Last reviewed 23 June 2022

Is something seismic occurring in the world of L&D? There is some strong evidence that many organisations are taking a fresh look at their business strategies, workforce models, values and culture, often as a result of new demands from employees. As a result, L&D itself is being transformed in ways that many people have been crying out for over a number of years. In this article, Judith Christian-Carter dips into some recent research that shows that learning is currently leading the way through what is being called the “Great Reshuffle”, a period unlike anything in the history of work.

For the last six years, LinkedIn Learning, part of the social media business site, has conducted a Workplace Learning Report. This year’s report is entitled The Transformation of L&D: Learning Leads the Way Through the Great Reshuffle. As the report is 56 pages long it is only possible here to provide a synopsis of its findings, although readers should be able to download the report from LinkedIn or elsewhere.

It has often been said that massive change comes about as a result of severe suffering. The impact of living and working through a pandemic, together with economic and social upset, has led many people to place far more importance on being flexible and feeling fulfilled. Organisations are also looking afresh at their business strategies, workforce models, values and culture, and this includes Learning and Development (L&D) functions. Employees are now asking for growth and purpose in their job roles, to which L&D professionals need to respond, as well as working towards future-proofing their organisations.

The transformation of L&D

L&D professionals are now knocking down traditional silos in order to collaborate with others to provide a more holistic vision for Human Resources (HR). New solutions are being found to tie the building of skills to career paths, internal mobility and retaining employees. Furthermore, a new sense of care and humanity is now being seen with regard to employee wellbeing, diversity and inclusion.

The report shows that L&D professionals are embracing the transformation of L&D in three ways.

  1. By understanding both the opportunities and the challenges. Accepting that the recent pandemic has sped up digital transformation and the ever-enlarging skills gap. Recognising that L&D is now at the centre of helping organisations to adapt to change and that it now has a to-do list that is longer than ever. Embracing the urgent priorities of skilling and retaining employees, their need for wellbeing, and the importance of leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion.

  2. By adding new thinking about the convergence of HR disciplines. Organisations are now experiencing considerable volatility, especially with regard to the attrition of employees, which means that at no time like before HR needs to think holistically and to break down any silo walls. The need for L&D professionals to focus on converging talent development, skill-based planning and internal mobility, in order to ensure that a work culture is built based on continuous learning.

  3. By unlocking keys to success. Keys such as collaborating with HR colleagues, staying close to stakeholders, budgeting wisely, activating managers, listening to learners and for L&D professionals themselves never to stop learning.

The above can be summed up as a massive transformation.

L&D’s influence

The report was informed by contributions from people around the world. An internal LinkedIn sample was used of 1444 L&D professionals and 610 learners were surveyed in November 2021, who were located in the US, Canada, Brazil, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Austria, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, India, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Hong Kong.

The results show that L&D professionals lived up to high expectations in the past two years, in helping people to adopt various pandemic protocols, work remotely and transition to various hybrid operations. In particular, those surveyed agreed that L&D has become more influential over the past year:

  • 74% agreed that L&D had become more cross-functional

  • 87% had a great deal of involvement in helping their organisation adapt to change

  • 72% agreed that L&D had become a more strategic function of their organisation

  • 62% agreed that L&D was focused on rebuilding or reshaping their organisation in 2022.

Regional L&D priorities

Asia-Pacific:

  • 60% on upskilling and reskilling employees

  • 49% on leadership and management training

  • 30% on digital upskilling/digital transformation

  • 24% on employee performance support.

Europe, Middle East, Africa:

  • 49% on leadership and management training

  • 44% on upskilling and reskilling employees

  • 33% on digital upskilling/digital transformation

  • 27% on diversity, equity and inclusion.

North America:

  • 48% on leadership and management training

  • 39% on upskilling and reskilling employees

  • 33% on diversity, equity and inclusion

  • 28% on employee performance support.

These results show that when upskilling and reskilling priorities are combined with digital upskilling, skills emerge as the most important priority across the world.

The downside

The research also shows that, despite the shift in priorities and involvement, the primary focus for L&D functions remains that of providing learning and training programmes over a broad range of subject matter. So, whilst L&D professionals are focusing on leadership and skills programmes, they have also become far busier. When asked what programmes L&D professionals were planning to deploy in 2022, when these were compared with 2021 results, the results showed that the number of responses for every programme tracked year after year had increased, some significantly. The conclusion can, therefore, be drawn that if L&D professionals had a lot on their plate prior to 2022, they have considerably more now, which in turn is causing significant growing pains.

The report recommends that L&D professionals take a step back and recognise that learning is rapidly becoming a crucial part of many people’s daily work activities. It also means that L&D professionals need to develop new ways of working and prioritising. They also need to ensure that they are keeping pace with other employees when it comes to the time they spend learning.

The great reshuffle

The research shows that L&D has, worldwide, started to play its part in the Great Reshuffle, helping to shape a new period in the history of work. The journey to empower individuals to own their own career development, to ensure that everyone has access to the tools and motivation they need to become lifelong, continuous learners is underway. The vision of L&D professionals working hand-in-hand with HR and business colleagues, by putting skills-based talent development and learning side-by-side with mutual workforce objectives is starting to become a reality.

However, to complete this journey, the report provides some important advice, “Keeping pace with this rate of change is an enormous challenge ... Success is built one step at a time, by capitalising on industry data, tapping the support and wisdom of colleagues, gleaning advice from top thinkers, and – above all – championing a world-changing notion: Learning is the foundation of any great endeavour. Organisations that prize constant learning will lead the world as they build the new normal”.