Learning PIxabay\GeraltAccording to research carried out by SumTotal Systems, a Skillsoft company, 65% of learning and development leaders are concerned about their ability to meet the skills demands of their organisation over the next 2 years. Published in an infographic, the report is based on 150 responses to a survey at the Learning Technologies on 4 May 2022 event.

As firms emerged from the pandemic, L&D leaders were asked about their views of the pandemic’s impact and looked forward to the future. While 37% deferred hiring decisions during the pandemic, only 17% now expect to reconsider hiring. On a positive note, 64% said that there had been a positive impact on the digital skills gap in the UK. 55% said the pandemic had a positive impact on talent management in the UK. While the survey had no qualitative element, 63% of respondents said that there is now more focus on workforce planning and development than pre-pandemic.

Looking forward, L&D leaders’ views are very mixed. When asked about the outlook for talent management in a post-pandemic business landscape, the answers were:

  • 39% expect continued uncertainty
  • 24% expect minimal changes
  • 15% expect radical changes
  • 15% expect business as usual (though it is unclear whether that is business as usual pre or post-pandemic)

Firms may rely on L&D

With the future uncertain, only 12% feel very prepared, and 26% are somewhat prepared if the skills shortages worsen post-pandemic. The reason? 55% said that hiring has been harder since the pandemic began. However, the research did not clarify why it was harder. This could be down to several factors:

  • The lack of skills in the marketplace
  • Expectations of applicants, especially with regards to flexible working
  • A scarcity of candidates available

The UK unemployment rate is estimated at 3.8% in February 2022 (Source ONS). That is 0.2% lower than the previous three-month period and 0.1 percentage points below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal
Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal

Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal, commented: “The opinions and experiences of L&D professionals are an important reflection of a range of crucial business trends, and their concerns underline the continuing impact of skills shortages on UK plc. And while it’s clear the pandemic had a significant impact on both L&D and recruitment, organisations are now also focused on meeting a range of new challenges. The ability of L&D teams to adapt will play a key role in determining which employers attract, develop, and retain the talent they need to succeed.”

Enterprise Times: What this means

With difficulties recruiting, SumTotal would want firms to increase the importance of, and investment into L&D. It seems a sensible viewpoint. With the great resignation still looming large in the minds of business leaders, employee retention is critical. A lack of career development is one of the key factors employees cited for leaving in recent months. Offering skills and education to staff is one way for organisations to mitigate the risk. It also overcomes the potential difficulties of hiring staff with different skill sets.

While this is a small sample, the survey has some noteworthy findings that organisations should pay attention to. The pandemic has had an impact. During the crisis that initially unfolded, L&D teams needed to react quickly to help employees overcome the initial challenge of remote working. In most organisations, that was accomplished. Digitisation on the agenda of many boards, organisations must remember that the change is not just a technical one but requires change management. That includes business process changes and education, to complete successfully. If firms face the talent shortages expected, they may need to turn to L&D to help fill the gap if they cannot recruit.


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