New CIPD study | L&D professionals facing 'significant challenges' when tackling skills gaps

L&D professionals facing 'significant challenges' when tackling skills gaps

Addressing skills gaps is a top priority for L&D professionals, but they face significant challenges in delivering this, a new report shows.

The latest Learning at Work survey by the CIPD shows that while addressing skills gaps is the key priority for almost a third (29%) of learning professionals, they face challenges across the board in achieving this.

The report's findings show that L&D professionals are battling with a lack of capacity and a lack of priority from the business. In response, the CIPD is calling on L&D professionals to make greater use of data and insights to drive change, create impact and highlight the strategic importance of learning.

The CIPD’s report includes a survey of 1,108 individuals who have a responsibility for supporting learning at work. It found that while resources for learning and development have increased in most organisations in the last year, 53% of respondents working in L&D functions say their team’s workload has also intensified. In fact, only 59% of all practitioners surveyed agreed that they can respond agilely to the changing skills needs of their organisations, compared to 69% at the time of the last survey in 2021.

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The report also stresses the need for greater buy-in from the business on the importance of L&D. While people managers generally play a positive role in encouraging learning and development, there’s room for improvement. Just over half (51%) of L&D practitioners believe their organisation’s people managers encourage participation in learning and development, but only 39% believe that employees are given time away from their day-to-day role to take part in L&D activities.

The report also shows that L&D practitioners who consult about learning and performance needs, use organisational data and insights, and who embrace technology, are able to turn these challenges into positive organisational change. The findings show that L&D practitioners that apply a broad range of technologies to support learning in its widest context are more likely to report strategic alignments with organisational outcomes.

Some other positive findings from the report include:

  • 65% of respondents agreed that the L&D profession offers a meaningful career.

  • 63% of L&D professionals agree that they work collaboratively across the business to deliver business-critical priorities.

  • Digital learning continues to rise, with 48% of respondents working in L&D functions reporting an increase in use.

  • When thinking about future readiness of their L&D teams, over half of L&D leaders (55%) agree that their teams are innovative in their use of learning technologies and two-thirds (68%) agree they are successful at using the learning technologies available.

  • At the time of the survey (February 2023), 5% of all respondents were using AI tools such as ChatGPT to support learning, with a further 6% planning to do so in the next 12 months.

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Andy Lancaster, Head of Learning at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said: “COVID-19 forced learning practitioners to address key organisational needs, particularly new ways of working and digital skills. Post-pandemic, the focus must remain on the key drivers and skills underpinning organisational performance and productivity. To achieve this, learning professionals must engage in consultative discussions, leverage data and insights, and foster innovative approaches to provide accessible solutions.”

Laura Overton, report author, L&D analyst and Founder of Learning Changemakers, said: “Tackling skills gaps is a collective endeavour, one in which learning practitioners have a strategic role to play as they look beyond the traditional confines of producing courses and content. This report highlights progress already being made and the exciting opportunities ahead for L&D practitioners to contribute to the skills agenda and impact wider and organisational people priorities.”

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