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Top Challenges Faced by L&D in 2017

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Learning and development (L&D) teams perform a vital role within their organization. They are on the front lines of their training program, striving to ensure employees are able to acquire the new skills or knowledge they need in order to help meet their organization’s business needs.

Some aspects of this task have always been challenging: motivating employees to learn, ensuring they retain the information conveyed, and so on. There are, however, some new challenges that come with the modern learning environment. This article will look at these challenges, as well as provide some ways to successfully overcome them.

Top Challenges Faced by L&D in 2017

1. Challenge #1: Motivating Learners

Are you stuck trying to motivate your team members to learn?

Okay, so motivating employees may well fall into the category of ‘pre-existing’ challenges, but it’s worth addressing here only because 2017 presents some additional solutions to this seemingly never-ending challenge.

a. Offer blended learning opportunities

The Training Study Report for 2016 found that almost a quarter of all training was delivered through blended learning. It is important to choose an LMS that has the elasticity to provide an effective blend of learning approaches.

Modern LMSs allow today’s L&D teams to think outside the box when it comes to training. It’s no longer necessary to default to the same old instructor-led classroom training sessions; today’s training is can encompass podcasts, videos, and bite-sized ‘learning nuggets’ that are perfect for mobile learning purposes.

b. Empower Learners

Look at the options your LMS provides and see what you can do to enhance your online learning and make it more interactive. Additionally, looks at how you can involve your learners through feedback tools such as surveys or questionnaires.

By turning users into stakeholders for their own training, you can not only develop a more customized training program, but you can help motivate your workforce, as learners are more apt to actually use a system when they feel like their input is being heard.

c. Offer Experiential Learning

Using a modern LMS isn’t your only option when it comes to motivating your learners. Experiential learning, or hands-on experience, is one of the best ways to teach skills which learners can immediately use.

Learners tend to be more engaged and motivated because:

  • the learning activity is authentic and relevant to their everyday job roles and responsibilities,
  • they acquire tangible skills that they can use back on-the-job, and
  • there’s a greater sense of ownership throughout the learning process.

These are all characteristics that motivate and drive individuals to continuously learn.

Challenge #2: Engaging Millennials

Are you engaging and meeting the learning needs of your workforce, primarily millennials?

According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2015 one in three American workers could be classified as a millennial. This means that millennials form the largest demographic share of the modern workforce.

These millennial workers are the first learners to have grown up surrounded by technology and it’s no secret that they value any opportunity to develop their skills. They think differently, they learn differently, and modern L&D teams must adapt to these differences if they want their training to remain relevant.

a. Leverage LMS Features

Millennials respond well to learning that is personalized, and engages them through the technology they use every day. This means, in 2017, L&D teams must look at options like:

  • Online discussions and forum groups, which mimic how millennial users interact on social media
  • Mobile options, which take advantage of the fact that learning can be delivered via a device that most millennials constantly have at hand anyway
  • Gamification, which appeals to these achievement-oriented learners
  • Providing opportunities to apply skills, or put what is learned into practice

b. Provide Accessible Learning

Millennials also tend to expect information to be available instantly because they are used to having an abundance of information and resources at their finger tips. Therefore, whichever strategy you choose to implement must be easy to use and available on all types of devices.

Incorporating these elements into your L&D will help you appeal to millennials, and, by implementing an effective change management strategy, you could find these features are soon motivating your entire workforce.

That sound like another challenge though, don’t you think?

Challenge #3: Effectively Dealing with Change

Do you have a change management strategy in place when adopting new L&D approaches?

We’ve talked about engaging millennials, but the flip side of that coin in today’s workplace is ensuring you still consider the needs of all your employees. Remember, just as different cultures have different learning styles, so do different generations.

To overcome this challenge, it helps to remember that people are naturally resistant to change. This is exacerbated in learners that have been doing something the same way for a long time.

Therefore, think about change as a learning journey – start the process early, employ small incremental changes and get people involved.

The technology that you employ, including your LMS, can also help mitigate issues that revolve around change management.  There are a few ways you can effectively market your LMS to effect positive change. Try:

  • Making sure your learners are informed. Remember, nobody likes to be blindsided by change; use emails, intranet, lunch and learns, bulletin boards, or all of the above.
  • Involving your users. As we have already seen, learners are more engaged when they are involved; ask for feedback at all stages of the process!
  • Explaining the benefits. Show learners how, for example, mobile learning provides much needed flexibility to users, and allows them to learn where and when it’s most convenient. Or how downloadable job aids will enable them to complete their tasks more efficiently.

Today’s LMSs provide a lot of options that will make the day-to-day activities of today’s learners easier than ever – play that up!

Challenge #4: Delivering Consistent Training

Are you consistently delivering content to your learners?

Old school L&D was, by its very nature, consistent. The same syllabus delivered in the same classroom by, in many cases, the same instructors, year over year.

a. Offer Global Learning

Today’s global marketplace demands that same consistency, but over a wide array of languages and cultures. The bad news is, this can be a huge obstacle, but the good news is that, done right, “global learning not only saves the time involved in coordinating the activities of separate providers, it saves costs through economies of scale.” .

To ensure your global training is consistent:

  • Use eLearning to your benefit. Take advantage of the fact that there is no instructor bias, and that content can be updated for all users quickly and easily.
  • Look at language capabilities. Does your provider translate navigation instructions? Content? Are these translations done by native speakers, or through an automated computer program?
  • Perform a training needs analysis, and don’t be afraid to modify your core learning to best fit local needs. Remember, while your central them and messaging should be consistent, you should cater to individual learning needs where possible.

So, while consistency isn’t new in 2017, its definition has evolved. We’re all familiar with the phrase consistency is the key to success. Well, this is no different for L&D departments.

b. Use Microlearning

Your training program doesn’t need to be complex, in fact, consistently delivering small “nuggets” of information to your learners is a much more effective strategy. If your learners are constantly being reminded of information, they are more likely to retain it.

Further, learning becomes part of your learner’s routine if they are reading something small every day or watching a quick video on a regular basis.

Challenge #5: Proving ROI

Does your learning and development strategy positively affect your bottom line?

Competition for budget dollars is fierce, and today’s L&D teams usually find themselves jockeying to keep training as one of the top priorities for their organization. Proving ROI, or return on investment, is a great way to show the bottom line value to key stakeholders, and you can do this by making sure your LMS has the reporting capabilities you need.

Reporting can allow you to show:

  • Download statistics
  • Number of logins
  • Certification completions
  • Learner progress

As an added benefit, these reporting features will not only help you prove your training program’s ROI, they will show you what is (or isn’t!) working for your users, allowing you to adjust the training program to best suit the needs of your organization.

You should also be able to drill down to detailed reports by user or course, or customize other reports that best prove your training program’s usefulness.


But don’t lose heart! By using the tips contained here, you have a good head start on overcoming some of the most common challenges found in today’s workplace. Remember, L&D is a vital role; make sure you’re using all the tools at your disposal!

Have we covered all the challenges faced by modern L&D teams in 2017? Well, not quite. With the rapid developments made in both training capabilities and technological capabilities, these challenges are always expanding and evolving.

Top 5 Challenges for L&D in 2017 Infographic
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Shauna Carson

Shauna graduated from the University of Toronto in 2002 with a Master of Arts in English before moving home to Calgary to work in the fast-paced, detail-oriented oil and gas industry. Now certified as a technical writer, Shauna is comfortable writing in a variety of styles, and for a variety of audiences.

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