“Moving forward, is it time for L&D to work smarter?” This is the fundamental question posed in the second part of our six-part series unpacking the CIPD’s Learning at Work 2023 survey report.

The survey – conducted in January and February 2023 – assessed the feedback from 1,108 UK-based learning practitioners and aimed to understand how those responsible for learning in their organisation are operating in the current work climate. A key focus of the study is on how L&D can increase the value that they bring to their respective organisations with regards to their learning programmes and training interventions.

The research methodology was based upon six key questions:

  1. How has workplace context and culture changed?
  2. What resources, priorities and challenges are shaping workplace learning?
  3. What methods and media are in our L&D kitbag
  4. How can we deliver more impact to our organisation?
  5. How can we work with others to co-create value?
  6. How equipped are L&D professionals to contribute value?

In part two of our six-part series, we look at the findings from the CIPD’s Learning at work 2023 survey and examine what resources, priorities and challenges are shaping workplace learning. Part one is available to read here.

Part 2: What resources, priorities and challenges are shaping workplace learning?

In 2023, over half of L&D practitioners state that they find themselves under more pressure, with 53% of survey participants working in L&D functions agreeing that their overall workload has increased over the past 12-months.

‘Addressing the skills gap’ is cited as the number one priority for 29% of L&D practitioners. Yet, the CIPD’s research highlights that – in most instances – L&D are still ‘prioritising inputs (for example, increasing self-directed learning) over outputs (i.e., speeding up the transfer of learning)’, with the CIPD noting that:

“[G]iven the wider organisational focus on both staff retention and the skills agenda, it is surprising that only 8% are prioritising speeding up the transfer of learning back into the workplace or creating a more inclusive learning offering for all. Perhaps giving more of an emphasis to the application of learning science to our work would influence what we prioritise and what we don’t.”

Top three L&D priorities in 2023:

  • Addressing skills gaps 29% 29%
  • Linking L&D with organisational development 17% 17%
  • Linking L&D with performance management 17% 17%

Bottom three L&D priorities in 2023:

  • Speeding up the transfer of learning back into the workplace 8% 8%
  • Adapting learning content to ensure accessibility for all 5% 5%
  • Integrating new concepts from learning theory into practice 5% 5%
Source: Overton, L. (2023) Learning at work 2023 survey report. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Prioritisation of learning transfer is also reflected in the two primary challenges flagged by business leaders in 2023, which are noted as being: ‘a lack of strategic influence by L&D to support business transformation and a short-term focus versus a longer-term vision’.

Specific challenges cited by learning practitioners also raise pertinent questions around how L&D can better facilitate and improve outputs and evidenced-based training programmes.

Across all sectors and organisation sizes, ‘lack of learning time, lack of engagement, and limited budget’ were cited as the top three barriers to supporting organisational and people goals, with these challenges falling into three main categories:

1. Lack of priority:

Those working in a specialist L&D function within HR were most likely to struggle with a lack of line management support (24%); those L&D practitioners working within generalist HR were least likely to find this a barrier (14%).

2. Lack of capacity (skill, resources, and opportunity to deliver):

Those in focused L&D teams were most likely to report both a lack of L&D capacity to meet demand and L&D capability as barriers (23% reported these challenges). Those in the public sector were most likely to report limited budget (50%) and high levels of demand preventing strategic planning (18%).

3. Lack of insight about what is needed and what is working:

A lack of understanding of organisational strategy and knowing which methods are effective was common across the board. Those working in large organisations and those working in specialist L&D functions were most likely to struggle to show return on investment (both 20%). Those working in the public sector were most likely to report that they were unprepared for rapid digital transitions (13%).

Top barriers to supporting organisational and people goals:

  • Lack of learner time 42% 42%
  • Lack of engagement 41% 41%
  • Limited budget 36% 36%
  • Lack of management time/support/buy-in 19% 19%
  • Struggling to show ROI 16% 16%
  • Insufficient learning team capacity to meet demand 16% 16%
  • L&D is not an organisational priority 16% 16%
  • L&D/HR team capability 15% 15%
  • Lack of senior-level understanding, commitment or buy-in 15% 15%
  • The quality of the learning content 13% 13%
  • No way of knowing which efforts are most effective 12% 12%
Source: Overton, L. (2023) Learning at work 2023 survey report. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Adrian Harvey, CEO at Elephants Don’t Forget, commented:

“Now more than ever, L&D needs to stand up and be counted in the workplace learning sector. Ironically, the challenge is in the “counting” — or rather the common inability of organisations to count, or recognise, the value that L&D delivers to the bottom line. However, many L&D departments are still unable to connect the dots between investment in employee training and development and improvement in bottom-line performance.


If C-suite saw a credible correlation between employee L&D and profit improvement, then L&D would be defined as a “profit centre” or at least a revenue enablement function. C-suite representation would almost certainly occur, and investment would significantly increase. Just look at how much firms invest in information technology (IT) and try and find any medium to large enterprise that doesn’t have IT representation on their board.


The challenge is: does the training intervention result in an improvement that affects the bottom line, and is this improvement measurable to a standard that any reasonable Chief Financial Officer and/or other stakeholders would accept? Counting or measuring the Return on Investment (ROI) from training interventions has historically been a “dark art” and, judging by the current situations faced by many L&D practitioners, it hasn’t been very successful. This has to change.


Imagine if, as an L&D professional, you were able to produce a business case to stakeholders where you could correlate an investment in employee L&D with a quantifiable improvement in operational performance — like revenue increase. Chances are, you may need to start small and “prove it,” but assuming you delivered what your business case said, then most organisations would invest more and extract as much value from your training programs across the whole enterprise.”

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