2020 has been an unpredictable year full of upsets and pivots. Organizations all over the world have used learning as a way to navigate these changes. 

As the year comes to a close, many learning and development (L&D) leaders are asking: What will workplace learning look like in 2021? We surveyed over 500 global experts to understand what L&D professionals can expect in the new year.

Closing the skills gap is more urgent than ever

Though closing the skills gap has long been a priority for many organizations, in 2020 it took on a new urgency. Companies leveraged upskilling and reskilling to adapt to the changes imposed by the pandemic. 

While 14% of the global workforce was upskilled in 2019, that figure more than doubled in 2020, with over a third of the workforce (38%) upskilled. This dramatic increase is a remarkable feat for L&D professionals around the world. It’s also a challenge in its own right. 

Goals of learning and development programs in 2020.

Closing the skills gap was the number one L&D program goal identified by the leaders we surveyed. Other goals included driving organizational growth, improving employee engagement, and increasing job satisfaction. How do these objectives compare to your organization’s L&D goals? 

L&D programs still have room to grow

L&D programs across the world have made impressive progress in upskilling their workforces. But there are still opportunities for improvement. More than half of the leaders we surveyed reported satisfaction with their L&D program. The rest — 43% of respondents — indicated that they were either dissatisfied with or indifferent to their programs. 

Learning and development leaders satisfaction with their programs.

This lack of satisfaction is worth paying attention to, but it’s not a reason to panic. It’s better to look at it as an opportunity for growth. This is an occasion to examine your L&D program and consider improvements to make and how it could better serve your employees and organization.  

One way to identify areas for improvement is to assess the maturity of your L&D program using Bersin’s Learning Organization Maturity Model. According to Bersin’s model:

Challenges awaiting L&D teams in 2021

It’s clear that mature L&D programs better serve employees and businesses, but many programs are still underdeveloped. Of the leaders we surveyed, 58% ranked their organizations’ L&D programs at Level 3 or 4, the highest levels of maturity per Bersin’s model. But the rest (42%) ranked their programs at Level 1 or 2, meaning their approaches to learning were less sophisticated.

What holds back L&D development? According to our survey, the number-one blocker was time: 61% of respondents identified lack of time as the main obstacle to L&D in 2020. Other common barriers include budget constraints, the challenge of proving the ROI, the difficulty of choosing the right L&D opportunities, lack of interest from employees, lack of buy-in from leadership, and lack of L&D talent. 

As you prepare to advance your L&D program in 2021, consider which of these barriers you may face and start strategizing about how to overcome them. 

Discover the trends that will define the future of work

The future of L&D is in your hands. The more insights you have on what 2021 holds, the better equipped you’ll be to advance your organization’s L&D program to meet any challenges that arise. 

Download The 2021 Workplace Learning Trends Report to see this year’s in-demand skills and understand how these learning trends will influence your L&D strategy in the new year. 

Page Last Updated: November 2020