20 L&D Statistics You Should Know in 2021

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The future of work lies in skills. A global pandemic has highlighted the need for digital skills, but also skills like adaptability and learning agility.

Beyond that, with the acceleration in AI and technology, as well as a tightening labor market, it’s clear that if companies want to stay on top of the competition, they need to invest in the training of their employees. 

To build effective training programs, you’ll need a solid understanding of where L&D currently sits and where it’s headed in the future. And we have just the thing for you. In this article, we’ve compiled a list of 20 L&D statistics detailing the current state of L&D, the looming skills gap and what organizations need to do to address it, how L&D is doing in the remote work environment, as well as training expenditure and cost.

Contents
The current state of L&D
The looming skills gap
Reskilling and upskilling for the future
Learning and Development in a remote setting
Training expenditure and cost

The current state of L&D

1. For some companies, training is still lacking

According to City & Guilds’ annual skills index 2021, 30% of UK workers say they have not received formal workplace training in the last five years. For those who’ve never gotten any training from their employers, that number is 11%. 

These numbers suggest that L&D continues to be underinvested. It means that there are not enough development opportunities for workers — many of whom are well aware of the need to upskill themselves. 

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However, the pandemic might have shown companies that as they adopt more technology in an increasingly volatile and uncertain work environment, upskilling their workforce will play an important role in improving productivity and driving growth. 

2. But the mindset is shifting

The good news is that the situation is getting better. LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2021 shows that 63% of L&D professionals agree that L&D has a seat at the executive table. 

What this means is that L&D is being recognized as crucial from business growth. Organizations are now shifting from a “nice to have” mentality when it comes to corporate training to a “need to have” mindset.  

Case in point, the L&D team of a US healthcare company stepped up and proved just how vital they were during the COVID-19 crisis. Within 24 hours of the company going remote, the team has made available online videos to guide workers through the first steps of home working. L&D also helped the company’s hiring program to continue through virtual onboarding programs. What’s more, the department ensured that leadership development would not remain stagnant during the pandemic.

Learning and development in 2021 and beyond

3. The importance of L&D for employees

Companies are not the only ones who value training. 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if there is investment in their learning and development (LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2019). 

It means that for employees, being in a job is more than just how much money they are making and how many hours they have to work. The war for talent is only going to get more competitive. In order to attract and retain the best talent, companies need to pay attention to the needs and values of (potential) employees to offer suitable benefits packages

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4. Time remains a precious resource 

The top obstacle for L&D in 2020 is a lack of time. Almost two-thirds (61%) of respondents in Udemy 2021 Workplace Learning Trends report reported this.

With increased implementation of AI and other learning technologies, we can expect that it will lessen the workload for L&D professionals. This, in turn, will free up their time, allowing them to focus more on driving engagement, promoting learning programs, and other strategic initiatives. 

For Appen, a training data provider, implementing a LMS has allowed them to cut down on the time it took for subject-matter experts to create training materials. What used to take weeks now only requires a few days. The LMS also helps increase productivity. For instance, L&D team members only need to answer the questions posted in the learners’ forum once.  

5. Also for learners

Time is also an issue for many learners. According to LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2020, 49% of employees don’t have the time to spare on learning. 

Workers are busy with their day-to-day responsibilities. Many might feel guilty blocking off an hour or two in their workweek to learn instead of spending that time to finish up on their tasks or attend meetings. To this end, organizations need to build a learning culture where employees are encouraged to set aside time for learning. 

6. A future of personalized learning  

75% of 1,500 L&D professionals agree that their companies will be developing more custom learning content in the upcoming years (Chief Learning Officer 2020 Learning States of the Industry survey). 

Learning tailored to the needs of the organization and the learners can lead to better engagement and higher success for the learning programs. This, in turn, will hopefully translate to better preparedness for the future for the employees. 

The looming skills gap 

7. Employees are not optimistic 

Over 22 million UK workers do not feel they are equipped with all the skills they will need to unlock new opportunities in the next five years (City & Guilds annual skills index 2021). 

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This points to future skill barriers for workers. They will face difficulties trying to gain well-paid jobs or even remain employable, especially with rapid digital transformation and the adoption of AI and other technologies in the workplace. 

