3 challenges L&D departments are facing and how to solve them

4 Jul, 2022Renske Start

Working in an HR or L&D department there are a lot of challenges that professionals face on a daily basis. From recruiting new talent to investing in the career development of your current employees. Whether you are an HR-professional or L&D lead; all your challenges start and end with your employees.

In order for your team to have the most space and time to invest strategically in your workforce, and focussing on employee retention, you have to tackle the big challenges head-on. So what are these challenges, or sometimes viewed as ‘problems’ and more importantly how do you solve them?

L&D and HR department challenges

Cross-checking many sources, it seems the biggest challenges faced by both HR and L&D are:

  1. Managing a return to workforce growth
  2. Reskilling and upskilling employees
  3. Delivering On Diversity, Equity And Inclusion promises

These are the three challenges that seem recurrent when reading workforce updates by Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Villanova and Cambridge.

What also becomes apparent is that underlying, or encompassing these challenges is always the hygiene factor of ‘improving operational efficiency’ and ‘Revamping HR systems and processes’. Although not the biggest challenge of HR and L&D departments, it is always a challenge present in trying to technologically keep up with the many innovations.

1. Managing a return to workforce growth

As specific to HR departments ‘preparing for the new normal’ was one of the major challenges in 2020/2021, these teams faced. Not being just a trend, a survey by PwC emphasized that working from home is preferred by 89% of the workforce, for at least one day a week. While luckily also bringing along many advantages, impacting costs and engagement in a positive manner. (1, 2, 3)

Of course, preparing for the new normal is something L&D professionals have been doing as well. Although L&D was already most often a hybrid form, with both online and offline learning, during lockdowns there had to be an entire shift towards online learning. Not only preparing learning channels to cater to this (is zoom working)? Does everyone know how to mute and unmute, but more importantly does the way of training still work for my employees when it’s solely offered online?

Emphasizing this last question about effective training, proves the challenges are not just about the resources, creating the right home environment with a good chair, desk and second screen and the right technology, which channels do we use to communicate? But also about how do we communicate? With more and more organizations investing in storytelling training, because with the tool being a presentation the way we tell a story within an online environment becomes more and more important.

It is about how we can work efficiently in the new normal, not just how we can work. And about how to effectively engage employees in the company culture and in their role, while maintaining healthy productivity levels and output.

The distance between employees and organization brings the challenge for HR and L&D teams alike. Are the teams set up to work from home effectively on a long term basis? Are employees happy in their roles and is there room for them to grow and develop their careers? (4)

Solution: Make remote work, work while managing growth. Face the challenge and zoom in on your employees.

“HR leaders must move from response to resilience and strategically plan for the future of work, whatever that may be.” (5)

HR and L&D professionals will prove one of the most resilient within the organization, having to pivot and innovate on a daily basis. And this won’t stop, however it is also crucial to look beyond responding. Towards growth. So how do HR and L&D professionals alike, invest in growth? According to the GDS Group growth is mostly nurtured by creating a healthy environment:

“Belonging is the ultimate competitive advantage in the war for talent 2.0 and the most sustainable thing we can do is create the right culture where everybody feels they belong.” (6)

Organizational culture and in turn engagement seems to be the focus point for 2022/2023. Making sure your employees feel comfortable within the organization, while also being comfortable in their role, will affect your employee retention positively. Because they will first and foremost stay. Overcoming one of the biggest challenges of the moment, during this great resignation: keeping talent (see the second challenge and 5 reasons why your best people leave). And not only will your employees stay, and your organization keep it’s capital: talent. Employees will also most likely outperform. This banking on the idea of your employees being the organizationals best asset.

“Just to be clear, we still want to be good business people, we still want to be data-driven, we still want to help with the bottom line, but it is ok for HR to talk about emotions, connect with employees, and invest there.”

This is what the company of the future must provide. With 94% of executives believe that company culture is the way to organizational success.(2) That means that having a healthy culture is essential to reaching organizational goals and successes. (7)

To work towards a healthy culture, you need to invest in your employees and offer them the tools so they can develop themselves both personally ánd professionally. Because when employees do feel supported, they will be happier. And as an organization you will see that happiness goes a long way; higher levels of productivity, engagement etc. So why not start now, while we’ve done the necessary steps to prepare for the new normal, and can look forward to the future, to invest in learning and development.

