New LinkedIn research reveals that learning and development (L&D) professionals are being empowered to play a more strategic role in tackling the challenges created by the tight labour market. With the UK employment at an all time high and the number of EU professionals coming to the UK dropping, businesses are putting the focus on preparing their existing workforces for the future.

The LinkedIn 2019 EMEA Workplace Learning Report – based on responses from talent developers and learners – shows that budget constraints felt by EMEA L&D professionals have almost halved in the past two years (from 49 per cent in 2017 to 26 per cent in 2019). At the same time, over a third (37 per cent) have reported that their talent development budgets are increasing.

As a result, those working in L&D feel much more empowered to affect change within companies. With extra budget, the number one priority highlighted by L&D professionals in 2019 is to look beyond day-to-day challenges and into assessing and closing their companies’ skills gaps – growing 32 per cent year-on-year in EMEA..

According to LinkedIn behavioural data, the most in-demand hard skills across Europe for 2019 are cloud computing, analytical reasoning, people management, AI and video production. Ninety-two per cent of UK talent professionals believe that soft skills are now as or more important than hard ones, according to latest LinkedIn’s Talent Trends Report. The top in-demand European soft skills are creativity, persuasion, time management, adaptability and collaboration. Training for soft skills is ranked as one of the top five areas for focus, with two thirds (66 per cent) of L&D professionals saying that helping current employees gain required skills will be a measure of their success.

L&D teams across EMEA are using a multi-pronged approach to build the right skills for their business, with performing internal skills gaps assessments the number one method of choice (73 per cent), followed by monitoring business KPIs and key metrics (63 per cent), attending meetings with executives and senior managers (61 per cent) and looking to industry trends (52 per cent).

Jeff Matthews, Head of LinkedIn Learning EMEA commented on the research:

The opening up of budgets has left the learning and development profession at a tipping point. This transformation comes at a critical time. As the war for talent rages harder than ever before and demand for certain skills is at an all-time high, businesses are recognising the crucial role L&D plays in identifying and bridging skills gaps and giving them that all-important competitive edge.

Nearly two thirds (61per cent) report spending more on online learning over the last year, fuelling their ability to scale L&D across the business. And over two-thirds (68 per cent) are using externally created content like LinkedIn Learning to give them access to a much wider range of learning resources tailored around specific skills like Creativity Bootcamp, Business Collaboration, Becoming a Thought Leaders. The research found that such courses will appeal particularly to Millennials and Gen Z, who are especially seeking independent, self-directed and more mobile and social learning opportunities.

Interested in L&D and the future of work? We recommend the Future of Work Summit 2019.