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Changing skills needs pose growing challenge

by | Jun 30, 2023

There has been a noticeable decline in the number of learning & development (L&D) professionals in the UK who feel confident about responding to their organisations’ changing skills needs, according to research published on Tuesday.

The latest Learning at Work survey – published by the HR trade organisation, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – found that only 59 per cent of respondents currently felt able to respond to changing skills requirements. This compares to 69 per cent when the survey was last carried out in 2021.

Resources rise for L&D professionals as opportunities grow

Based on responses from more than 1,100 learning professionals, the survey indicated that organisations needed to make a priority of focusing on obtaining “more data and insights regarding the design of learning”.

Laura Overton, the report’s author and founder of Learning Changemakers, said: “Tackling skills gaps is a collective endeavour, one in which learning practitioners have a strategic role to play as they look beyond the traditional confines of producing courses and content.

“This report highlights progress already being made and the exciting opportunities ahead for L&D practitioners to contribute to the skills agenda and impact wider and organisational people priorities.”

The CIPD said that, while resources for learning and development had increased in most organisations over the past year, more than half of L&D professionals said their teams’ workloads had intensified over the period.

“They’re also needing to realign their learning strategies to support changing organisational priorities since the Covid-19 pandemic,” reported the CIPD.

“There’s also room for improvement in the role managers play to support and encourage participation in L&D, to maximise workplace-based learning opportunities.”

 

Pandemic prompts re-examination of key skills needs

Andy Lancaster, head of learning at the CIPD, said that the pandemic had forced learning practitioners to address key organisational needs, particularly new ways of working and digital skills.

“Post-pandemic,” he added, “the focus must remain on the key drivers and skills underpinning organisational performance and productivity.

“To achieve this, learning professionals must engage in consultative discussions, leverage data and insights, and foster innovative approaches to provide accessible solutions.”

However, the survey found that only five per cent of respondents were currently using AI tools, such as ChatGPT, to support learning, although more than two-thirds believed they were successful at using the learning technologies available.

Michelle Parry-Slater, L&D director at Kairos Modern Learning, said that despite headlines around the use of AI in the workplace and for HR tasks, it would not be widely adopted in development activities until it could solve specific learning issues.

She told HR Magazine: “Until we have a real need to get involved and learn about AI, it will just trundle along in the background. That said, I don’t think AI is going away.”

While Ms Parry-Slater did not believe AI would override the need for humans in L&D, it might have a future in creating learning content if the professionals using it were skilled enough.

“The skill [for L&D professionals and learners] will not be in using AI but in creating the right prompts to create learning content at speed,” she said.

“If we don’t write the right prompts, the learning content will be wrong.”

The CIPD survey also found that:

  • almost two-thirds agreed the L&D profession offered a meaningful career
  • only 63 per cent worked collaboratively with others across their organisation to deliver business-critical priorities
  • 55 per cent of L&D leaders said their teams were innovative in their use of learning technologies
  • improving staff retention was the top people priority for L&D professionals (25 per cent), followed by staff wellbeing (21 per cent), succession planning (18 per cent) and developing leadership capability (16 per cent)
  • only six per cent said that soft skills were a priority, and the same proportion wanted to see an increase in apprenticeships.

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