The Top 5 Challenges for L&D Leaders

In this series, we address the five biggest challenges faced by L&D leaders: staying up-to-date on the latest best-practices, ensuring learner engagement, accelerating digital transformation, adapting learning to the flow of work, and finally, building a culture of continuous learning.

If you’re an L&D leader, you’ll already know full well that the term “learning and development” doesn’t even begin to cover the responsibilities, challenges, and impact of L&D.

In our view, L&D sits at a juncture that straddles three of the most crucial elements of any business: people, technology and performance. And when these three elements (people, tech, and performance) interlock seamlessly, we can truly prove the value of L&D.

In an ideal world, our learning technology will always be stable and working well, our people will always be engaged and inspired to learn, and overall performance will continue to soar. Unfortunately, most learning leaders know that the reality is not quite so streamlined.

You can invest in the most high-tech learning systems in the world, but if your people aren’t engaged enough to actually use them, this won’t add any real value to your business. Similarly, you may already have created a great learning culture – but if your tech is outdated, this could end up dragging down your performance.

In short, L&D leaders today are facing a myriad of challenges. And although issues may vary from organisation to organisation, the core themes are the same. 

In this series, we’ll identify the most common issues faced by L&D leaders – and offer expert industry insight to help you get ahead of the curve. 


There are lots of challenges...

Since 2017, LPI have been gathering insight from a survey group of 10,000 senior L&D leaders, in order to identify the biggest challenges in the L&D industry. The results of this survey are published in LPI’s ”Learning Leaders” report

In 2020, five key challenges are taking the lead.



#5: Staying up-to-date with L&D developments

To be at the forefront of L&D, you've got to stay up-to-date with all the latest learning developments. But with learning technologies evolving and best practices changing every day, many L&D leaders are struggling to avoid falling behind.


#4: Mastering learner engagement

In order for learning programmes to succeed, each employee must feel fulfilled in their role, supported in their learning, and connected to the company purpose. In other words, they need to be engaged. But how can L&D leaders encourage learners to take ownership of their own development? 


#3: Transforming learning for the digital age

With many organisations shifting away from traditional learning approaches, L&D leaders are looking to accelerate digital learning. The primary challenge is to ensure digital literacy for all. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen several workplaces going entirely digital, this issue has become all the more pressing.


#2: Adapting learning to the flow of work

How do you ensure that learning doesn’t interrupt the daily work of people in your organisation? This question is as true for “offline” training as it is for digital. The challenge facing many L&D leaders is figuring out the best way to learn – and getting people to apply it to their work.


#1: Building a culture of continuous learning
How do you foster an open culture of knowledge and shared learning that supports the mission and goals of the organisation? What makes a great learning organisation? Selected by 25% of LPI’s respondents, building a learning culture is what poses the biggest challenge for today’s L&D leaders.


… but there are also lots of opportunities

Over the past few years, investments in L&D have been steadily increasing. In 2017, global investments in learning technology companies reached over $9.52 billion, up 30% from 2016. Today, 63% of companies provide formal or on-the-job training in-house. And in a report released earlier this year, 64% of US employers and 54% of UK employers said they anticipated a greater spend on L&D in 2020. 

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, many employers were planning to further increase their L&D budgets. Now, L&D leaders everywhere are fighting to keep a firm hold of what little budgets they have. 

According to a recent survey conducted by Warwick Conferences, L&D budgets will likely come under more scrutiny this year, and leaders must be prepared to demonstrate direct ROI on their learning programmes. 

“It’s clear from this survey and report that L&D still holds significant importance to organisations across the UK,” comments Paul Bartlett, director at Warwick Conferences. “When businesses start to look to future-proofing, L&D will have an important role to play and if this is the case, it is likely that there will be more scrutiny on programmes.”

The pressure is on to demonstrate that L&D can drive real business impact. And we certainly can’t afford to give up now.

According to the World Economic Forum, more than half of all employees around the globe will need reskilling by 2022. Globally, 79% of employees want a greater focus on L&D. If companies don’t offer opportunities to develop skills, their employees will be six times more likely to leave within a year, according to research from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte

However, 70% of business leaders still feel that they lack the skills to create a “culture of knowledge, sharing and continuous learning”, according to the Harvard Business Review.

These dynamics present a clear ultimatum for L&D leaders to create learning cultures that engage their employees and help to amplify performance. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring how we can overcome these challenges – and what could be holding L&D leaders back from succeeding.

Stay tuned for our next instalment, Challenge #5: Staying up-to-date with L&D developments.


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“Their program is exceptional, the content is fantastic, and it really drives greater knowledge and confidence in all aspects of digital”

– Joanna Earl, Head of Global Marketing Excellence, Sanofi


As a global online learning business, we help organisations empower L&D leaders to break down organisational silos, build digital capabilities, and create cultures of continuous learning – using effective learning. 

To find out how Circus Street empowers organisations, see our testimonials page. Or sign up for a free trial of our lessons to see how we can help drive business transformation in your business.

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