What’s keeping L&D professionals awake at night? How has the pandemic affected our ability to learn? What awaits in 2022?
We asked these questions to 800+ L&D professionals in an October 2021 survey. Jay Campbell, senior vice president of product development, and David Witt, program director, analyzed the data.
They arrived at three key insights:
- People are overloaded, tired, and “too busy to learn”
- The level of connection is dropping
- L&D is stretched and dissatisfied with the converted offerings
Campbell shared the findings in a November webinar. Here’s a summary of them.
Insight #1—People are overloaded, tired, and “too busy to learn”
People are exhausted and professional development has suffered because of it—that is the key takeaway from the survey findings. Here are some comments by survey respondents that support this:
- “Understaffed and overworked. With our team on scattered hybrid schedules, team members are doing extra work.”
- “Burned out leaders who are struggling to effectively manage hybrid teams.”
- “Feelings of overwhelm and anxiety seem to be crippling our ability to get and stay focused enough to identify what learning is actually needed, learn, and apply learning.”
Respondents’ comments reflect the depth of distress across the country. About four in ten adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic, compared to one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019.”
Our mental state effects our ability to learn. Someone in the throes of anxiety or depression will struggle to incorporate new information. With the country in the midst of a pandemic, leaders at all organizations are fighting to meet their daily responsibilities and setting professional growth to the side—something L&D professionals have witnessed.
Longer workdays is another culprit behind our weary state. The average workday lengthened by 48.5 minutes in the weeks following stay-at-home orders and lockdowns across the U.S. in March.
The weight of the pandemic, psychological distress, longer hours at work—it’s no surprise that L&D professionals say that their people feel overloaded, tired, and “too busy to learn.”
Theme #2—The level of connection is dropping
An organization’s culture is like a tapestry. It is a weaving together of relationships based on shared values and norms.
The pandemic is starting to unravel organizational cultures.
“The tapestry is fraying. It’s weakening our feelings of social cohesion and teamwork. It’s disconcerting to see this happening,” noted Campbell.
Comments from survey respondents echo Campbell’s insight:
- “Learning how to be more connected when some are here some of the time, some are never here, and others are here all the time.”
- “Emotional disconnection, loneliness and lack of purpose…people are on a lone journey with little support and feeling very vulnerable.”
- “Weak relationships due to working remote”
Third-party data provides additional evidence of the phenomenon. An analysis of emails, calendars, instant messages, video/audio calls, and workweek hours of 61,182 US Microsoft employees over the first six months of 2020 found “a decrease in synchronous communication and an increase in asynchronous communication.”
What does that really mean?
“We are connecting less frequently, working in silos, and have smaller networks. The computer screen is the only place where we do connect. Isolation is the emotional state of the moment. It’s a strong word, but it’s the right one. At the same time, though, people like the flexibility of remote work, which has so many benefits,” Campbell shared. “We are all in the middle of a huge experiment.”
Theme #3—L&D stretched and dissatisfied with converted offerings
When the pandemic struck, L&D professionals leaped into the breech and converted face-to-face offerings into virtual ones. Yet, they are dissatisfied with what they accomplished in 2022.
“L&D professionals all share a difficult challenge: converting a growing backlog of material to virtual delivery while lacking the resources to do it. And not knowing how to make the material engaging. This is a pressing need, but many are struggling to meet the challenges of the day,” said Campbell.
Learner engagement is another pervasive problem. Findings in the survey bolster this. In fact, some 59% of respondents said more learner engagement is needed in their virtual and digital designs, with concerns about ‘engagement’ appearing in one out of six responses across this large population.
Take a deeper dive into the findings of our L&D Trends for 2022. Watch the webinar here.
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