9 Ways the L&D Function is Evolving

Learning and development is an essential component to every organization in order to ensure a safe and productive work environment. As workers increasingly demand that education and training be integral to their jobs, the nature of training and development is changing and receiving a lot more attention in the boardroom. Check out 9 ways L&D is evolving in today’s modern learning ecosystem.

1. Budget restraints are reducing.

Traditionally, L&D managers have struggled to receive the budget they need in order to implement and deliver effective training programs. Workplace learning is often seen as time-consuming and an expense rather than an investment. However, fewer global talent developers struggle with a limited budget in recent years as organizations continue to recognize the value and growing enthusiasm towards professional education. One LinkedIn study shows that in 2017, 49% of L&D Managers listed “budget constraints” as their top challenge, and in 2019 that number dropped to 27%.


2. Budgets are changing.

While instructor-led trainings are valuable and should be incorporated to some degree into your learning programs, online learning is becoming a more convenient and cost-effective approach to workplace learning. More global talent developers are allocating their budget towards digital solutions that streamline employee data, make courses and resources more easily accessible, and provide multi-faceted learning experiences that are proven to be more effective on both the success of your learners and your organization’s training ROI. In fact, a 2019 LinkedIn study shows 59% of global talent developers say they are spending more or less on the following compared with three years ago, while only 9% spent less. In contrast, spending on instructor-led training is down 39%.


3. Training beats hiring.

In a 2019 study, Deloitte found that 77% of HR and workplace leaders expect to either strongly or moderately focus on training, while just 23% lean toward hiring new talent. This is partially due to the fact that hiring is a huge expense for companies of all sizes. Not only do you have to dedicate time and resources to interviewing and vetting candidates, a bad hire can have a seriously negative impact on company culture and the productivity of other workers. It’s much less expensive to keep current employees happy, and more employees want to see professional education offered and encouraged in their workplace.


4. Younger workers want more control.

As new generations begin to make up more of the workforce, organizations need to anticipate and adjust their learning programs to their wants and needs. Younger workers want more control over their professional education, especially as their see their skill gaps increasing (more on that below). According to Linkedin, 43% of Generation Z and 42% of Millennials want fully self-directed and independent learning. Although older workers are less focused on this (33% of Generation X and Boomers want more self-directed learning) as technology continues to evolve these workers will evolve with them.


5. Factors Driving Digital Learning.

With the rise of digital learning comes new technologies and experiences. Hemsley Fraser found that L&D professionals believe the following will accelerate digital learning the most over the next two to three years:

  • Better ‘blended’ experiences (20%)
  • Self-led learning (20%)
  • Better digital user experience (19%)
  • Microlearning (12%)
  • Integration with other IT learning (12%)
  • Chatbots and machine-learning (9%)

Although none of these are brand new to professional education, the rate they are evolving gives them a much larger role in professional development programs.


6. Learning methods change as workplace L&D evolves.

Josh Bersin’s analysis, ‘A New Paradigm for Corporate Training: Learning in the Flow of Work’ explores how L&D methods have changed over the past two decades and suggests how it will evolve heading into 2020 and beyond. Back in 1998, a combination of on and offline experiences brought about blended learning and included both self-study and online learning. This was a huge shift for the industry as the internet became integral to a functioning workplace. Fast forward to 2018 and digital learning is being done by everyone, everywhere, all the time. This study suggests that by 2021, more workers will be learning on the job and choosing which platform they want to use.


7. Skills gap concerns are growing.

The percentage of executives who are concerned about the availability of key skills is growing. Even as more people enter the workforce with advanced degrees and high levels of education, this doesn’t necessarily translate to on-the job skills. According to PwC, in 2011 55% of global chief executives expressed concern about the availability of key skills, and this number has increased to 79% in 2019.


8. Employees are aware of their skills gaps.

It’s not just employers concerned about skill gaps in the workforce: a survey conducted by Gartner found out of 7,000 employees self-assessing their level of proficiency of in-demand skills, 70% said they haven’t mastered the skills they need for their jobs today. Even more alarming, 80% said they lack both the skills they need both for their current role and their future career. This presents a unique challenge to L&D professionals, who must figure out how to help workers succeed by teaching these skills and filling in the gaps.


9. Some barriers still persist.

For L&D professionals, barriers still exist that make evolving much more of a challenge. The biggest challenge cited by 78% of L&D professionals (according to a CIPD study) is that company leaders have traditional expectations of L&D that are difficult to challenge. Other barriers include that learning is not being seen as a management priority (74%) and organizational culture does not support social learning (64%). 64% also say learning is seen as a cost-centre, not an investment, despite all the evidence to the contrary.


What it All Means for L&D Professionals

All the data above suggests L&D professionals have seen rapid changes over the past 20 years, and will need to evolve to meet new demands. A younger, more digitally-focused workforce, new technologies and growing skill gaps are creating new challenges while traditional barriers also still exist. You can explore more ways businesses and employees are approaching skills gap in the workplace and how professional L&D is evolving in The Times' Learning & Development Special Report. In order to succeed, organizations need to adapt their existing professional education programs. One way to do this is by implementing a learning management system, which can solve many of the concerns of both companies and their employees. Want to learn more? Reach out to the experts at Open LMS to get started.

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