4 Disturbing Results From the LinkedIn 2017 Workplace Learning Report

pie-chartAuthor: Karen Moloney

This week I (finally) got time to sit down, grab some chocolate and have a read of the LinkedIn 2017 Workplace Learning Report.

The report was based on survey results of “500 L&D professionals across the U.S. and Canada and industry leaders” and its focus was to uncover the top trends and challenges that L&D professionals are currently facing in the workplace.

Now, I had a fair idea what some of these would be, but when you read it in black and white and then look at the correlation between some of these insights, it’s no wonder our industry is struggling to keep up with the fast pace of business and the world in general.

The following are just my opinions and observations on a few of the statistics shared, so feel free to contribute and discuss (constructively of course) in the comments below.

1. Time to learn

The #2 challenge for L&D professionals at 46% is getting employees to make time for L&D.

Why should employees have to make time?

Surely if an organisation is committed to performance and talent development, as the report suggests, (69% say that talent development is the No.1 priority at their organisation) then employees should have time to learn factored into their work schedule.

What’s the point of investing in the creation of programs and resources to develop talent when they don’t give people time during their work day to participate in those programs or use the resources?

And shouldn’t it be managers (who have responsibility for their team’s education and development) who work on making sure that happens?

Why should L&D have the responsibility of getting learners to learn?

Once they arrive at a course or online module or pick up a job aid it is absolutely 100% our responsibility to ensure they are engaged, that they enjoy the experience and that they learn something which helps them do their job better.

Allocating time for learning and getting people to attend should never be part of our remit and definitely not something that is our #2 challenge in the modern workplace.

2. Instructor-led is still #1

78% of survey participants rated instructor-led courses as the No.1 way their employees are currently learning.

I appreciate that there will always be skills that need to be taught face-to-face, but there are so many other parts to most jobs which could be delivered via another modality, surely?

If we, as the professionals tasked with upskilling the workforce of a digital age, can’t embrace technology and use the abundance of tools that are available, many of them free, then we could find ourselves in an awkward place very soon.

I’ve had this same conversation with many of my peers – whenever I manage to get out of my office and network with my tribe…

Or even when I stay in and lurk participate in Twitter chats.

The big problem is: the people who are in all those places are not the problem.

It’s those who are not “there”.

The ones who are:

  • Not online
  • Not networking
  • Not updating their skills
  • Not learning from others’ experiences
  • Not trying new things.

The “e” in eLearning is for electronic.

Anything electronic.

Including phones and webinars and instant messaging and email and Facetime®and and and…

Page 18 of the report says: “ON THE HORIZON: eLearning is becoming a new tool on the L&D tool belt to complement in-person training.”

A new tool.


In 1992 I was developing eLearning (known back then Computer Based Training or CBT) as part of a blended learning solution for the UK Ministry of Defence.

That’s 25 years ago.

This is not a new thing.


3. Priority vs budget

According to the report, the top challenge for L&D professionals (49%) is limited budget.

I don’t think that one would have anyone falling off their chair in shock.

And unless something drastic changes in how companies view their investment in learning that’s probably never going to change.

Then I read this:

69% of L&D professionals say that talent development is the No.1 priority in their organisations, but only 27%* are expecting a budget increase this year.

*Note that the narrative in the report says “…those L&D Pros demonstrating value are expecting a budget increase this year.”

So does that mean that the other 73% (of the 69%) are not getting more budget because they are not demonstrating value?


Which leads me on to the next point…

4. They are believers, we’re just not giving them proof

90% of execs believe that L&D programs could help close skills gaps in their organisations.

Okay, that’s good; they believe in the L&D function as a positive asset to the business of developing talent – yay!

But only 8% can see the business impact of L&D and only 4% see the ROI of L&D.


So, let’s get this straight…

Most execs believe that L&D can improve the skills of their employees and they view talent development as the top priority in their organisations.

But 92% cannot see that L&D has any impact on the business and 96% don’t see any ROI from L&D activity.

And we wonder why we are always scraping the budget barrel?!

There are many great thought leaders and professionals in our industry who have done the hard work for us in researching and creating tools and methodologies to calculate return on investment.

Yes, I agree that it’s not always an easy thing to do but we can at the very least be asking some basic questions to get started, for example:

  • Who decided it was a learning need? (Note: usually not someone with L&D expertise)
  • What is the current state (a)?
  • What is the future state you want to achieve (b)?
  • What is the gap between (a) and (b) and how can it be closed? (Note that the answer here should not always be “training”)
  • What are the metrics you need to see to demonstrate the impact on the business?
  • When will be able to measure those – in 1 day? 1 week? 1 month? 1 quarter? 1 year? 3 years?
  • How does this relate to your business strategy for the quarter/year?
  • How can we measure your return on investment – what does that look like for you?

If the business cannot answer these questions easily then they haven’t really thought enough about the issue and how learning can help solve it – and that’s a dangerous place for us to be starting from.

We need to speak up more and take on the role of the consultant, the trusted advisor, the partner to the business who is going to help them get where they need to go.

Asking the very basic questions above starts a whole new conversation.

Traditionally the business says “Create us some training” and we say “Okay then.”

We need to change that response to “Why?”

Assessing business impact and ROI comes down to measurement in some form or another.

The survey asked participants to list the top 5 ways they measure “success” in L&D.

Now, it’s not clear from the report what is defined as “success” so I’ve got nothing to go on there, but these are the top 5 responses:

  1. 55% – Qualitative feedback from attendees at instructor-led courses (I liked the trainer, the lunch was good, the room could have been a bit warmer)
  2. 54% – Positive feedback from line managers that employees are more productive (Okay, this could be good if there were some numbers behind it, but “more productive” is a bit fluffy…)
  3. 45% – Satisfaction of attendees at instructor-led classes (There were a few too many slides but the air-con was just fine thanks)
  4. 34% – Qualitative feedback from employees about online courses (The system was a bit slow)
  5. 26% – Satisfaction of employees about online courses.

Those are the top 5 ways we are defining success in L&D.

Note that:

  • None of them are related to business goals
  • None of them are related to strategy
  • None of them are related to bottom line metrics
  • They are all qualitative measures.

There were a couple of quantitative measures a bit further down the list which could be useful but less than 20% – and in some cases less than 10% – of participants were using those as measure of success.

Oh and then there were the 10% that weren’t measuring the success of L&D at all.




Success of learning, business impact, ROI – however we are choosing to look at the results of our work, these things can often be difficult to measure and analyse, but not impossible.

It’s great that people loved the learning but if we can’t say how that learning closed a gap and made an improvement to the business and skillsets of its employees then we are never – ever – going to get the respect, the funding and the opportunity to make a difference in any organisation through learning experiences we create.

What now?

The report suggests 5 strategies to “succeed in the future state of L&D” which are high level, but valid.

I would suggest though that “#1: Don’t just take orders, identify real training needs” should be part of what we already do – not a strategy for making the shift into the future of L&D.

We need to:

  • Ask the hard questions
  • Tech-up
  • Be brave
  • Challenge ourselves
  • Try new things
  • Fail quick and fail cheap
  • Reflect
  • Learn
  • Adapt.

And hopefully somewhere in all of that we will be able to record useful data that shows how we made a difference so we can get decent funding to go and do it all over again.

Thank you LinkedIn for compiling this report and putting some real numbers around what’s going on out there.

You can download your copy of the report here.

It’s just a shame that those who really need to make the shift into the future of L&D will probably never read it.


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