A new report finds that organisations have been prompted to focus on internal development over recruitment as the skills gap creates pressure. 

Over half of businesses have indicated that their organisation is currently under pressure due to skills gaps, research by Hemsley Fraser, a learning and development company, has shown.

This problem has been particularly heighted by the accelerated pace of change which has occurred over the last 18 months.

As such, many employers operating within competitive sectors have chosen to focus on building up internal talent pools rather than sourcing experienced talent externally.

As well as traditional skills gaps which have consistently been prevalent, including software development, information security, data science and digital marketing, the report found that soft skills have also climbed in importance during the pandemic. This is because companies have been finding that they require leaders and managers with the skills to lead remotely, to lead dispersed teams and to manage through change and uncertainty.

In light of this, over two-thirds of businesses (67 per cent) reported that the pandemic had caused them to review learning technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic also had a large impact on the learning strategy of businesses. Business transformation and change was cited as the main driver for impacting learning strategy (69 per cent) which was then followed by capability development (68 per cent). Other key drivers included employee self-fulfilment and engagement (61 per cent) and operational success (59 per cent).

The importance of creating an agile learning culture also became a main priority for companies over the past year. However, almost half (43 per cent) are still defining the scope of this whilst over a fifth (21 per cent) are in the process of implementing their roadmap. Conversely, an additional fifth (22 per cent) have not started this and will not be doing so in the immediate future.

The conclusion of the report states that businesses should build up leadership and management capabilities which requires a much greater focus on building an agile learning culture. In order to do this, the report states, the senior leadership team need to be on board and need to help the rest of the workforce engage with the strategy. Managers also have a critical role to play here as they are best placed to engage employees with the organisational strategy and objectives.

Lynsey Whitmarsh, MD at Hemsley Fraser UK commented:

Effective learning and development has been make or break for organisations over the last year.

L&D providers and practitioners rose to the moment, demonstrating value in a way previously unrealised. The majority of our respondents now report relying upon blended, virtual, bitesize and nano learning, available at the point of need – indicating a real evolution.

As L&D works to support employees through the next few months of change and return to workplaces or to effective hybrid working, a core challenge will be to help overcome skills gaps within organisations. What was once sometimes a future-gazing conversation, centred around digital transformation and automation, is now something which must be overcome in the present.

Our research indicated overwhelmingly that HR and L&D practitioners recognise the importance of building an agile learning culture. However, just 25 per cent of respondents told us that they were in the process of implementing, or had already implemented, an agile learning culture. This can have a huge impact on the success of L&D initiatives and on business performance, so it is pleasing to see organisations understand this, even if few are yet to accomplish it.


*This research was obtained from the 2021 Learning and Development Impact Survey created by Hemsley Fraser, and learning and communications platform vendor, 5App. This report surveyed 465 HR and L&D professionals from various sized businesses – including companies with less than 100 employees up to companies which had over 5000 staff.