New research finds that seven in 10 organisations have reported an increase in use of digital or online learning solutions over the past 12 months. 

According to a new report by the CIPD, the pandemic has led to the heightened use of digital learning with 70 per cent of businesses opting for this over the previous year.

In line with this, over a third of businesses (36 per cent) also reported increasing their investment in learning technologies to match the heightened use.

Generally, the transition to digital has been well-received by businesses. Over three-quarters (77 per cent) say they have successfully used learning technology whilst over two-thirds (69 per cent) express that they are innovating in their use of learning technology.

COVID-19 has also prompted businesses to reflect more widely on the future of work, outside of learning and development.

Over half of businesses (51 per cent), compared to just two-fifths (40 per cent) in 2020, have assessed the impact of automation on roles and how to redeploy talent in light of this.

A further two-thirds (64 per cent) have analysed which roles are changing and how to reskill employees (up from 56 per cent in 2020).

However, the report highlights a number of red flags for the learning profession, not least that nearly a third have seen their headcount (32 per cent) and budget (31 per cent) decrease in the last year.

Recommendations for learning professionals as businesses move forward include:

  • Building back better – The CIPD states that senior leaders and L&D professionals should reflect on what has worked well in the past year, and what can be adapted to ensure success in the changing world of work.
  • Embracing digital innovation – Successful approaches start with defining your learning technology strategy in line with your learning strategy. Target your investment and be clear on the business case.
  • Co-create organisational value – There is now significant opportunity for business leaders and learning leaders to collaborate in solving critical business challenges.
  • Harness the wider learning environment – To maintain a sense of connection, businesses must be purposeful in building relationships and connections across the whole organisation. This means having a clear and common agreement about the role of the line manager in the L&D provision, collaborating with peers to drive performance and supporting individuals to apply to their learning.
  • Be future-focussed – Work with senior leaders to understand the future of the work and the skills that will be needed in the organisation, ensuring the workforce is digitally fluent with essential human skills.
  • Make evidence-based decisions – Ensure the design and delivery of learning in the organisation is evidence-based by harnessing new skilling analytics.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:

Being able to reskill and redeploy workers during the last year has been essential for individuals and organisations to adapt to changing needs – and for the wider economy. It’s been great to see the learning profession stepping up and delivering, despite many having their budget and headcount reduced.

Digital learning done well delivers benefits in building new skills, and the pandemic is catalysing shifts in learning capabilities that are much needed. It has also proven to be a prompt for learning professionals to take stock of other changes coming down the track that they need to be prepared for, particularly in relation to automation. We hope to see the innovation and adaptability they’ve demonstrated over the past year continue as they help individuals and organisations adjust – and excel – in the ever-changing world of work.

*This research is outlined in the CIPD and Accenture’s joint report ‘Learning and Skills at Work’.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.