More on the importance of learning and development:

Read more

Again the hygiene factor of technology comes into this. Measuring productivity and engagement will all require thought and input from a distance, making HR and L&D to rely on technology now more than ever.

Read more on L&D platforms:

GDS Group Forbes

2. Recruitment, Reskilling and upskilling employees

Challenge two starts with the challenge of the hiring process, and this is not new. This challenge has been anticipated for quite a while. According to a poll taken in 2012 59% of respondents ranked this as the top three challenges for HR. And taken in 2010 51% still ranked recruitment as a big challenge. Recruitment is an ongoing challenge, because it is of course closely tied to the economy. Recruitment will always fluctuate because of what happens on the labor market.

However, polls taken in 2012 could not predict a pandemic and its effects on our world economy. Where most mid-sized companies, according to a study by Harvard Business Review, had to let go a lot of employees in 2019, were looking to recruit lots of new talent in 2021. However, in a broad labor market this does not seem that easy.

Solution: So, in order to be future-proof, and hold fast against fluctuations caused by a pandemic, invest in the talent you have. Focus on upskilling and reskilling.

“Training ranks second on CHROs’ priority lists, after hiring, but more than 55% of middle-market CHROs tell us their training and development capability is either weak or extremely weak, which is not surprising given how thinly staffed they are.” Harvard Business Review (8)

Of course up- and reskilling proves a solution to tougher recruitment times, but not only that. Training the employees working for your organization now will also help close the skills gap, brought on by ongoing technological advancements.

Read more about upskilling and reskilling in our whitepaper.

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3. Delivering on Diversity and inclusion promises

Organizations are managing their employees in a hybrid set up, as part of the new normal. Within this new normal, with employees working remote, organizations have the opportunity to expand globally. This changes the recruitment process, with HR teams encountering people from different cultures and backgrounds. Naturally, before the pandemic there were already numerous teams made up of employees from diverse background that worked together to get the job done. Diversity and inclusion, is not something new but it is an element that gains more and more traction. With good reason! How better employees are at working together, the more productive they will be ánd most importantly the happier they will prove.

Talking about strengthening the workforce, and their growth, we mentioned a healthy organizational culture. Employees feeling comfortable within the culture as well as their role. Diversity and inclusion is being an increasingly important factor within this culture. So how is this global mindset effectively managed, from the HR and L&D teams to the entire organization?

Solution: Diversity and inclusion ought to be embraced with both sensitivity and awareness.

“The more diverse your company is, the more successful it will be, but the more cross-cultural training the team may need.” (9)

Training will create awareness, and foster the change in mindset that will help grow the organization.

“Recent research into inclusivity and diversity shows the benefits of embracing the concept. For instance, companies with diverse teams exhibit agility and braver decision-making during difficult times. Diverse views lead to a better understanding of consumer patterns and formulating strategies from the decisions. Organisations can leverage HR technology tools to build an inclusive workforce. For instance, behavioural assessment tests that use software can create an unbiased solution for recruiting new employees.” (10)

D&I is not something taught during a one of training, this involves an ongoing process and a change in behaviour, resulting in a change in culture.

“It is also important to emphasize openness, curiosity, communication, empathy, and compassion.” (11)

This change starts with HR and L&D, these professionals are both at the front of this cultural change. HR teams can focus on unintentional biases during the recruitment process and their meaning. While L&D professionals can dive into the employee experience data and see what is happening on the topic of diversity. (12)

Within acting, thinking and working in diverse ways lies tremendous potential for organizational progress which is currently not being maximised. That is because diversity is often seen as an end goal. Instead, diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be seen as an opportunity – especially a growth opportunity. Focus on the Power Skill Diversity and Inclusion and create the optimal organizational climate for your company to realize the full potential of your employee’s talents and drive real progress.

Training Diversity & Inclusion

Face these HR and L&D challenges and increase employee retention

The three biggest challenges faced by both HR and L&D professionals all relate to the future workforce.
We all prepared and shifted focus because of the pandemic. We seem to be beyond preparing now, entering a stage of anticipating new and improved ways of working. Why? Because your employees are as well.

