5 areas of focus for 2024

Happy New Year! Last year was one of the toughest of my working life so I’m looking forward to putting that behind me. Over the Christmas break I have been reflecting on work, our business Insights Media and the year ahead, and in doing so, five common threads emerged. They are:

1 Finding your voice

I feel that I’ve lost my voice over the last couple of years – my online voice that is.

This can happen when you work full-time for an employer and now that I am back in the business, I realise that it is time build it back up. The degrading of X and not having an alternative (Threads is not there yet, I don’t think) hasn’t helped either.

That’s me, but what about everybody else? All of us need to be able to speak up and out and to be heard. Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are more important than ever for successful organisations and engaged, healthy and happy workers. Everyone needs a voice and to be heard if they are to feel included. And if products, services, the customer and employee experience are to be improved.

Learning, HR and talent leaders also need to find their voice as their roles have the potential to shape the new ways of working that are being driven by technological, economic, political, social and climate change.

And for suppliers in the market, finding that credible and distinctive voice is more important than ever as markets get more crowded and competitive.

I watched Remains of the Day recently, which, through the character of Stevens the butler, conveys the pain and heartache that comes with not having a voice. He could not find the words to express what he wanted and as a result missed his opportunity to find love and happiness. Work life is clearly different but organisations would do well to focus on all staff having a voice and being listened to.

2 Sense making

A few years ago I used to talk a lot about curation in learning and I helped clients with both the strategy and execution behind doing it. A key part of the curation process is sense making, taking the information you have gathered and generating useful insights for your audience(s) so that they become better informed and can make better decisions.

Although many people in the sector might say curation is now easily done by technology I would disagree, especially when it comes to sense making. Take the impact of generative AI on learning and work. There is so much hype it makes it hard to identify trusted sources of information (is AI generated content to be trusted?) and this is made harder by the tech developing at a rapid rate and suppliers jumping on the AI bandwagon. Finding trusted sources to enable you to gather credible information that you can then use to make informed decisions is super tough right now. Sense making is key to developing credible thinking and a credible voice.

3 Translation and connection

At Insights Media we spend a lot of time reading and summarising research. And from this research we see the challenges that different parts of the organisation say they face. Take (different word here) the challenges of these workforce cohorts: senior leaders, functional heads (eg L&D leaders) and workers. I have pulled these from a variety of research reports from 2023.

Learning leader challenges

  • Aligning learning with business goals
  • Employee retention and development
  • Upskilling and reskilling
  • Creating a learning culture
  • Linking L&D with performance and development

Workforce challenges – CEOs

  • Talent development and workforce agility
  • Employee experience and retention
  • Adoption of AI and technology
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
  • Workplace culture and wellbeing

Worker challenges

  • Flexibility in how work is done
  • Personal and professional growth
  • Wellbeing
  • Reward
  • Shared purpose

It looks like the different cohorts face different challenges, but do they? Talent development is linked with personal and professional growth (and wellbeing, shared purpose and reward), while also being linked to (or should be) to aligning learning with business goals, upskilling and reskilling…It’s about framing the challenge and the conversation.

These challenges determine what each cohort talks about and how they talk about them – learning leaders talk about learning challenges, employees talk about their challenges etc. We need to talk about challenges in a way that connects with the right cohort. That means talking the language of the audience. So, when learning leaders talk to C-suite execs they need to be talking about how they overcome their (the C-suite) challenges, not the merits of a learning culture, for example.

Speaking the right language with the right audience will help build credibility and connection and lead to better outcomes for your team and the business.

4 Dealing with nuance

All work comes with its complexities. And it can be perceived in different ways by people depending on their context, relationship to/with you and the work they do. Although humans like heuristics, we all know the phrase the devil’s in the details – it is so important to think about the detail of what we do, how we do it and why we do it. We all need to be alive and sensitive to this in the coming months – to understand the nuances that shape roles and responsibilities, processes and outcomes – and especially at a systems level – and what they mean for colleagues. This means listening to colleagues and acting on those insights rather than taking a one-size-all, textbook type approaches to performance, management and leadership.

5 Overcoming the status quo

I’ve always enjoyed bringing challenge into my work, usually by inviting those I’m working with to explore how things could be done differently and more effectively. But not everyone is open to exploring new thinking and adopting different ways of doing things. The status quo is powerful and people are invested in keeping it. However, does 2024 look like the year to stick with the status quo? If you think it isn’t then you’ll need to think about how you, your team and organisation can entertain new ideas and get them off the ground. This will come back to sense making and communicating in ways that connect with your audiences and stakeholders. You may need to be brave because the ones most invested in the status quo can have the most power and present the most obstacles.

This year, I’m looking forward to working with clients (inhouse and supply side) to help them better understand audience and stakeholder insights so that they can build stronger connections and deliver more impact. If you like the sound of that then drop me a line martincouzins@insightsmedia.co.uk