L&D programs secure and elevated to long-term role in organizations

Upskilling/reskilling, leadership and management and virtual onboard are the top 3 areas of focus in 2021, according to a new report from LinkedIn Learning.

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Image: iStock/dusanpetkovic

Learning and development now has a seat at the C-suite table. Sixty-four percent of L&D pros globally said the discipline has shifted from a "nice to have" to a "need to have" this year, according to LinkedIn Learning's fifth annual Workplace Learning Report.

This year, 66% of L&D pros globally said learning and development is focused on rebuilding or reshaping their organization this year. Further, 63% said L&D's seat at the C-Suite table is safe in 2021, up slightly from 62% in June 2020.

"People have recognized that learning is no longer a nice to have; it's a must-have because learning is essential for success," said Kevin Delaney, LinkedIn Learning's vice president of L&D. "In this changing world, we need to keep growing just to keep up and for many of the challenges that we are all facing, learning is the answer."

SEE: How do I become a network architect? (TechRepublic)

In March 2020, just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 27% of L&D pros said their CEOs are active champions of learning. Once it struck, executives took notice of the positive impact that learning can have, the report stated. "L&D leaders moved at lightning speed to deliver learning programs to help employees manage through the crisis and stay productive from home."

The top three areas of focus for L&D programs in 2021 are upskilling and reskilling (59%—a 15% increase since June 2020), leadership and management (53%) and virtual onboarding (33%).

Further, 51% of L&D pros said that internal mobility is more of a priority now than before COVID-19, according to the report. Employees at companies with high internal mobility stay almost two times longer, and since the pandemic began, internal hires make up a greater share of all hires, the report said.

This means budgets are growing. Thirty-three percent of L&D pros said they are bullish on budget increases compared to 22% in June 2020, the report said.

The importance of digital fluency and learning

 
The era of building resilience and digital fluency has begun. L&D pros globally cited both as the No. 1 or No. 2 most important skills across every country surveyed, LinkedIn Learning said.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of L&D pros globally—and nearly three-quarters (73%) in North America—report that their executives have made D&I programs a priority. 

Seventy-six percent of Gen Z learners believe learning is the key to a successful career. Gen Z learners also watched 50% more hours per learner of learning content last year versus the previous year, the report said.

Additionally, learners who use social features—Q&A, course shares, learning groups—watch 30 times more hours of learning content than learners who don't.

As these factors shape the future of the modern workplace, and the role learning plays, businesses of all types can lean on learning initiatives to combat some of the biggest challenges facing professionals, from fostering diversity and inclusion to reskilling into more stable roles, LinkedIn Learning said.

Blended learning is here to stay

Hybrid workplaces—organizations that function with some employees working remotely and some in a traditional office environment—are going to be the way we work for the foreseeable future, the report noted.

Over the last six months, many organizations announced that they will continue to operate in a completely remote environment, while some, including LinkedIn, will continue to offer employees the flexibility to work at home or in the office, the report said.

"That means that the pivot L&D made from instructor-led training (ILT) to blended online learning—learning experiences with a mix of virtual instructor-led training (VILT) and online learning—will remain the status quo for the foreseeable future."

In early 2020, 38% of L&D pros expected to spend less on ILT and 57% expected to spend more on online learning. Today, those numbers are significantly higher: 73% of L&D pros expect to spend less on ILT and 79% expect to spend more on online learning, the report said.

Power skills for the new world of work

The rapid acceleration of automation and economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic will shift the division of labor between humans and machines, leading to 85 million jobs being displaced and 97 million new ones created by 2025, according to an Oct. 2020 report by the World Economic Forum.

Some of the largest global enterprises have seen this shift coming for the last few years and have invested millions—even billions—in "future proofing" their employees, arming them with the skills needed for the new world of work, the LinkedIn Learning report stated.

For example, the report cited a few companies that have already made significant investments, such as JPMorgan Chase, which it said added $350M to its $250M plan to upskill its workforce. Amazon is investing over $700M to provide upskilling training to its employees, and PwC is spending $3B to upskill all of its 275,000 employees over the next three to four years.

The 5 most popular courses among L&D pros globally in 2020

2021 is a good time to upskill. Among the skills L&D pros said they want to learn this year include people analytics, data visualization, creative writing, search optimizing, coaching, leading/managing a hybrid work environment and resilient leadership, according to participants in the L&D Connect group on LinkedIn.

Starting July 1, LinkedIn will make a number of courses available as part of the LinkedIn Learning Course Club. The following courses will be open until Sept. 30:

  1.  Instructional Design Essentials: Models of ID by Joe Pulichino

  2. Articulate Storyline Essential Training by Daniel Brigham

  3. Instructional Design: Storyboarding by Daniel Brigham

  4. Converting Face-to-Face Training into Digital Learning by Daniel Brigham

  5. Measuring Learning Effectiveness by Jeff Toister

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By Esther Shein

Esther Shein is a longtime freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in several online and print publications. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of Datamation, a managing editor at BYTE, and a senior writer at eWeek (formerly PC Week)...