Learning and Skills at Work Survey

By Lizzie Crowley, Senior Policy Adviser - Skills.

Learning at work has never been more important. Learning builds skill sets, supports career development, enhances job satisfaction and retention, and supports improved workforce productivity. In times of crisis it enables individuals, and organisations, to be resilient, adaptable and to continuously improve in the face change. This is particularly relevant to the current context, with COVID-19 forcing organisations to redeploy, upskill and reskill staff at pace, but even more importantly, investment in learning and development is also critical for an organisations long term future.  

CIPD, in partnership with Accenture, has recently relaunched their annual Learning and Skills at Work Survey which provides an illuminating level of insight into the state of play in L&D at the beginning of 2020. The survey found that while learning is highly valued in the majority of organisations many were struggling to modernise their learning and development functions, create support learning environments, and harness the power of new technologies.

The survey showed that learning is getting closer to the business. It is now increasingly structurally positioned outside of HR and closer to operations, and in over half of organisations the principle responsibility for identifying learning need sits with either line managers or senior directors. This has benefits in diagnosing performance needs, engaging managers in the design and delivery process, and facilitating learning solutions in the flow of work.  

Yet, the survey also revealed that many of the capabilities needed in the learning function to support this shift are missing. In most learning functions traditional roles such as face-to-face trainer/facilitator still dominate, and only a very small minority of organisations report new roles which support learning in the moment of need, such as digital asset creator, community manager, and curator researcher.

This gap is reflected in the most commonly used learning delivery methods, with the continued dominance of face-to-face delivery despite the prevalence of technology in all aspects of work and working lives. Technology enabled delivery, however, has increased in importance with the vast majority (79%) of organisations now using some form of technology to support learning:  the most commonly reported methods used are webinars, learning management systems and open education resources.  

However, the adoption of more emergent technologies that make learning both more efficient and more engaging is slow: augmented reality (2%), virtual reality (4%), and mobile applications (12%) are used by only a very small proportion of organisations. This suggests we are still very much in broad cast mode and not yet harnessing the power of technology to create immersive, engaging and interactive learning content.

It’s never been more important to invest in learning and ensure that the technology is in place to support employees to learn any time, any place, anyway. This is particularly important in the current crisis as some organisations continue to work remotely, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ‘in person’ group learning activities will be limited.

Yet, we know that in times of crises learning and development is often the earliest and hardest hit organisational activity. This is backed up by a more recent CIPD employer survey of 1,178 employers, conducted at the end of April 2020, which found that while learning, training and development, was the top pre-pandemic HR priority (selected by 42% of employers) unsurprising in the wake of the current crisis it has dropped down – with employee health and wellbeing (65%), engagement (40%) and retention (31%) now topping the list. The survey also uncovered that only a minority of firms (43%) had continued to train their staff remotely during the current crisis. 

To ensure that organisations and individuals are able to respond to the current crisis, and prepare for the future, we must not press pause on learning and development but continue to invest in skills and capabilities of the workforce.     

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