2023 Workplace Learning Report
Building the agile future
L&D puts people and skills at the center of organizational success
This moment requires agility — and L&D can lead the way.
For individuals, agility fuels career growth and relevance. For organizations, agility equals the ability to survive and thrive even amid economic headwinds.
And what is agility if not constant learning? To build a resilient and adaptable future, learning leaders are working across HR to ensure everyone has the tools, the career paths, and the skills to succeed.
Read on for insights and ideas to power your own path.
The state of L&D
L&D uses new influence to elevate people and their skills for business impact
Last year’s report showed L&D becoming more central, cross-functional, and strategic than ever before. This year, learning leaders are making the most of their voices to ensure that people strategy and business strategy are one and the same.
Top four focus areas of L&D for 2023
Aligning learning programs to business goals
Creating a culture of learning
Improving employee retention
Most orgs seek a people-centric future and look to L&D for help
Organizational success depends on people's success. And this simple truth guides the design of employee experiences, from onboard to exit, with human needs at the center.
"When I think of the best of L&D, it's about helping everyone find the way that they shine."
Director of Learning Experience Design
Macro trends drive opportunities
Talent disruption, inflation, skills shortages, and global tension have followed pandemic tumult. But with daunting challenges demanding new skills, L&D has never been better positioned to help.
Skills sets for jobs have changed by around 25% since 2015. By 2027, this number is expected to double.
of L&D pros agree that proactively building employee skills for today and tomorrow will help navigate the evolving future of work.
2023 budget forecast remains strong
Perhaps because L&D is poised for high impact, the 2023 budget outlook is relatively confident. While this year’s number dipped slightly from last year’s high, it still represents the third most optimistic view in seven years of tracking. And only 8% of L&D pros expect their budget to decrease.
Percentage of L&D leaders who expect to have more spending power, 2017-2023
*Note that past surveys included more granular categories of budget increases. The two most recent surveys simply asked whether L&D pros expect their budget to increase, decrease, or remain the same.
C-suite influence continues to surge
“L&D’s time in the spotlight is just beginning,” predicted the 2022 report, and indeed, the spotlight is only growing brighter as learning pros spend more time with their HR chief and other executives.
The percentage of L&D pros working more closely with leaders has grown significantly year over year:
Executives agree that people strategy is central for success
of global leaders agree that the HR function is more critical now than it has ever been
"Your ability to hire, retain, train, and redeploy people is not going to be easy going forward. That’s why HR is so important."
HR Global Industry Analyst
It’s time to accelerate the skills journey
Whether inside or outside of HR, many leaders now recognize the value of large-scale upskilling and reskilling initiatives. But momentum is slow.
To achieve true skills agility, organizations will also want to think about lighter-weight cultural shifts that open new paths for more people.
*In 2023, 4% have not yet begun development
Creating an engaged and resilient workforce
Career development and internal mobility make people — and organizations — agile.
So many obstacles can impede large-scale initiatives. But individual people can make enormous strides. Empowering employees with career development tools and internal mobility options engages learners and expands workforce skills. The ultimate benefit is an organization that can act quickly on valuable opportunities.
“Progress toward career goals” is the No. 1 motivation for employees to learn
"Career Development is fundamental to our employee value proposition, and learning is a key business metric."
Global Head of Organization Effectiveness & Learning, WNS Global Services
Retention remains a pain point
Many organizations grappled with unprecedented employee turnover in the pandemic’s wake. And even while some layoffs have made headlines in recent months, talent development professionals continue to grapple with skills shortages and turnover risk for critical talent.
of organizations are concerned about employee retention.
The No.1 way organizations are working to improve retention is by “providing learning opportunities.”
People who aren’t learning will leave
Three of the top five factors that drive people to pursue new jobs reflect their desire to stretch, grow, and develop new skills.
Top five factors when considering a new job:
Promotions aren’t the only path to career progress
Employees deserve encouragement and recognition for any step forward, whether learning a new skill, tackling a stretch project, working with a coach or mentor, or growing their networks.
And simply engaging with learning correlates with a sense of growth, advancement, and adaptability.
Compared to disengaged learners, engaged learners* are more likely to say:
*Those who participate at least monthly in online or in-person learning activities
Internal mobility boosts retention and builds workforce skills
Highlighting career paths based on organizational goals is both people-centric and business-centric.
Helping people make an internal move boosts retention. And by expanding people’s networks and skills, internal mobility naturally creates more organizational agility.
At the two-year mark, an employee who has made an internal move has a greater chance of staying with their company.*
The internal mobility disconnect
The C-suite is now hyper-focused on mobilizing employees. Executives’ top priority is “keeping employees motivated and engaged.” Their second priority is “giving employees opportunities to move into different roles within the business.”
But when employees were asked about their experiences in the past six months, they indicated they aren’t receiving the right encouragement to support internal mobility.
To spark more mobility, L&D needs to connect with talent acquisition
Within HR, ownership of internal mobility programs can be fuzzy, but it’s clear that L&D and Talent Acquisition can drive success by sharing insights and innovating to develop and source internal talent. Here’s how:
Talent Acquisition develops a culture and process for internal hiring, prioritizing internal talent as a rich and promising hiring pool.
L&D provides skill-building paths and resources, creating a pipeline of internal talent to match opportunities.
How L&D succeeds
Priorities help L&D lead the way in 2023
Agile learning culture can’t be built alone. It can only be designed when partners across the org come together and listen to the true experts: employees themselves. Read on for three priorities to help you and your organization create a future that starts with learners and their needs.
"Being agile in whatever space we're in is going to be a necessary skill."
Learning Consultant and Designer
Invest in cross-functional relationships
L&D’s partnerships across HR and their companies keep getting stronger:
of L&D pros say their role became more cross-functional in the past year
Improve your data literacy
While aligning learning programs to business strategies is L&D’s number one goal this year, the metrics don’t line up. The top five ways L&D pros are measuring success are vanity metrics, based on satisfaction with programs. Business metrics fall to the middle or bottom of the list.
Top ways L&D measures success
Activate people managers
Helping employees expand their skills isn’t something to avoid out of fear of losing people. It’s a business imperative — which is why it’s disappointing that only 35% of learners were encouraged to learn by their manager in the past six months. But it’s good to see “supporting career development” on the list of priority training topics for managers in the year ahead.
Top 3 training topics for managers in 2023
Leadership and management skills
Role specific digital upskilling or digital transformation
Supporting employee career development
"Learning is key to your resilience as a business. If you invest in curiosity, learning, and agility for your workforce, you will be able to bounce back from setbacks, adapt to change, and be more ready for whatever comes next."
Vice President, Jobs for the Future
Explore more Workplace Learning data
United Kingdom | France | Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Belgium, Netherlands & Luxembourg | Australia & New Zealand | India | Southeast Asia | Singapore
Technology | Healthcare | Small & Medium Business
Ready for the deep dive?
We’ve only scratched the surface. Download the full report for a deeper dive into our data, additional commentary and context, and a host of extras.
We surveyed 1,579 L&D and HR professionals with L&D responsibilities who have some influence on budget decisions and 722 learners. Surveyed geographies include: North America (United States, Canada); South America (Brazil); Asia-Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, India,Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong); and Europe (United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, France, Germany, Austria). For the full methodology, please see the PDF report.