Kyle Hughes

As I have the privileged position of working with many great organisations and supporting them with L&D solutions, I see emerging trends and the common challenges they all face. Now we are up to a good galloping pace in January, I thought it would be timely to share with you some observations and invite a discussion with my network on how to overcome them.

Challenge One: Missed Learning Opportunities

2020 disrupted a vast proportion of the L&D industry as it pushed suppliers to move their content online and learners to adapt to attaining new skills at their laptop in the kitchen. Considering the amount of change pushed upon us all, I feel the industry has done an incredible job in managing the transition. The road was bumpy, but with all things considered I feel L&D is in a very positive place in early 2021. Now that staff have got used to WFH and subsequently learning from home, the gaps in their development that appeared in the first half of 2020, cannot be repeated.

A sizeable portion of my time is spent encouraging organisations to trust in an online learner journey rather than a stand-alone workshop. No one wants to sit on a zoom call all day, but some buyers still think they are being short changed if their staff aren’t locked into their computer screen from 9-5. Blending self-led learning, working groups, coaching, micro teaches, app-based gamification and much more only benefit the learners and are much easier to do now the workforce has gone remote. However, I believe as L&D professionals it us upon us to continue to evidence the value of the approach to change individual attitudes, and in some cases organisational culture, to embrace the benefits of a complete learner journey.

Challenge Two: Budget Cuts

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the purse strings are going to be tightened throughout 2021 but the old adage of ‘training is the first thing to go’ needn’t be true. Those with an L&D budget will know that whilst there may be less money to procure training, expectations of organisations rarely diminish equally. Therefore, we must be cuter with what we have at our disposal and assess how it is going to impact the training plan. Despite uncertainty, early assessment for training essential to the success of the organisation is imperative as it will incorporate the incredible changes 2020 has had on the workforce and organisational strategy.

So much has changed in the past 10 months, so make sure that your 2021 training plan and priorities reflects that and is not just a repeat of previous years, as certain training has become redundant. Additionally, how good is your relationship with your suppliers or managed service provider? Are there more cost-effective solutions that you can work on together to plug the training gaps you now have? Everyone is feeling the pinch and no one is going to lose money, but a good relationship with a partner may yield some unexpected saving opportunities.

Challenge Three: Well being

One factor that certainly did not just start in 2020, but from my perspective has risen in demand, is organisational support to employees’ health and welfare. Company quizzes, cookery WhatsApp groups and book clubs are all great ideas to help support the morale and welfare of employees, however L&D can play a huge role in being a force multiplier in this area. There are tonnes of free resources online to support, educate and inspire your colleagues that simply don’t get utilised enough. The mentality of an L&D function only providing stale stand-alone workshops for people to attend is thankfully washing away and staff are more willing to try new things to address issues. I am a huge believer in the boosting organisational wellness which is the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health. If these core elements are endorsed and supported organisationally as well as made available internally by L&D teams, I truly believe the welfare, morale and productivity of staff will improve.

Challenge Four: Disrupted Training Plans

March 2020 threw most training plans out of the window, but as the year progressed, we started to see a return to learning as organisations adapted to the new normal. As we are approaching a new financial year, I still sense trepidation in L&D professionals for what is ahead. For good reason too. Recent national restrictions have meant more last-minute disruption as certain training can no longer be delivered, people are home schooling their children and staff are having to double-hat and fill job roles in addition to their own.

Clear communication between all parties is paramount, so diaries can be managed and budgets not wasted in cancellation fees. Being on a procurement framework can provide the client with very favourable cancellation terms which can avoid tremendous cost when having to pull courses late on. However, this can also lead to souring of relationships with suppliers and providers who had the time booked out in their calendars to work with your organisation. This will have to be managed extremely carefully for as long as the uncertainty continues and until we get back to normality.

I am interested to hear what your thoughts are, not only on the puzzles that L&D professionals are going to tackle in 2021, but also ideas on how to get around them.