By Trena Minudri, Chief Learning Officer
In 2023, a dynamic macroenvironment, the rise of generative AI and its projected impact on the workforce, and a continued embrace of globalized and remote workplaces have all placed pressure on how businesses operate. Historically, when companies encounter turbulent times, one of the first cost-cuts has been learning and development (L&D) programs. But accelerated change requires increased organizational agility as workforces today must learn, change, and grow quickly enough to keep up with new threats and opportunities.
New research explored in this survey of 650 L&D and HR leaders in eight different countries indicates a greater investment in talent development against the backdrop of a fast-evolving market. Our research finds that over 95% of learning and HR leaders have seen a budget increase this year, along with a substantial (51%) year-over-year increase in executive leadership viewing L&D as a strategic business function.
Key findings from the L&D Investment Survey include:
L&D is receiving greater support from executive leadership compared to last year, suggesting an increasingly important role for L&D and HR leaders in achieving core organizational goals.
- 95% of L&D and HR leaders report a 5-10% increase in budget, with 45% seeing increases larger than 10%.
- The majority (52%) of L&D and HR leaders say that employee engagement is the top reason for budget increases followed by the role of critical skills development in maintaining organizational competitiveness.
- In fact, 75% of L&D and HR leaders report that executive leadership prioritize investing in L&D to ensure that their technology ambitions are successful.
- The top five factors driving urgency for reskilling and upskilling programs are:
- Increasing productivity (68%)
- Keeping up with the competition (58%)
- Driving employee engagement (58%)
- Changing technologies (57%)
- Employee retention (56%)
L&D and HR leaders are prioritizing business and human skills, with AI skills representing the biggest opportunity for early investment.
- The majority of leaders ranked business (52%) and human skills (46%) as their top priority for L&D programs; these domains include critical skills such as project management, leadership, adaptability, and agility. Digital and data skills followed closely behind, ranked by 44% and 38% of learning leaders as their most important priority.
- Notably, AI skills were ranked the lowest priority by L&D and HR leaders, with only 19% rating it as a top priority and just 20% saying they have effective metrics for measuring AI skills.
- This likely stems from the fact that, traditionally, learning and HR leaders shape their initiatives according to the needs of the organization, and many companies are still in the early stages of determining how they should embrace and operationalize AI.
- However, the projected impact of generative AI across job roles presents an opportunity for learning and HR leaders to serve as catalysts for change in their organization, partnering with business and technology leaders to make the skills and talent development investments needed to realize their technology ambitions.
The top challenge facing L&D leaders is being unable to effectively create meaningful learning experiences from the vast volume of learning content available.
- Today, there are more content options than ever before, also known as “content chaos,” which can be overwhelming for both employees and learning leaders. Learners need guidance to know what course to take, which skills they need to learn, or how they can advance their careers—or they end up taking no action at all.
- 46% of L&D and HR leaders said prioritizing across many content options is their number one current challenge, with too many learning initiatives to measure (58%) and not having enough time for strategic planning (28%) as their main barriers to success.
- On average, nearly half of learning leaders reported that performance and productivity (47%) and skills development (43%) are the top indicators of program success. In fact, 46% of leaders report a year-over-year increase in employees applying skills they’ve learned in L&D programs to their day-to-day jobs.
The signal is clear: Around the world, L&D and HR leaders are moving from the backroom to the boardroom to help their organizations meet mission-critical goals. In an age of relentless disruption, digital transformation and talent development must go hand in hand. HR and L&D leaders will play a vital role in helping companies navigate emerging challenges. I hope the data and insights offered in this report act as a catalyst for new ideas that organizations can embrace to build more engaged and agile workforces.