What’s happened to L&D during the COVID-19 pandemic and what does it mean for the future? Share your views

By Lizzie Crowley, Senior Policy Adviser, Skills.

Last year was a demanding one for people professionals, the organisations they work for and the colleagues they support.  For learning professionals, the overnight shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in sweeping, and often rapid, shifts in how learning and development (L&D) teams support organisational learning.  

For instance, a survey conducted last year found that 94% of L&D professionals had to change their organisations learning strategy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with two-thirds having to make significant changes. And, looking forward, the survey also found that just 5% think that their learning strategy, investment and resourcing will go back to the way it was before the pandemic.   

The demand for digital and remote learning solutions has been turbo-chargedwith rapid increases in the use of webinars, virtual classrooms and online learning modules. Yet, the results from our Learning and Skills at Work Survey 2020, conducted in partnership with Accenture just before the pandemic hit, suggest that many organisations will have struggled with the shift from more traditional forms of delivery.  

The survey found that despite the prevalence of technology in all aspects of work and working lives, face-to-face remained the most popular pre-pandemic delivery method. And while most organisations were using some form of technology to support learningthe adoption of more emergent technologies that make learning both more efficient and more engaging was sluggish. The Learning and Skills at Work Survey 2020 also uncovered gaps in L&D teams’ skills sets which may have hampered organisations ability to adjust to the current crisis. Traditional roles, such as face-to-face trainer and facilitator, still dominated L&D teams, while roles such as digital asset creator, community manager and curator researcher, were rare.   

As well as having to grapple with new forms of learning delivery we also know that learning and development often falls down the priority list in turbulent times. The CIPD’s People Profession Survey 2020 has shown that learning is no longer receiving immediate attention within businesses, with learning and development taking a backseat for many during the COVID-19 pandemic.   

These are certainly challenging times, but they also potentially offer us the opportunity 

to do things differently. And as a people professional you understand first-hand the challenges and opportunities that have arisen in developing professional practice. So, we’d value your views on how and why organisations are investing in, and developing skills, in the workplace. 

The CIPD’s Learning and Skills at Work Survey 2021, in partnership with Accenture, will explore: 

  • L&D strategies  
  • L&D practices 
  • the learning technologies you use to deliver on business objectives and priorities 
  • the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and what it means for the future of L&D. 

Your response will provide invaluable data on L&D trends that we’ll use to support you and other organisations in developing effective workplace learning solutions. Share your views and complete our survey today. 

Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.

  • Since April I've been interviewing global L&D leaders for a publisher's podcast. The reactive move to online delivery has been distinctive, but I think that for the future, L&D will not survive as-is. A CIPD colleague said to me, last week, that he thinks the role of 'trainer' won't exist in the future. My personal approach is that the L&D role must shift from being a mouthpiece for information to being an organisational storyteller, and this is a vital role in reintegrating fractured workforces post lockdown/vaccine/whatever. People need time and space to tell their stories and heal from sharing. This isn't as simple as opening the doors and putting a few screens up. Many people have been through hell. We will see the widespread symptoms of PTSD. Most people will know someone who didn't survive, or someone who fought for life. Everyone will have a different view of their priorities, and of their expectations of what an employer should be doing. The role of L&D is to bring these stories together and create new, better integrated, more supportive, more human-centred working environments.