach their full potential. For example, line managers or team leaders can have visibility of those they manage so they can track individual progress both before and after coaching.

This helps to determine whether assessment scores are improving as a result of the coaching activity.

In summary…

We hope you’re feeling a little more prepared to make your 2022 L&D strategy your best yet. While mistakes are a key part of the learning process (after all, the best learning cultures often have a ‘falling forward’ approach that supports innovation), it’s good to be aware of potential challenges and how to deal with them.

Here’s to a smarter 2022.

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