Learning and development (L&D) have been an integral part of many organizations for a long time. However, the rapid digital transformation of businesses due to the pandemic and the need for new skills, as well as the Great Resignation due to workplace stress and burnout, emphasized the need for training to engage and retain employees.
A recent study by TalentLMS, backed by Epignosis, and SHRM, took a pulse of L&D this year from both the employee and employer perspective. A significant finding was that many organizations plan to increase their L&D budgets this year, with 67% of HR managers agreeing with it. Further, 76% of employees said they would likely stay with a company that offered continuous learning.
The Pandemic Led To Increase in L&D Budgets
For a brief period in 2020, it looked as if training budgets took a hit when organizations faced a financial crunch. However, a LinkedIn studyOpens a new window showed that 79% of L&D professionals expected to spend more online and 73% expected to invest less on instructor-led training (ILT).
The current study’s respondents, too, seem to agree that L&D budgets increased. About 57% of the survey respondents said their budgets increased after the COVID-19 outbreak. Further, 67% of HR managers said that L&D budgets would increase this year.
Having said that, there are some roadblocks to the budgets. About 52% of HR leaders faced resistance when they asked for budget approval. Further, 54% of respondents agreed that senior leadership often sees L&D as a cost instead of an opportunity.
Skills Gap Is Real, and It Is Here
The study found that the skill gap is very real. More than half (52%) of the respondents agreed that their companies faced a skills gap. According to a McKinsey reportOpens a new window in 2020, only 43% reported a skills gap.Â
To bridge the existing skills gap, about 51% of the companies are training their current employees, 32% are hiring new employees, and 17% are leveraging freelancers and independent contractors.
Regarding training existing employees, 59% said they would provide their employees with upskilling training, and 55% said they would give reskilling training this year. About 33% already had both in place.
Employee Expectations Align With Employers’ Offerings
The study found that overall, employers and employees agree on which training is desired and what is offered.
Are L&D plans in sync with what employees want?
What did stand out was that while employees prioritize hard skills, employers focus more on self-management skills. Further, employers prioritize soft skills slightly less than the employees. Having said that, 76% of organizations still give importance to soft skills this year.Â
So, which specific soft skills do employees seek? And do their current training reflect those desires? The top three soft skills employees desire are leadership (54%), communication and collaboration (44%), and critical thinking and problem solving (42%). Employers seem to be aligned, with 53%, 54%, and 49% respectively providing training related to these soft skills.Â
Employers also emphasize time management and diversity and inclusion (DE&I) skills. While only 42% of employees seek training in time management, 61% of employers are offering it. Similarly, 25% of employees desire DE&I skills while 40% of employers are offering it.
The study also showed that, with more employees facing mental health issues due to the pandemic, many companies are prioritizing employee well-being-related training. About 77% of HR leaders said they were likely to focus on life skills training this year.
Most Employees Are Satisfied With Their Training
According to a surveyOpens a new window conducted by the American Staffing Association a few months ago, only 39% of employees felt companies were helping them improve their skills or gain new ones. However, the TalentLMS and SHRM survey showed that 75% of employees who received the company-offered training were satisfied.
Yet, gaps still exist in training. For example, 55% of employees said they needed additional training to improve their performance in their roles. According to employees, the following few things would improve training.
- Align training with responsibilities (38%)
- Make training more social (32%)
- Update content more frequently (32%)
Training Is Improving Bottomline, Retention, and Culture
According to the HR leaders, training helped their organizations improve productivity, growth, and company culture. Simultaneously, it also helped retain employees. About 76% of employees said they were more likely to stay with an organization that offered training. Similarly, 86% of employers felt that training helped with employee retention.
How L&D is beneficial according to HR managers
Besides retention, about 82% of employees felt that training benefited their professional development, and 80% thought it improved their productivity. About 75% said that training helped with their engagement at work and job satisfaction. About 66% said it helped them stay loyal to their company.
Finding the Training Content To Fit Employee Needs Is a Challenge
While most things look positive, companies still face obstacles in learning and development. For example, finding the right training content that fit their needs was a major obstacle for 35% of the respondents, and the training budget was an obstacle for 33%. For 33%, finding sufficient time to train was also another obstacle.
Obstacles HR managers face with L&D
For employees, the biggest obstacle is staying motivated. According to the study, staying motivated to complete the training was a challenge for 33% of employees.
Employees Prefer Quarterly Training and Learning Through Simulation
Digging into the nitty-gritty of training, the study found a few more insights into the frequency, training methods, platforms, and others.Â
For example, a significant percentage of employees (33%) preferred getting trained once a quarter. When it came to the most frequent type of training, 70% of employees said it was compliance training. About 51% said it was soft skills, and 50% said it was upskilling training. Regarding the most preferred delivery method, 64% of employees said they preferred to learn through simulation and learning by doing. About 51% preferred coaching/mentoring, and 50% preferred video format.
Employees also prefer to see certain features on the training platform. About 51% prefer ready-made courses while 44% want to see certificates. Employees also like to see features like chat, quizzes, gamification, and course rating.
The study also found that many employees have a thirst for knowledge. As such, 57% pursued learning opportunities beyond workplace training.
Engaging Training Is the Key
There is no doubt that L&D plays a crucial role in engaging and retaining employees. Simultaneously, given that many people face challenges completing the training, there are certain steps organizations can take to make learning and development more engaging.
For example, making training modules available on multiple platforms makes them accessible both to regular and deskless workers. Organizations should also focus more on providing training related to employee physical, mental, and financial health as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). Gamification and immersive formats of training can further help employees stay motivated.
Taking these steps will help create a better employee experience and retention and help organizations gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
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