7 Big Learning and Development Challenges

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Learning and development is a necessary part of success in business. Employees must continuously learn how to use new technology, adapt to new working conditions, fill the skills gap, and develop strong relationships. Therefore, employers must provide training and education that helps everyone stay on the cutting edge. 

However, the path to enlightenment is never a straight one. There are bumps along the way. Here are some of the biggest L&D challenges for HR professionals: 

Getting the Attention of Employees

People are feeling overworked, and there are many distractions. HR leaders are concerned that workers do not take advantage of all the learning and development opportunities available to them. 

“With the proliferation of digital devices and the ever-growing popularity of online learning, it can be difficult to get employees to sit down and focus on traditional classroom-based training,” says Linda Shaffer, Chief People Operations Officer, at Checkr

READ: Learning and Development: 3 Ways to Do More with Less

Scaling Learning and Development

Checkr is not the only organization grappling with this. Others find it challenging to scale L&D because of the lack of focus on the part of employees. The burden to get everyone on board falls on the shoulders of HR. 

“The HR department and team leaders have to make an effort to identify potential learning gaps and needs and ensure that all employees are aware of the possibility to improve their knowledge and skills with the help of our company,” says Monika Dmochowska, Talent Acquisition Leader at Tidio. 

READ: Learning and Development for the Transformed Workplace

Teaching Empathy  

Once employers get the attention of employees, they have to teach them the right skills to meet the moment. Nearly 90% of employees say that empathy leads to better leadership, according to EY. Soft skills and particularly empathy can be challenging to convey. 

“In my experience, empathy is the hardest to authentically demonstrate,” says Melissa Bruno, Vice President of People at Airtm. “Sure, it’s easy to tell someone, ‘I’m here for you. I’m supportive of your work.’ However, where the rubber hits the road is in action. Leaders and managers don’t always get the opportunity to practice what they have learned to build muscle memory…around empathy.”

Bruno explains that Malcolm Gladwell suggests it takes 10,000 hours to build muscle memory, which is the ability to repeat a movement with improved accuracy by practicing, and most leaders do not have enough time to build that memory. HR leaders have to help carve out time in the workday for learning, and many are trying to infuse education in the work flow.  

INTERVIEW: How Empathy Makes for Effective Leadership

Planning Live Events for Asynchronous Employees

Another problem facing today’s learning and development leaders is the division of remote and in-office workers. Trying to reach and appeal to both groups with a mix of live and asynchronous learning opportunities is a struggle. It can be even more challenging for companies with a global workforce in different time zones and geographies. TeamBuilding offers live learning events, including lectures and discussions with experts. Most of the time, however, getting everyone together at once proves impossible. 

“While we cannot find a time that works for every employee, we have taken measures to make these events more inclusive,” says Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding. “For example, [we] record the meetings and allow teammates to submit questions using a form.” 

WATCH: Expanding Learning Programs on a Budget

Providing Personalized Training

Everyone learns differently, which means employers need to provide different teaching formats. The diversity of learning preferences is compounded by the differences in language, culture, and background in global workforces. 

“We have found that to effectively drive learning and development within our organization, we must customize the communication to best meet the needs of each team member,” says Beryl Krinsky, Founder and CEO of B.Komplete. “For example, some team members are visual learners, and other team members are audio learners, and other team members need both.” 

READ: Learning and Development: What Are Communities of Practice? 

Determining Performance Measurements 

Another problem is that the need for personalized training can make leaders weary of investing in learning and development. As Jeff Goodwin, Senior Director at Orgain, points out, measuring the performance and efficacy of learning programs is vital to demonstrating return on investment. 

“The management team needs a clear understanding of the value of L&D to the business,” says Goodwin. “However, development benefits sometimes take time to evaluate as increased productivity or improved customer interactions often improve in increments. Finding whether the ROI is worth it isn’t always quantifiable, at least not right away.” 

READ: What to Look for in Learning Management Systems

Retaining Upskilled Workers

Indeed, investment in learning and development is a long game. Business leaders have to be willing to play patiently. They also have to accept the fact that some of the people they teach will take their new skills to a new employer. 

“My biggest learning and development challenge is that those who gain knowledge and training with me, then use it to get a job elsewhere,” says Tanya Klien, CEO of Anta Plumbing. “That leaves me to find and train someone else and diminishes my L&D investment.” 

Despite the pain points, learning and development are essential for organizations aiming to fill the skills gap and remain relevant well into the future. Creating a culture of learning makes workers part of the process, which can inspire them to participate more and can result in better participation and effectiveness. 

To learn more about the solutions for learning and development problems, join HR Exchange Network at the Corporate Learning online event. It’s free to join, and those who particpate in the live event are eligible for SHRM credits. 

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