Our Learning and skills at work survey, in partnership with Accenture, examines contemporary trends and practices in L&D. The research provides an illuminating level of insight into the state of play in L&D at the beginning of 2020. With COVID-19 now forcing organisations to redeploy, upskill and reskill staff at rapid pace, many have had to change the way they facilitate learning in the workplace. 

In crises like this, learning and development is often the earliest – and hardest – hit organisational activity. Yet learning is an essential component of an organisation’s future – a long-term investment in the skills of its workforce. This is especially pertinent in the current climate, where resilience, adaptability and continuous improvement are vital. Our research underscores the need for organisations to continue investing in L&D and resist the urge to press pause on development, while our recommendations and practice reflections will help L&D professionals establish the actions and attitudes needed to address the challenges identified in this report.

Explore the research findings

Download our survey report to examine the current trends and practices in L&D. To complement the report and bring life to some of the findings, we’ve also included a collection of case studies from organisations across a diverse range of sectors, all of whom are on a journey to transform learning.

The COVID-19 crisis has significantly changed how we work and encouraged many to look at their own development. It has shown that we can’t only rely on traditional methods and that we need to move to any time, any place learning.

Lizzie Crowley

Senior Policy Adviser at the CIPD

Technology was already disrupting the world of work, and now with most of the workforce going virtual, the pandemic is accelerating the need to harness human and digital skills.

Andy Young

Talent and Organisation Managing Director at Accenture

Learning has never been more important for business, the UK and working lives – we needed it before COVID-19 and we need it even more now.

Peter Cheese

Chief Executive Officer at the CIPD

Why learning matters

COVID-19 has accelerated the need for learning in organisations. Some organisations are already getting it right – valuing learning, connecting it to strategy and workforce plans, investing in it, and using modern approaches and techniques. This is critical for both business performance and working lives in the UK, considering the numerous benefits learning offers:

  • Growth motivates people. It’s a key element of the employee value proposition.
  • Learning enhances and improves the work we do. It closes skills gaps and elevates productivity.
  • Learning moves our mindsets, behaviours and skills. It improves our performance.
  • Learning provides staff with the competency to face the challenges involved in their current role, while equipping them with the knowledge and skills required to face future challenges.
  • Learning creates new skills to enable career movement.
  • Learning creates organisational agility as skill demands change and roles become more flexible.

To gain a deeper understanding of why organisations should create a supportive environment for learning, read pages 29-34 in the full report.

Key findings

The research reveals that, while progress has been made, a number of areas need to be addressed if organisations are to view learning as a strategic enabler driving productivity and performance, unlocking potential, and meeting the needs of a rapidly evolving work and employment context. And, as the custodians of learning, L&D professionals are integral to closing the gap between the ambitions and challenges revealed in this report. Key highlights from the report include:

  • Attitudes are in the right place. Organisations are increasingly recognising the needs to improve capabilities and address skills gaps, and getting closer to the business as they do so.

  • There are big gaps between the intent and the reality of investment, resources and educational deployment involved.

  • Though the use of technology has increased since our 2015 L&D survey, organisations are failing to leverage the type of emerging technologies that would make their learning more potent.

  • We’ve a long way to go if we are to create truly supportive learning environments, with most organisations having to do more with less.

  • We believe the need for flexible, rapid and continuous skills development is exacerbated by the pressures placed on the global economy by the current lockdown.

You can explore these key findings on pages 4-8 in the full report, and a more in-depth discussion of these findings on pages 9-42.

See our collection of accompanying case studies to learn about the steps some organisations are taking to transform their learning practices.


In light of the survey findings, and acknowledging the impact COVID-19 has had on how we work and learn, we set out a number of calls to action for practitioners:

Align your learning and development strategy with organisational need.

Increase the knowledge and capability of your learning function.

Demonstrate value through evaluating learning impact.

Consider the wider learning environment in your organisation.

Embrace technologies that support learning and collaboration.

Address transferable and technical skill gaps.

Future-proof your organisation by understanding the types of skills you need and how you’ll source them.

Ensure your people managers have the knowledge, skills, behaviours and resources to support learning.

Don’t press pause on learning and development; continue to invest in the skills of your workforce.

To explore these recommendations in more detail, see pages 43-45 in the full report. We've also included reflective questions throughout the report, enabling you to apply what you’ve learnt to your everyday practice.

About the research

We collected our research sample via a YouGov panel, supplemented by insights drawn from L&D professionals taken from across the CIPD’s network. Fieldwork took place in February 2020, with more than 1,200 people responding. The survey was specifically aimed at people working in HR/L&D or occupying senior roles, as the questions required specific knowledge on L&D practices and policy.

Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services in strategy and consulting, interactive, technology and operations, with digital capabilities across all of these services. We combine unmatched experience and specialised capabilities across more than 40 industries – powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. With 509,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture brings continuous innovation to help clients improve their performance and create lasting value across their enterprises. 

We unlock the potential of people and organisations to lead disruption that advances industry and society. Using objective diagnostics and data insights, we create real-time learning to equip employees with the right skills that help organisations pivot at speed and scale. We help clients reskill and new skill workforces through on-demand, continuous, and customised digital experiences.

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