US employers and workers say they face a major skills development disconnect

Although both employers and employees see the need for skills development in the workplace, continuous upskilling isn’t the norm for most workers, according to a July 3 report from D2L, a learning technology company.

Investing in learning and development leads to higher retention and productivity, both groups said. However, employee uptake of L&D remains limited due to barriers such as time, money and a lack of motivation.

“What this data shows us is that there is a clear opportunity to help make a positive change when it comes to upskilling that could dramatically shift the way employees learn and grow while strengthening organizations,” John Baker, founder and CEO of D2L, said in a statement.

In a survey of U.S. employers and employees, 82% of L&D leaders identified talent acquisition and retention as the most concerning HR challenge today. In addition, 92% of learning leaders said effective training and development programs improve employee retention.

Similarly, 83% of employees said ongoing skills development is important for their overall job performance. They cited increased earning potential (64%) and career advancement opportunities (44%) as top motivators for seeking out additional education and training. 

However, only half of employees said they completed any formal education or training outside of work in the past five years, hindered by time constraints (42%) and a lack of motivation (35%).

In an era of AI and tech-related workplace changes, skill building is a top organizational priority, according to a LinkedIn report. For 2024, the top focus areas for L&D professionals included aligning learning programs to business goals, upskilling employees and creating a culture of learning. For the second year in a row, aligning learning to business goals took the top spot.

As employers face a skills gap in coming years, 70% said they’re investing in L&D initiatives, according to a survey by HR pros who responded say they’re placing a stronger focus on “soft skills,” such as communication, problem solving, critical thinking, decision making and attention to detail.

Employers have expressed concerns that they can’t train employees quickly enough to keep up with AI and tech developments in the next three years, according to a report by the World Employment Confederation. The vast majority of senior executives said they’ll need a more flexible workforce and are focusing on sectoral talent pools, contingent workers, skills-based hiring and internal flexibility.