workplace learning and development

LinkedIn Learning’s 4th Annual 2020 Workplace Learning Report reinforces key trends in boosting leadership and organization effectiveness. This report compiles survey responses from 1,675 Learning and Development professionals, 2,000 learners, and 2,932 managers in North America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe.

The survey data looks like it was compiled before the pandemic turned our world upside down, so the section showing strong growth in L&D budgets is out of date. It’s clearly at odds with the Chief Learning Officer‘s Business Intelligence Board’s “2020 Learning State of the Industry.” This survey of 1,500 L & D professionals shows that 46% expect a budget decrease this year. The ‘half-full’ view of this glass shows a majority expect an increase or no reduction.

Five themes especially stood out in the LinkedIn report. Most of these have been ongoing themes and challenges for learning and development. These are even more vital in today’s turbulent times:

Soft Skills — “Soft skills are the essential interpersonal skills that make or break our ability to get things done. We think of them as foundational and every professional should be working to build them.” The top five soft skills are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. This is a consistent and timeless finding of numerous studies.

Executive Leadership — executives “believe that closing the skill gap is an urgent business priority.” Yet only 27% of CEOs are actively championing learning. The report states that when asked about their biggest challenges, “getting managers to make learning a priority for their teams topped the list.” We find that moving leaders beyond lip service about development to involved leadership is the biggest factor in “the great training robbery.”

Culture Development — a culture of learning, directly connects to executive lip service or leadership. As the report notes, “top managers drive engagement and create a culture of learning.” Creating a culture of learning and increasing employee engagement in learning were two of the top three challenges reported in the survey. Unfortunately, the rhetoric-reality gap between an organization’s aspired and lived culture is huge.

Career Development — over half of learners said they’d invest more time in learning if managers coached with learning opportunities and courses linked to their career growth. Career coaching is especially effective when managers can help the coachee find their personal sweet spot at the intersection of their strengths, passion, and organizational needs.

Personalized Learning — “learners are craving a highly personalized learning experience that serves up the right learning at the right time.” The skills that top the list are management and leadership effectiveness. Our experience shows that a powerful combination of highly personalized management and leadership learning is 360 feedback and personal development planning. After providing one-on-one coaching to hundreds of leaders, I will admit to a little bias on the power of that personalized approach!

The sixth takeaway of both surveys is the surge in online learning. LinkedIn respondents expected to spend 57% more before the pandemic hit. That number will grow exponentially as a key part of the new world of remote work. Classroom and team sessions are not likely to revert to previous levels any time soon. Having delivered many virtual keynotes, webinars, and remote coaching sessions, I know this approach can be highly effective.

Given the reductions in L & D budgets and move to online approaches, targeted approaches linked to organizational strategy and senior leader priorities has never been more important.