New research from 5App and global learning and development experts, Hemsley Fraser, reveals what will be key concerns for L&D this year.

L&D has had a very busy, challenging couple of years and 2022 is shaping up to be just as busy and maybe just as challenging. A new report by 5App and global L&D experts Hemsley Fraser highlights the key challenges and priority areas for learning teams for the next 12 months and beyond. According to Learning Development Impact Survey 2022: The Transformation of L&D, there are three key priority areas: creating agile learning cultures, integrating learning with business needs and a focus on developing soft skills. None of these are totally new trends, of course, but it’s interesting that they are all centre stage right now.

The annual survey, which has just been released, demonstrates that learning teams have a lot to be proud about, having achieved much in the last two years and in very challenging circumstances. But, we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, so there is no scope for sitting still – L&D has to build on its recent successes, keep going with transformative change and prepare to meet new challenges.

Here are some of the standout statistics from this year’s report:

  • 95% of respondents think building an agile learning culture is extremely or somewhat important
  • 97% of companies with 1000-5000 employees are using a remote or hybrid work model
  • 30% of respondents expect their learning budget to increase this year

In the survey, we asked 462 L&D, HR and talent professionals from a wide variety of industries about how the learning and development landscape is changing and how it is impacting on them. We asked them about new and emerging skills, about the role of technology, L&D’s relationship with the business and so on. And we asked them what challenges and new demands they are facing.

Top L&D 5 challenges in 2022

What are the challenges facing L&D in the year ahead? Our research shows that the top five challenges for the next 12 months are:

  • Time/resource
  • Budget
  • Recruitment, onboarding and retention
  • Hybrid
  • Engagement

Time/resource and budget are the two most pressing challenges, same as last year. And engagement is in fifth place again, same as last year. However, there are two newcomers on the list – recruitment, onboarding and retention and hybrid, replacing last year’s change in business structure and technology and accessibility.

When we asked the question: “Aside from Covid-19, what have been the main challenges facing L&D at your organisation this year?”, we received some interesting responses. “Building a culture of continuous learning” said one person. “Transforming the learning culture across the organisation,” said another. “Employee engagement with L&D, with lack of communication between managers and HR” was another response.

Agile learning cultures

Our research shows that almost nine in 10 survey participants think building an agile learning culture is extremely or somewhat important, with more than 95% of participants from organisations with 1000-5000 employees saying it’s crucial. It’s great that L&D and HR professionals recognise the importance of building a culture of agile, continuous learning. Less good is the fact that most still have a long way to go in achieving it, with fewer than 5% of organisations saying they have fully implemented an agile learning culture. Almost half are still defining the scope of what it means to have an agile learning culture, while over a fifth don’t actually have any immediate plans to embark on this process. We also identified another barrier to developing an agile learning culture – over 85% of organisations retain central control of learning, either wholly or partly.

It’s important that organisations overcome these barriers to achieving an agile learning culture, for many reasons. Doing so will help you to grow your own talent, rather than having to hire in skills on an ad hoc (and costly) basis. It means employees can access learning when they need it and how they need it, enabling them to do their jobs better. It fosters self-directed learning and autonomy, which benefits the organisation and employees. And it enables organisations and individuals to adapt to change and stay abreast of new developments.

Another key benefit is that it supports the hybrid work model. While 2020 and 2021 were all about shifting to digital, remote working and learning and then shifting to a hybrid work model, 2022 is more about making the hybrid work model work. This is something that organisations across the world are grappling with as it involves new ways of working and learning.

Integrating learning with business needs

An agile learning culture facilitates learning that is aligned with business needs and objectives. Why? Because it enables employees to learn the skills they need to learn, when they need to learn them and typically, those are the skills that the business needs most in order to deliver on its objectives. And that is really important to business leaders and to L&D. Whereas last year’s report showed that learning strategies were being dictated by the needs of capability development and business transformation, this year’s report shows that aligning to business needs is the number one driver. As part of that, learning teams are focusing on talent retention, acquisition and onboarding.

Skills

Skills are always a top priority for organisations and 2022 is certainly not a year to buck that trend. If anything, skills have become even more important. In order to help organisations thrive in this ever-changing business landscape, employees need to be fluent in a whole range of skills. In particular, they need digital skills and softer skills. “Emotional intelligence, leadership skills and technical ability are the future skills and behaviours most critical for our business”, said one survey respondent. Soft skills were the most-in demand skill in last year’s survey, so that’s a trend that is continuing. Management, leadership and communication skills are also much in demand.

Using technology for greater learning impact

Technology can do so much to improve learning in organisations, but it needs to be the right technology and it needs to be implemented and embedded properly. Two thirds of survey respondents say they are experiencing at least two barriers to improving learning technology in their organisation. This is a problem – your technology really needs to be working with you and for you.

Many organisations are still reliant on legacy content libraries, virtual classrooms and learning management systems, so there is plenty of scope for improvement. Organisations need to consider switching to more modern, dynamic platforms that encourage personalised learning and collaboration, that support hybrid working and that will drive learner engagement. A number of survey respondents are looking are already looking at this, which is encouraging.

Conclusion

It’s good news that 30% of learning teams expect their budget to increase this year. And many of them know what they want to use that extra cash for: delivering the skills the organisation needs, creating better learning experiences, using L&D to underpin business transformation, aligning with talent and business strategies and driving learner engagement were all mentioned. These are all important things to spend money on.

Some of these priorities have spilled over from 2021 – creating an agile learning culture was a top priority for 86% of respondents in last year’s survey, for example. One of the major differences with this year’s survey findings is that it’s about embedding change, rather than just reacting to change. It’s about the ongoing transformation of L&D. Learning teams really proved their worth during the early days of the pandemic, but there is plenty more work to be done.


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