“The impact of the global pandemic on people and their professions has empowered the marketplace to make its own decisions, and for new talent to think of potential careers and companies in a whole new light.” (13)

2022 will be a year where HR and L&D professionals will focus on looking at the way of work for their remote workforce. Are my employees productive and engaged? And how can I help them to be? While thinking of transferring the organizational culture across great distances. There was last year, and still will be a big focus on providing the right culture for employees in order to keep talent.

“Purpose is vital in the modern business; serving not only as the means of establishing your organization’s identity, purpose also works as the operational North Star, a guiding light in your enterprise which helps your teams to pull in a common direction.” (14)

Diversity and inclusion proves a great factor in this.

“Given the current atmosphere surrounding change and transformation, it is essential that we establish a cogent purpose and message that works for all members of the business just in 2021 but as we build for the future.” (15)

The solution to tackling our new way of working and increasing focus on organization culture proves to be learning and development. Our way of working has changed, and will keep changing. As we are in what Forbes has dubbed the Industry 4.0. These are changes that affect many functions and organizations and, as a whole, our entire way of working. The biggest changes of this revolution are particularly automation and data exchange. The past few years have been preparing for these changes, with both technology and the pandemic fast tracking most of the changes. While many organizations note that their industry will dramatically transform, they simultaneously pinpoint that they are not yet ready.

“Only about 9% of CHROs are saying that their organizations are prepared for the future and about 60% of board members believe their industries are going to substantially transform in the next five years.” (16)

And with 1 in 3 organizations expect that their employees in ten years time will no longer have the right skill set to perform their work properly. (17)

We need learning and development to become ready to anticipate these changes and upcoming skills gap, if we would like to stay productive and keep talent within the organization; increase employee retention. Training in order for our employees to up- and reskill into their changing roles, to develop resilience and training in order to foster a global mindset is the best employee retention strategy. All in order to become future-proof.

Sources on employee retention, workforce growth and HR challenges

  1. https://www.globalization-partners.com/blog/5-advantages-to-building-global-teams/
  2. https://www.globalization-partners.com/blog/5-hr-challenges-of-2021-what-youll-face-this-year/#challenge_2_making_remote_work_effective_and_doable_-_for_everyone
  3. https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/us-remote-work-survey.html
  4. https://hbr.org/2020/03/15-questions-about-remote-work-answered
  5. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2021/01/04/top-five-human-resources-challenges-in-2021/
  6. https://gdsgroup.com/insights/human-resources/12-chros-on-the-hr-trends-driving-change-in-2021/#:~:text=In%20line%20with%20this%2C%20Minh,businesses%20in%20the%20new%20war
  7. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/About-Deloitte/gx-core-beliefs-and-culture.pdf
  8. ttps://hbr.org/2021/03/5-challenges-facing-chros-at-midsize-companies-today
  9. https://www.globalization-partners.com/blog/5-hr-challenges-of-2021-what-youll-face-this-year/#challenge_3_cross-cultural_training_will_become_essential_not_optional
  10. https://advancesystems.ie/what-are-the-main-challenges-facing-hr-departments-in-2021/
  11. https://www.globalization-partners.com/blog/5-hr-challenges-of-2021-what-youll-face-this-year/#challenge_3_cross-cultural_training_will_become_essential_not_optional
  12. https://advancesystems.ie/what-are-the-main-challenges-facing-hr-departments-in-2021/
  13. https://gdsgroup.com/insights/human-resources/hr-trends-2021/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=paidsearch&utm_campaign=all-mof-gl-dpr-vt-learn&gclid=Cj0KCQiA-eeMBhCpARIsAAZfxZBiqJ3yZOwcd8j5RnQwhjW1fRRkam7xt_p4iPcri9US7hf8ZniN-ukaAtZ4EALw_wcB
  14. https://www.villanovau.com/resources/hr/human-resource-management-challenges/
  15. https://gdsgroup.com/insights/human-resources/12-chros-on-the-hr-trends-driving-change-in-2021/#:~:text=The%20only%20immutable%20truth%20is,members%20believe%20their%20industries%20are
  16. https://lepaya.com/en/hr-professionals-on-the-importance-of-personal-development-in-their-organization/