8. The threat of real business gap

LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2019 reveals that 99% of L&D professionals agree that if skills gaps aren’t closed, their organizations will be negatively impacted in the upcoming years. Areas of impact include future growth, customer experience and satisfaction, product or service quality and delivery, and the ability to innovate. 

9. Employers are struggling 

According to the Manpower Group, 69% of employers globally are struggling to find skilled workers, especially in high-demand areas like Operations and Logistics, Manufacturing and Production, IT, Sales, and Marketing. 

With a shrinking talent pool due to digital transformation and demographic changes, employers will have an even harder time in the future to fill in open positions. As such, it’s time to invest in internal talents and upskill them in order for your company to thrive in the future. 

These numbers might suggest that we’re in for a borderline catastrophic future of work. The good news is that many organizations are aware of this and are already working on ways to rectify this. Let’s find out in the next section. 

Reskilling and upskilling for the future

10. The spotlight is on reskilling and upskilling 

A report from LinkedIn reveals that 59% of L&D professionals identify upskilling and reskilling as the top priority for training programs in 2021. 

While this is good news, it could also be that this is just a temporary trend, driven by a need to respond to the pandemic and how it has forced businesses to change their ways of working. To ensure sustainable reskilling and upskilling, L&D professionals should focus on skills which would be relevant in a few years time, rather than only those which are needed now. In other words, you’ll need to train for scale. 

For PwC Singapore, the skills that their people would need for the future are a mix of data literacy and soft skills that are necessary for more strategic work. Their L&D toolbox includes blended training sessions and on-the-go learning tools for easy access to materials. Their suggestion? Before creating any training programs, L&D must understand the needs and goals of the business. Then, they can determine how upskilling fits into the overall strategy.

11. The upskilling/reskilling race has already started 

According to Udemy, 38% of the workforce was being upskilled or reskilled in 2020, which is a 24% increase compared to 2019.

It’s safe to say that upskilling and reskilling are now considered an important business imperative rather than a mere priority. The reason for this is that organizations start to acknowledge the growing skills gap and their responsibility to fill it. 

For Standard Chartered, this means turning inwards to develop their existing talent. Through a blend of external insights and internal interviews and workshops, they are able to identify the top ten future-ready skills to upskill their workforce. They can also determine the top five roles that would need to be redesigned. Using their own digital learner experience platform, they are able to quickly and effectively distribute relevant learning content to their employees.

12. The window of opportunity is closing 

A report from WEF concludes that 50% of all employees will need to be reskilled by 2025. 

For organizations and especially for L&D professionals, this means that there’s not much time left to prepare a future-ready workforce. They will need to identify existing and potential skills gap, ramp up their training infrastructure, curate suitable upskill and reskill learning content — all in the span of four years.  

For more details on this topic, check out our two articles on how you can develop successful upskilling and reskilling programs. 

13. Soft skill reign supreme 

Data gathered by LinkedIn in their Workplace Learning Report 2020 shows that leadership and management is the highest priority skill for 57% of L&D professionals. Creative problem solving and design thinking, and communication follow. 

The skills listed here point to a growing trend of training programs focusing on developing soft skills. While this in no way suggests that hard skills (such as block chain, cloud computing, or critical reasoning) are being neglected, this new emphasis on soft skills is a smart investment. According to LinkedIn, the shelf life of technical skills is generally less than five years, which means that they require more frequent retraining compared to interpersonal skills. 

Learning and Development in a remote setting

14. Technology was the biggest hurdle 

According to Training Mag’s 2020 Training Industry Report, 28% of respondents consider technology and ramping up remote training as the biggest L&D challenge during the pandemic. 

For companies going forward, this means that there should be more investment in the technological infrastructure of L&D suitable for remote and hybrid work environments. This goes for both the budget available, but also Learning Management Systems (LMS) and training for L&D professionals. 

15. COVID-19 was the focus 

In 2020, 66% out of 1,000 respondents of TalentMS Remote Work Survey reported having received COVID-19 training in 2020. However, 80% of employees wanted hard skills training.

This points to a mismatch between employee’s expectations and training needs and the actual training provided. While it is important to have more awareness about the virus, the priorities of corporate training should be on skills and knowledge that can help employees perform better in their jobs. For example, how to handle remote work. 

