Leading with values and needs: The future of L&D

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6 October 2022
Written by Speak First Linked-in icon

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This article is from our new series 'One small step for Management: The L&D guide to the giant leap in employee expectations.'  You can read all the articles right now by downloading our brand new eBook.

These articles have demonstrated that the landscape of work has well and truly changed. The pandemic was the catalyst for much of this, but things won’t revert when everyone’s stopped wearing masks. The illusion that people can’t work effectively from home has been smashed, mental wellbeing is firmly at the forefront, and people are standing up for themselves.

This is the moment for workplace L&D to make its mark, embracing its power to become a force for real positive change in an organisation. For this to happen, L&D leaders need to be alert, both internally and to the wider working landscape, to hear what’s required and understand upcoming trends.

After exploring company culture, wellbeing and what employees want, it’s time to put it all together to get a clear picture of what the future L&D looks like.


People want enjoyment from work

Very few people actually want to sit doing nothing all day long. 58% of workers are motivated at work by being able to use their skills, which is also their priority when looking for a new role.1

And yet, almost a third of workers admit they’ve got skills they’ve kept quiet from their organisation – most commonly, either leadership or communication skills. Project management and teamwork also appear high on the list.2

In Gallup’s survey of global happiness, one of the key metrics they use is whether someone “learnt something interesting” the day before.3 This highlights how, when done right, L&D can bring real joy to people’s lives. Your future L&D strategy will short-change your workers if there’s no focus on creating truly fun and engaging learning and development opportunities, which spark their interests and makes them proud of their development.


New ways of working mean new ways of leading

As more people work remotely and hybrid, the nature of work, working setups, working relationships, and leadership in general are all changing. Managing and leading teams remotely is a completely different set of skills, and the old styles of 2019 just won’t cut it anymore. Globally, 69% of managers believe they should have specific training for leading remote teams.4

A quarter of workers are concerned about not being as visible when working from home while others are in the office. Their worries include being passed over for promotions or questions over their productivity.5 These fears are fair, considering 76% of managers say on-site employees are more likely to receive promotions.6

L&D should be at the forefront of ensuring everyone understands how to make the most of remote or flexible working, as well as avoiding these pitfalls from either side. Team members need to know how to work, communicate and collaborate, and managers and team leaders should have the skills to make sure no one’s ignored or left behind if they aren’t physically present.


The changing face of the workforce

It seems that attitudes and expectations of workplace learning can be largely split down generational lines. The newest group, Generation Z, wants training – with over half of 16-24 year olds having left a job because there weren’t enough development opportunities. However, it’s the Millennials who are most willing to learn during the working day – with 82% agreeing. Over 55s are the least enthusiastic to learn during work time (just 70%).7

These statistics could heighten many people’s existing temptation to only cater for the youngest and newest members of the workforce, while many older workers are already being left behind.

It was previously predicted that by 2025, over 50s would make up a third of the workforce,8 but the pandemic changed a lot of things. Many of this demographic took the pandemic as their cue to retire, 9while many other people aged 50-64 were the most likely to be made redundant, or have their salaries reduced during the pandemic. They’re also the least likely to receive training at work.10

The last couple of years has ushered in a new generation of employees, as well as unceremoniously pushing many older people out. As L&D leaders, the primary goal is to cater for everyone, recognising individual needs as well as unifying all your people into one team.


Creating long-term, needs-focused learning

L&D has always needed to align to an organisation’s needs. That’s its core purpose. The skill lies in recognising when those needs change and knowing how to adapt to the latest issues.

Digital working through the pandemic meant the rate of automation increased, making training in transferable soft skills even more crucial. Problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity can’t be automated or replicated by AI.11

Additionally, 72% of organisations say the impact of current skills gaps has created an increased workload on other staff. Consequently, over a quarter of businesses have had to turn down or refrain from bidding on work.12

Whether this is due to resignations or poor hiring strategies, organisations have a responsibility to focus their L&D efforts on closing these skills gaps and creating sustainable learning solutions. If not, they’re setting themselves up for a very difficult future.


Looking beyond the pandemic

Two years ago, the biggest issues facing organisations were adapting to remote work and virtual meetings, and organisational and personal resilience. Now, even though the pandemic isn’t over, our thoughts turn to other challenges, such as the rising costs of living, and the global effects of the war in Ukraine. Some organisations will need to cut costs, others will need to invest in new skills. In these scenarios, L&D should be developing and improving your people’s abilities to overcome these challenges.

However, L&D can’t just focus on workplace skills and capabilities, it needs a complete holistic view of its people. It’s the best way to develop highly-skilled and highly-effective teams, and to prove your organisation authentically cares about its people.

The future of L&D is value-driven, people-first, sustainable, supportive and engaging. It doesn’t matter whether your sessions are in-person or virtual, group based or individual eLearning, in a classroom or in the metaverse – the key is to focus on your people, understand their genuine needs and desires, and make them feel valued. These are your L&D guiding principles as you develop your workforce for the ‘new normal.’


For more information on the future of workplace Learning and Development, download the full eBook.


1 Gallup (2022) The top 6 things employees want in their next job

2 People Management (2022) Third of workers hiding 'secret skills' from employers, professional body say

3 Gallup (2022) World unhappier, more stressed out than ever

4 The Adecco Group (2021) Resetting normal: Defining the new era of work

5 CIPD (2022) Trends in flexible working arrangements

6 Gartner (2022) 9 future work trends post Covid-19

7 HR Review (2022) The skills gap widens: How can adult learning be encouraged?

8 Centre for Aging Better (2019) How to support your older workers

9 BBC (2022) John Lewis boss: Over-50s quitting the workforce fuels inflation

10 Centre for Aging Better (2022) The state of aging 2022

11 NFER (2022) The skills imperative 2035: What does the literature tell us about essential skills most needed for work?

12 The Open University (2022) Business barometer 2022