3 Personal and Professional Development Trends to Watch

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Not only do personal and professional development opportunities provide key benefits to employees—like learning new skills, boosting confidence and credibility, developing leadership skills and increasing earning potential—but employers greatly benefit too. In fact, 94% of employees have reported they would stay longer at a company that invested in training and development.

Within the personal and professional development fields, there are three main trends anticipated to continue throughout 2024. The first involves the general quest for knowledge by employees and the support given by employers for training. The other two pertain to specific types of skill development: the emergence of AI technologies and the human skills to complement—or counteract— them. 

1. Upskilling

Given all the benefits, both employees and employers are on board with professional development. “Continuous learning fosters a culture of lifelong learning that ensures employees stay relevant and adaptable in a dynamic world,” observes Mary Guirovich, an executive business and career coach. “Investing in employee development through stipends, tuition reimbursement or learning platforms demonstrably boosts morale, retention and performance.” She believes employees should have the support to seek out the learning opportunities they need most.

At OxygenArk, an oxygen therapy manufacturer, each employee has access to an annual stipend of $500 for professional development courses of their choice. “We’ve embraced the trend of personal development by providing resources and opportunities that align with our employees’ aspirations and the company’s goals,” OxygenArk founder George Yang explains. Furthermore, the stipend led to a noticeable improvement in employee engagement and skill diversification.

An innovative upskilling approach is to find stretch assignments for staff. According to Scott Lieberman, founder of Touchdown Money, stretch assignments are projects that challenge someone to advance beyond their current skill set or level of knowledge.

“It’s also an opportunity for the company to see if this employee has the potential to take on greater or different responsibilities,” Lieberman explains. “Oftentimes, I’ll pair someone up with a mentor so they have guidance as they learn on the job.” He found that this tactic increases employee productivity, loyalty and retention because they see the company investing in their career success.

2. Learning how to maneuver AI

It’s no surprise that one of the hottest trends right now is learning how to maneuver AI. “From July to October 2023, there was an 80% uptick in members watching AI-related learning courses compared to the previous three-month period,” notes Dan Brodnitz, global head of content strategy for LinkedIn Learning. To meet the demand, LinkedIn Learning doubled its library of AI content in the last year. Some of the most popular courses to learn how to use AI at work include Generative AI for Business Leaders, Prompt Engineering: How to Talk to the AIs, and How to Boost Your Productivity With AI Tools. 

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As AI becomes more integrated at work through automation and streamlining tasks, it’s even more critical that employees learn how to use and manipulate AI effectively to stay relevant and advance their careers.

“We need to equip our workforce for the digital landscape, preparing them to work alongside, not be replaced by, AI,” Guirovich says. With 33 times more LinkedIn posts mentioning topics like generative AI and ChatGPT than there were a year ago, there’s no doubt AI’s impact in the workplace is just beginning.  

3. Balancing AI with soft skills or “human skills”

Human skills involve managing and leading teams, navigating relationships and being able to adapt and thrive when faced with challenges and change.

Why are human skills important?

More people are now referring to “soft skills” as “human skills” to contrast what AI is capable of. “As AI advances and becomes more a part of our daily work and lives, great people skills will still be at the center of individual and company growth,” Brodnitz explains. 

With mental health challenges more prevalent, emotional well-being is also at the forefront of personal development. Globally recognized executive coach and professional training expert Paul Bramson believes emotional intelligence (EI) is a paramount skill to elevate in 2024 and beyond. 

“EI primarily focuses on understanding and managing emotions, both one’s own and others, and using that understanding to navigate social interactions effectively,” he says. Having this skill can significantly impact an employee’s happiness, success and effectiveness in the workplace. 

The importance of humor in the workplace

Finally, another human skill to keep an eye on this year is humor in the workplace. New research from Peppercomm found that humor can bridge gaps between workers and leaders to form better-connected teams, break down silos and drive more effective engagement.

According to Paul Osincup, corporate trainer, humor strategist and author of the forthcoming book The Humor Habit, “There are incredible benefits to having more humor in the workplace, such as increased productivity; enhanced team performance and cohesion; decreased burnout, stress and work withdrawal; and more confident and approachable leaders.” 

Besides, many people spend a third of their lives at work, so why not add a little humor to each day?

Get started with personal and professional development training

The experts we spoke with recommend the following online training platforms for flexible, accessible and personalized learning modules:

  • Coursera
  • EdX
  • LinkedIn Learning
  • OpenSesame
  • Pluralsight
  • Udemy

Out of over 6,500 courses on Coursera, there are more than 500 personal development courses, and more than 1.8 million people enrolled in these types of courses in 2023 alone. According to Coursera representative Emma Fitzpatrick, the most popular courses are The Science of Well-Being, Yale University; Connected Leadership, Yale University; Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success, Imperial College London; and The Arts and Science of Relationships: Understanding Human Needs, University of Toronto. 

This article originally appeared in the March issue of SUCCESS+ digital magazine. Photo by voronaman/Shutterstock.com

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