Learning & Development

What New Challenges and Opportunities Will 2023 Hold for L&D Professionals?

As another year comes to a close, learning and development leaders are preparing to take a deep breath over the holidays in anticipation of another year of dynamism and unpredictability. As armed conflict, broad social change, environmental challenges, and a smoldering pandemic continue to impact the corporate world, new challenges are sure to emerge, leaving T&D leaders with plenty to think about.

2023 learning development

We reached out to business owners, HR professionals, and people managers to get a sense of what their 2023 training and development agendas look like.

Skills Gaps

Skills gaps and concerns over such gaps continue to be top of mind for learning and development professionals heading into 2023. As the outside world changes, organizations need to quickly adapt to new realities, and often that means the skills and knowledge that guided those organizations through the challenges of yesterday won’t suffice to meet the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities of tomorrow, or even today.

“L&D leaders know the pace of change is increasing, and that employees in every department—and at every level—need to upskill to deliver the right results for the business,” says Sarah Reynolds, chief marketing officer at Udacity. “In fact, according to IDC, more than 40% of organizations report that a lack of digital skills is impairing their ability to hit revenue growth objectives, develop new products and services, and reach key digital transformation goals,” she says.

Positioning Learning and Development as a Revenue Generator

Being seen as a relevant and deserving of a share of the corporate budget is an existential challenge faced by many L&D teams, particularly in recessionary environments. While there remains significant debate as to whether, if and when the U.S. economy will enter a recession, companies are already looking to do more with less, as evidenced by the tech layoffs mentioned previously.

A twin challenge for L&D leaders is to both justify their share of the budget while also ensuring that budgetary investment bares fruit in the form of increased productivity, reduced errors, and greater innovation.

“Economic volatility is driving new disruption: in a period of intense economic uncertainty, L&D leaders know that making smart investments that deliver real results for the business is more critical than ever before—especially if they want to preserve their learning budgets,” says Udacity’s Reynolds.

“In this challenging environment, L&D leaders must be laser-focused—not just on learning outcomes, but on the outcomes their programs are delivering to the business as a whole,” Reynolds says. “To successfully navigate this year’s planning cycle, L&D leaders must match their investments in upskilling to the demands of the business, prioritizing digital skill building to unlock demonstrable top-line and bottom-line results for their organization.”

To move the needle in 2023, Udacity’s enterprise customers will remain focused on upskilling in cybersecurity, cloud computing, AI and machine learning, data science, and analytics that will drive impact across their teams.

Managing Stress and Burnout

Recent layoffs among top tech companies could portend the coming end of a labor market that has heavily favored workers. But whether companies are short-staffed because they can’t find anyone to take the job or because a shifting economy means they have to lay off workers, the impact on those who are employed by the applicable organization isn’t much different.

Fast-changing economic, social, regulatory, and political environments amid a short-staffed company facing high turnover is a recipe for stress and burnout at all levels of the company. “Leaders are tasked with building high-performing teams at a time where they are facing economic uncertainty, hybrid work environments, and intense burnout (26% of managers suffer frequent or constant burnout),” says Becca Pace, Head of L&D Solutions at 10KC, a talent experience platform for inclusive mentoring, employee connectivity and skills development.

“Organizations must equip leaders with key skills like how to set boundaries at work and how to advocate for yourself in addition to creating peer-to-peer conversations among employees so they feel better supported and less isolated in this new world of work,” Pace says.

A Continued Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) promise to remain top of mind for learning and development teams for the foreseeable future. While the high-profile DEI efforts of years past were often reactionary, in response to bad publicity (think Philadelphia’s Starbucks), the real work of modern DEI is creating diverse and inclusive workplaces where employees not only want to work but also where they feel safe and included so they can bring their full and best selves to work.

“The murder of George Floyd and rise of the Black Lives Matter movement pushed companies and leaders to realize their collective power to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says Pace. “But we know true DEI requires systemic change, which means organizations must focus on teaching leaders how to be allies to their diverse colleagues.” One powerful idea she suggests—a focus on mentorship. Studies show representation of diverse talent increases more than 24% with mentoring and that mentorship alone can foster a culture of inclusion and sense of belonging, Pace shares.

Ongoing, Open and Transparent Communication

Communication has been crucial for successful collaboration since, well, since the instant communication became possible. Navigating a dynamic world—particularly remotely, as many companies continue to do—is impossible without effective communication.

But communication is even more important when staff is working remotely, new developments require rapid adjustments and teams are being asked to do more with less.

“With talk of a looming recession, now more than ever teams need to dig deep and find areas where they can collaborate and innovate—not only within their own team but across the organization,” says Pace. “Key skills include how to build relationships, mastering difficult conversations, change management and emotional intelligence.”

Along the same vein as DEI efforts, effective communication is also critical for employee engagement and retention. “Beyond the financial return of cross-team collaboration, connecting employees right now is a critical retention strategy with data showing 42% of workers reported feeling ‘not connected’,” Pace says.

Broadly speaking, learning and development leaders may have a lot to be proud about when looking back on 2022. The continued transition out of the pandemic mindset alone is an achievement. But great companies and teams know they can never let themselves get complacent. As the new year approaches, it’s time for L&D teams to shift their focus to the year ahead.