5 books L&Ds should read
Training & Learning

5 Learning and Development Books Every Pro Should Read

As you develop the potential of your employees, don’t forget to deepen your skillset as an L&D professional.

Books are a great way to stay on top of the latest trends and research, since you can learn from the best regardless of your schedule or location. However, with the hundreds—perhaps thousands—of learning and development books out there, choosing the one that will add the most value to your continuing education can be challenging.

We asked the L&D Collective—our recently established learning community of L&D experts—which professional development books they thought were the most impactful and educational. Here are their top picks—be sure to let us know what you think, and if we missed any great works, in the comments:

Design Thinking for Training and Development, by Sharon Boller & Laura Fletcher

Design thinking for training and development

Boller and Fletcher say training and development suffer when we treat learning as a one-time event. Instead, they suggest using design thinking as a way to improve performance through learning. Design Thinking for Training and Development serves as a how-to guide for using their strategy of ongoing training in and L&D setting. Their tips include how to convince skeptical stakeholders by showcasing successful L&D case studies on design thinking. They also break down design thinking into five steps and detail how each translates into professional development.

Sharon Boller is an expert on game-based learning and learning design and is best known as the president and chief product officer of Bottom-Line Performance. She also co-authored another book on our list, Play to Learn. Laura Fletcher works at Salesforce in Leadership and Development, where her north star is improving employee engagement. Their book can be purchased from the Association for Talent Development.

Workplace Learning: How to Build a Culture of Continuous Employee Development by Nigel Paine

Workplace learning

Paine explains why businesses should create a culture of learning rather than let learning end at the conclusion of onboarding. He explains how to go beyond simply offering a few courses and engage learners in a robust learning culture. Workplace Learning is a practical guide that offers actionable tips and tools for building learning cultures inside organizations.

For instance, Paine provides a tool that can help organizations measure their current culture of learning. The book also includes case studies of companies like Microsoft and The Happy Company that have established successful learning cultures.

Nigel Paine is a speaker, writer, and podcaster with 25 years of experience in learning and development. His book can be purchased from Amazon in hardcover or paperback.

Play to Learn: Everything You Need to Know About Designing Effective Learning Games, by Sharon Boller & Karl Kapp

play to learn

Play to Learn showcases how gamification (turning a task into a game) can lead to more successful results when applied to learning and development. Boller and Kapp walk through game design and game psychology. Then, they describe how gamification relates to teaching learning and development.

The book shows you how to interweave gamification into your business objectives, test how well it’s working, and deploy it across the whole business division. Boller and Kapp offer game examples that you can play, so you can learn through interaction as well as reading.

Sharon Boller has an M.S. in Instructional Systems Technology, is the founder of Bottom-Line Performance, and is the director of TiER1 Performance Solutions. She also co-authored another book on our list, Design Thinking for Training and Development. Karl Kapp is a professor at Bloomsburg University, where he teaches about gamification and learning. Their book can be bought on Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.

Design for How People Learn, by Julie Dirksen

Design for how people learn

Design for How People Learn is a classic, but the second edition has been updated with new strategies for incorporating social media and habit forming into learning and development. Dirksen also added new chapters discussing how and when to use evaluations and tests in a way that doesn’t remind learners of their test anxiety from their school days.

Dirksen provides multiple ways to learn and develop your skills through visual metaphors and examples. She writes so even newer L&D professionals can quickly learn the key principles to teaching employees—and remember the lessons. Julie Dirksen is a Guild Master with The eLearning Guild and is known internationally for her talks and lessons. You can buy Design for How People Learn, the second edition, on Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.

Long Life Learning: Preparing for Jobs That Don't Even Exist Yet, by Michelle Weise

long life learning

Long Life Learning makes you think by asking how the certainty of a longer life—well over 100—would affect your need for continued education. The book suggests that we should change our approach to learning now so that we can prepare for a future of new jobs and older workforces.

Weise starts with a theory—that longer lifespans will mean longer careers—and asks how that will affect learning throughout a lifetime. She explains that, in this case, we should make continued education ongoing rather than end with an advanced degree or new certification. Since new jobs are continually being created, we’ll need to keep learning to be active participants in the workforce.

Michelle Weise is an expert in the future of work and education with articles in The Economist and Harvard Business Review. You can buy her book in ebook or print format from Wiley.

Join our L&D Collective community for more learning recommendations

As an L&D professional, reading about new concepts and teaching methods supports your goal of creating a learning culture. So, when you make it through this list of books, you’ll be on the lookout for others. Ask your network what books they’ve enjoyed, and join the L&D Collective community for more book recommendations, networking opportunities, and discussions on how Collaborative Learning positively impacts growth.

Ready to join your peers in the L&D Collective?

Good timing—we’re currently accepting new members. Apply today to join the industry’s best and brightest in the L&D Collective. (Membership is free but reserved for L&D professionals only.)

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