16. Remote work training is in demand

46% of professionals report spending one to four hours per month on their own time learning about remote work or refreshing their remote work skills (Workplaceless remote work training report 2020).

This number suggests that employees are not fully satisfied with the remote work training that they are receiving from their employers. In a new era of hybrid or full remote working arrangements, it’s more crucial than ever that employees are equipped with the skills and tools needed in order to succeed. 

Some suggestions for remote work training would be: 

  • Overview of the technologies and programs used by the company to sustain remote working 
  • How to effectively use virtual communication platforms such as Zoom, Google Meeting, Microsoft Teams, or Slack
  • How to maximize the benefits of collaboration programs like Asana, Wrike, or Jira

17. The problem of engagement

Learner engagement is identified as the top area of improvement for virtual training in 2021 by the highest percentage of respondents in Key Blanchard 2021 Trends Report (19.38%). 

Maintaining learner’s engagement for L&D professionals continues to be an uphill battle, even more so with remote training as lessons are mostly conducted online. To improve engagement, there are several strategies that can help. These include offering relevant and interesting content, ensuring a seamless learner experience, and building a dedicated internal learning brand. 

Gamification is often an option that L&D turns to to increase engagement. The Leon UK team, for example, has applied gamified training across 59 fast food outlets. 94% of the staff have participated in a 3D simulation of a real Leon restaurant, complete with authentic dialogues and characters. The result? 91% of learners have stated that the simulation has allowed them to better understand company values. 

18. The rise of social learning 

According to CIPD, organizations increasingly employ social learning (28% of companies in 2021, compared to just 19% in 2020) to deliver e-learning content and encourage collaboration. 

This is no surprise, considering that people learn better with each other. We are social creatures and months of isolation only exacerbate the need for socialization. Social learning also has the added benefits of making it easier for you to cultivate a learning culture in your organization. 

At AIHR, we aim to build socialization into the foundation of our LMS for our learners. We do this by adding features like forum discussion, opinion sharing, and lesson discussions. These elements of our LMS allow learners to be able to ask thought-provoking questions, share ideas and best practices, and expand on certain topics. 

Training expenditure and cost

19. A slight drop in a time of uncertainty 

In 2020, US companies spent a total of $82.4 billion on training, according to Training Mag. This is a decline of only 0.5% from the previous year. 

Given the uncertainty and the economic hardship that many companies faced in 2020, this number is much more optimistic than we expected. It shows that even when other sacrifices had to be made, L&D remains a priority. Particularly at organizations with more than 10,000 employees, where training expenditure actually increased by 24.3%.

When creating an L&D budget, there are a few things you should take into account, such as: 

  • The number of team members you have or expected to have 
  • The tools and technology you’ll need to deliver the best training 
  • The cost of developing or purchasing content 
  • The administrative needs of your team 
  • The potential travel and expenses

20. Online learning is the way to go 

LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2021 shows that 79% of L&D professionals expect organizations to spend more on online training.

This suggests a shift from in-person training and instructor-led training to blended online learning. This type of learning promises better accessibility, higher reach, and more opportunities for different types of learning content. 

The problem is that before the pandemic, the bulk of training happens in the form of in-person lessons (about 63% of total amount of training). The new training format would require the creation of new content. Companies now face the dilemma of building content of their own, or buying content from third parties. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of each option: 

Build new contentBuy from providers
Best suited forLarge organizations with a pool of in-house subject matter expertsSmaller organizations without existing resources and experts
AdvantagesMaximum customization for your organizationDon’t have to worry about relevance, upkeep, and innovation
DisadvantagesBuilding and training a team of experts can take time and content might become outdatedLess customization and might be an issue in terms of budget

To know which option is best suited for your organization, you’ll need to evaluate the current situation of your company (in terms of size, budget, and existing skills gap) and its future direction. 

Over to you

So there you have it — the 20 L&D statistics that you need to know in 2021. It’s become clear that employers are realizing the value of L&D. They are also making an effort to adapt their training to the employee and organizational needs through more personalized content, online training, and social learning. 

However, the struggle continues. We still face issues like lack of time and identifying exactly what the employees want and need to learn. To close the skills gap and be ready for the future, organizations will need to make the best of the available time that they have and innovate the way they do L&D.

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