Tune in or drop out? The hit L&D podcasts guide

The podcast market is well known for being saturated, and even the savviest learning professional can struggle to find the ones worth their time. To help, Andrew Jacobs rounds up his favourites

Credit: Andrew Jacobs, LLarn Learning

Being at the centre of production of several podcasts, I am lucky to be able to see the work that goes into the design, recording and publishing process. I am also able to understand, at first hand, the issues the podcast producers and hosts must go through to get quality audio out to the audience.

To produce consistently engaging content, with great guests, on a regular and consistent basis, to a high standard is not a simple task, and everyone who can do that deserves recognition. However, as we know, learning content is diverse and available everywhere and podcasts are no exception. There are vast numbers of podcasts to choose from, in the region of four million. Of those that might be of interest to people in learning and development there will be tens of thousands, and knowing which ones to listen to can be confusing since they vary by quality, tone, content, purpose and relevance. 

Here, I share some of my favourites and explain what makes them special. We’ll also look at some of the up-and-coming podcasts as well as a few outside the L&D space, which will help inform and support you in learning and development.

First, I’d like to highlight the five essential podcasts in L&D that you need to follow. In my opinion they are pretty much non-negotiable; these are the best podcasts you’ll hear about the learning sector. They are also presented in no particular order – this list isn’t about awarding point

  1. The Mind Tools L&D Podcast with Gemma Towersey, Ross Dickie, Owen Ferguson and Ross Garner was one of the first podcasts I listened to in the learning space. With more than 350 episodes available, there will be a topic there for everyone. 
  2. The Learning & Development Podcast with David James is the next essential listen. James is an exceptional host and his knowledge and understanding of the learning profession is almost incomparable. Again, with more than 100 episodes accessible, the content is both broad and deep.
  3. The Learning Hack with John Helmer is one I love for its production values and quirky approach. Helmer is a super host and always creates the space for tremendous conversations with his guests. This was one of the first video podcasts I saw and, with more than 80 episodes, is another great resource for the L&D professional.
  4. The CIPD Podcast – although not specifically L&D related, it is an essential listen for people working in the people profession. As with all the best podcasts, it clearly states what it is about in its description and show notes, giving the reader the choice as to whether to listen to one of the 200 or so episodes or not.
  5. The Women Talking About Learning Podcast – the last of the essential podcasts is a bit of a cheat since it is one I produce. We created it to amplify women’s voices and create role models for other women in the profession to listen to. With exclusively female guests, we’re proud to have published more than 60 episodes and a schedule for fortnightly episodes well into the end of this year. The guests always produce valuable content that we support with comprehensive show notes.

Following the diverse range of podcasts above, there’s a similarly wide range in the next list. These are the podcasts where I find myself dipping in and out because there are good guests, interesting topics or a different approach to the podcast genre.

  1. Mind the Skills Gap with Stella Collins. Collins is an expert in neuroscience, and the way the podcast approaches the topic with ‘seasons’ based on specific topics makes for a truly useful podcast for the L&D community.
  2. Diary of a CLO – I’ve been listening to this with Helen Marshall recently. A relatively new podcast, Marshall has got some great guests from outside the L&D space, including Stuart Broad and Sally Gunnell.
  3. Learning from the Edges – this is another new podcast with Michelle Parry-Slater. Her book – The Learning and Development Handbook – is exceptional, and this series of podcasts is her researching her next book, but doing it out loud, in the open, with some of the leading L&D voices.
  4. The eLearning Coach – we cross the Atlantic for the next couple of podcasts. This first one is with Connie Malamed. From an instructional and creative design perspective, Malamed is one of the first people I look to in L&D, and her podcast brings some super guests to talk through their actions and thinking. 
  5. The L&D Hot Seat with Russell Sweep, who is a generous interviewer, is also based in the US, bringing people from a range of roles across the learning profession to talk through topics in a different way.
  6. Voices of the Learning Network – this is a very new podcast. It provides a space for members of the Learning Network to connect and engage to develop the community further. It feels like it will be slightly different in tone to other podcasts so worth keeping an eye on.

Outside of L&D there are three essential podcasts I would expect professionals to be listening to.

  1. Akimbo with Seth Godin. Published weekly, it is described as “a podcast about culture and about how we can change it, seeing what's happening and choosing to do something. The culture is real, but it can be changed. You can bend it.” From a workplace learning perspective, these short episodes can be applied to the design, delivery, evaluation and review of what L&D does, and the podcast regularly makes me stop and think.
  2. HBR IdeaCast approaches topics relevant to the workplace and finds expert guests who are regularly entertaining and informative. Where IdeaCast works best is when it tackles a topic over a few episodes; the recent season they did on generative AI and its impact on the workplace should be mandatory listening.
  3. TED Radio Hour is based on TED talks. It’s a series of brilliantly edited and curated podcasts on topics relating to technology, entertainment and design. What makes it special is the breadth of subjects covered and that the L&D function can recommend specific episodes to support learning in the workplace. For example, a recent episode about envisioning your future self would work very well in supporting people development in the workplace.

Andrew Jacobs is CEO of LLarn Learning