The State of L&D: Budget Cuts, Digitisation, Collaboration (Survey Results)
The State of L&D: Budget Cuts, Digitisation, Collaboration (Survey Results)

25% of companies have cut L&D budgets. 57% have changed programmes to reflect new business needs. These are the results of a survey of over 60 global L&D leaders conducted by the Center for Corporate Learning Innovation, IE University, between March and May 2020.

The survey provides a glimpse into the future of corporate L&D departments after Covid-19. Three takeaways stand out: L&D will have to do more with less; programmes will increasingly move online; and any new initiative will involve complex “make or buy decisions” as companies design digital upskilling programmes to fit their needs.


Crisis response: doing more with less

To find out the latest trends in corporate learning, IE University polled over 60 L&D professionals and learning vendors. Forty-seven of the respondents were chief learning officers or senior corporate L&D leaders. The participating companies included Unilever, AkzoNobel, Daimler, Deloitte, McKinsey & Company, BCG, EY, HP, Shell, and IBM.

Twenty-five percent of respondents shared that their L&D budget had been cut. While only 5% said that L&D staff at their company had been redeployed, the survey clearly shows that learning professionals will need to cope with limited resources.

At the same time, L&D departments are being called on to address new critical business needs. During Covid-19, survey respondents have had to rapidly switch to online learning while developing programmes to address the situation. Overall, 57% of respondents said they had had to change focus to serve new business initiatives.

The majority of professionals polled, 53%, have been working to help employees adapt to virtual work. Other projects have included leadership development offerings relevant to the crisis and wellbeing programmes for employees. The survey shows that agility will be essential for L&D leaders as they have to quickly meet emerging business needs.


Full digitisation – even in leadership development

One change that has quickly taken hold during the pandemic is the transition to online programme delivery. This trend is starting to affect programmes that have traditionally been delivered in person. Forty-one percent of the polled L&D professionals state that, if in-person programmes cannot take place within the next 12 months, they will convert them to a digital format.

Even leadership development, which has traditionally relied on face-to-face interaction, is now moving online. Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents believe that executives would attend virtual leadership development programmes. Only 4% disagree, and 0% strongly disagree. Learning professionals will have to “strengthen their learning design muscles to deliver high quality blended and virtual leadership programs”, according to IE University’s analysis.


Digital solutions require collaboration

The sudden digital transformation in learning is posing many challenges for L&D leaders. Remote programmes require different pedagogical strategies to keep learners engaged. Instructional designers also need to keep abreast of the opportunities and drawbacks presented by the various technologies.

L&D departments may not be able to keep up with the pace of digitisation without expert help. Asked what the biggest challenge was to developing high-quality virtual programmes, 21% of respondents pointed to technology. Even as budgets are being cut, L&D leaders may need to engage outside vendors to effectively deploy digital solutions. Increasingly, new initiatives will involve complex decisions about in-house production versus outsourcing. Custom collaborations may form between corporates, academic institutions, and tech start-ups.

One thing about L&D’s future after Covid-19 is certain, and that is constant innovation. Learning leaders will need to quickly develop programmes that leverage technology and support new business priorities. In their analysis of the survey results, the IE University researchers offer additional guidance on making corporate learning future-proof. Read the full survey results and analysis here.


By Ani Kodjabasheva