Learning & Development Impact Survey – 2021

52% of businesses facing severe pressure due to skills gap

New research from global learning and development (L&D) experts, Hemsley Fraser, and learning and communications platform vendor, 5App, reveals that tackling skills gaps will be the next major challenge for L&D and HR practitioners.

Key findings include:

  • 52 per cent of organizations are under pressure due to skills gaps
  • Most are concentrating on L&D over recruitment
  • 73 per cent are still reliant on free online resources

In the 2021 Learning and Development Impact Survey, 67 per cent of organizations admitted that the last 12 months had caused them to review learning technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research, which surveyed 465 HR and L&D professionals, showed that soft skills are the most in-demand and that larger organizations are more likely to suffer from the pressure caused by skills gaps.

Driven by competition for talent, combined with a need to reduce staffing costs as organizations recover from the pandemic, 86 per cent of respondents said that creating an agile learning culture was high on the agenda. 

Lynsey Whitmarsh, MD at Hemsley Fraser UK commented, “Effective learning and development has been make or break for organizations over the last year.

“L&D providers and practitioners rose to the moment, demonstrating value in a way previously unrealized. The majority of our respondents now report relying upon blended, virtual, bite-size and nano learning, available at the point of need – indicating a real evolution.”

She added, “As L&D works to support employees through the next few months of change and return to workplaces or to effective hybrid working, a core challenge will be to help overcome skills gaps within organizations. What was once sometimes a future-gazing conversation, centred around digital transformation and automation, is now something which must be overcome in the present.”

Lynsey noted that the recognition of the importance of building an agile learning culture was an exciting and positive step, but that there is a long road ahead for many organizations.

“Our research indicated overwhelmingly that HR and L&D practitioners recognize the importance of building an agile learning culture. However, just 25 per cent of respondents told us that they were in the process of implementing, or had already implemented, an agile learning culture. This can have a huge impact on the success of L&D initiatives and on business performance, so it is pleasing to see organizations understand this, even if few are yet to accomplish it.”

Duncan Barrett, Head of Product at 5App added, “The disparity between large and smaller organizations is something of concern, given the importance people place on personal development and the need to retain skills. Just 48 per cent of those with less than 100 employees told us that they had reviewed their learning technology, compared to 75 per cent of businesses with more than 5,000 employees.

“All employees will need support from HR and L&D over the coming months. While cost is an important consideration, organizations need the right learning technologies in place to support staff, which are flexible enough to meet the evolving needs of the organization at speed.”

Interestingly, budget was rated as one of the least common barriers to success, with time and burnout topping this list.

Duncan added, “Many respondents told us of an acute shortage of technical skills. As digitisation, automation and new innovations become more prevalent, skill needs will keep diversifying. Individuals will need to develop a broader range of skills in general and improved technical skills in particular. This further intensifies the need for a learning solution which adapts to the rapidly changing workforce, accessible on-demand.”

The complete 2021 Learning and Development Impact Survey can be downloaded here.

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